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Becoming a Foster Family

with Independent Foster Care Services

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Introduction

This page contains basic information on some of the roles and responsibilities involved in being a foster carer for vulnerable children and young people, and of us as an independent foster care agency.

The role of foster carer is demanding and challenging but also personally rewarding. The information contained here is not comprehensive, but if you decide to proceed into the home assessment and preparation process more detailed information will be provided through the Induction Training Programme and the provision of the IFCS Statement of Purpose and Procedure Manual.

Further information will also be provided from BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering) and the Fostering Network.

Independent Foster Care Services are one of the highest quality fostering agencies in Wales, which arose from carefully listening to senior and experienced Social Workers, Managers and foster carers over a number of years.

Independent Foster Care Services have consistently had excellent inspections reports from the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales, and are a high ranking Tier 1 provider of foster care as judged by the All Wales Framework Agreement Relating to the Provision of Foster Care Services for Children and Young People.

The primary aim of Independent Foster Care Services is to constantly promote the welfare of looked after children. In seeking to achieve this IFCS will listen and provide support and training to foster families, and actively promote the health, welfare, emotional and behavioural wellbeing, educational achievement, security, and leisure and play of children and young people, to make fostering a stable and positive experience for all. IFCS will give particular attention to assisting looked after children to succeed in education and play.

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Who are Foster Carers?

Foster carers come from all sections of society. The only special quality foster carers must have is a total commitment to looking after children and young people and promoting all aspects of their welfare through high quality family care. This quality contains tolerance, patience, understanding and empathy, an ability to work in partnership with parents and professionals, and an ability to be warm and affectionate but also firm when needed.

Although foster carers come from all walks of life, and all sections of society, they do not just "mind the kids". Foster carers are extensively assessed, well trained and committed carers of the most vulnerable children and young people in society.

Independent Foster Care Services have certain eligibility criteria for accepting foster carers. These are:

  • All prospective foster carers must be between the ages of 25 and 65 years.
  • Prospective foster carers must be able to offer children and young people individual bedrooms if requested.
  • Prospective foster carers must accept ongoing training as a mandatory requirement.
  • Prospective foster carers who smoke will not be allowed to foster very young children.
  • Prospective foster carers must be prepared to look after all ages of children and young people, though will always have the final say on accepting any child into their home. Consideration will always be given to a foster carer's family structure and strengths and weaknesses, but the paramount consideration will be the child's needs not their ages.
  • Prospective foster carers must accept that the needs of the child or young person they look after will be the paramount consideration informing all their actions, and the actions of this agency.
  • Prospective foster carers must be prepared to undertake the Form F home assessment, complete all courses on the IFCS Induction Training Programme, have a health and safety assessment of their home completed, provide two referees, and have health checks and an Enhanced Disclosure check with the Disclosure and Barring Service. Further preparation, as decided by the IFCS Social Worker, may be necessary prior to presentation at the Foster Panel.

Independent Foster Care Services have no eligibility criteria in respect of marriage and sexuality, and particularly welcomes applications from all ethnic groups.

The eligibility criteria above are not in any way a comprehensive list of the roles and responsibilities of foster carers.

You may also wish to consider the following checklist in helping you to decide whether you have the qualities to foster children and young people.

  • You genuinely like and enjoy children and can remain enthusiastic about them even when things are difficult.
  • You understand that looking after children from another family is different to caring for children of your own family.
  • You appreciate that fostering will have an impact on your own children and your wider family.
  • You do not expect children to be grateful for the care you show or demonstrate through your actions.
  • You can accept that a fostered child or young person may take time to respond to the care you offer.
  • You can accept a child who may reject or strongly disagree with ideas, views and feelings that you hold.
  • You can understand that children may lie, steal or display sexualised behaviour.
  • You can allow and encourage a child to have feelings of affection for others.
  • You can accept and deal with anger from children.
  • You have a good sense of humour.
  • Your marriage, partnership or support network of friends and family can withstand the pressures associated with fostering.
  • You can, when necessary, reach out to others for support.
  • You are willing to share your life experiences with others.
  • You can accept failure in yourself and others.
  • You can be pleased with small steps of progress.
  • You can accept that things in your house might be messed up, moved or broken.

(Adapted from Key Issues in Assessment produced by British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering).

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Your role as a Foster Carer

Primarily the role of a foster carer is to provide high quality, safe, warm and stable family care for children and young people who, for whatever reason, cannot remain in their parent's care for a period of time.

Foster carers must be very tolerant, patient and understanding of the needs of the children in their care. These children and young people will be disorientated, distressed and bewildered at having been removed from their parent's care, and may be severely traumatised from abuse and neglect. The boundaries you set down may be the first the children and young people have ever experienced, and their challenging behaviour may be very difficult to cope with.

Children and young people may also express great love and affection for you as their foster carer, causing a deep attachment to form. When they move on you may find this very distressing.

In reality, fostering is an extremely difficult and rewarding job, which contains many challenges and positives. A foster carer must be a safe, warm, loving and understanding substitute parent, who must not get too attached to the children and young people in their care, and who must accept the reality of the children leaving one day. One might say an impossible task! However, a good out come for the children and young people is for their own families to make sufficient progress so as they can safely and happily return home - foster care is often an essential service in achieving this.

In achieving this good outcome it is essential for foster carers to work in partnership with professionals and especially parents. A foster carer's approach to partnership must be wholly non-judgmental. This is essential in childcare. Even when children and young people cannot return to their parent's care, and so must stay with foster carers in the long term, non-judgmental partnership with parents is essential.

All children and young people in foster care have Care Plans which must be adhered to, and which are reviewed regularly in Statutory Reviews. Foster carers must attend these reviews, and bring written reports on the progress of the children in their care. The information for these reports will be derived from daily records, which foster carers must keep on all the children they are looking after.

In looking after children and young people a foster carer, together with parents and other professionals, have responsibility for all aspects of care. This includes ensuring the children or young person's health, welfare and educational needs are all met.

Foster carers also have formal duties like taking the children and young people in their care to Statutory Medicals, reporting them to the Police and Social Services if they go missing, and reporting all other significant events to Social Services as soon as possible. A foster carer is an important partner in the formal duties of looking after vulnerable children and young people, and day to day foster care includes close liaison with other professionals.

In terms of basic day to day care a foster carer must ensure that the children and young people in their care can have their own bedroom if required, are properly clothed and provided for, are registered with a local GP, dentist and optician, attend school appropriately and complete homework as required, have appropriate toys and opportunities for play, receive birthday and other celebration presents, and receive appropriate emotional affection, warmth and encouragement. In short, good quality family care, which all children and young people need.

A foster carer will be required to transport the children and young people in their care to school. Foster carers may also be requested to provide transport for the children and young people in their care to and from contact with their parents if appropriate. Sometimes, and only when appropriate, a foster carer may be asked to allow a parent to visit their home for contact, or to provide the parent with reassurance about the home their children are living in. This is not an expectation and would never be done without the foster carers informed agreement.

The most important people in fostering are the children and young people being looked after. Their needs and welfare are paramount at all times. Attendance at ongoing training is also an important condition of fostering.

Foster carers must not terminate a child or young person's placement outside the requirements of the Individual Placement Agreement/Contract, as this adds to the trauma already suffered by the child and undermines professional partnership.

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Our Role in Recruitment

The role of IFCS is to provide high quality foster placements for children and young people, at the request of Local Authority Social Services Departments.

IFCS will advertise for prospective foster carers in various local media outlets in the South Wales area. Those interested in fostering can respond by phone (02920 837320 or 01792 222510), by email using the address office@ifcswales.co.uk, through our website online application form (www.ifcswales.co.uk), or by post at Independent Foster Care Services, Solva House, Springmeadow Business Park, Wentloog, Rumney, Cardiff, CF3 2ES or even through our App for iphone available through the App Store.

A Social Worker from IFCS will then contact the enquirer to complete Part 1 of the Initial Assessment, and make an appointment to visit and complete Part 2.

The enquirer will then be invited to Skills to Foster training, and from there a very comprehensive home assessment will be undertaken by an IFCS Social Worker. This includes Enhanced checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service, Health Assessments, Health and Safety Assessments of the home, references, individual profiles and assessments of parenting capacity.

The entire process can take 4 to 6 months.

IFCS welcomes applications from couples and single carers, and from all sections of society.

Caring for Children

All prospective Foster Carers will have to demonstrate a high standard of parenting capacity. IFCS will assess the parenting competencies detailed below to evidence this, not just for the initial home assessment but on an ongoing basis.

  • An ability to provide a good standard of care for children and young people which promotes healthy emotional, physical, sexual, and intellectual development.
  • An ability to accept the individual child or young person as he/she is.
  • An ability to provide care appropriate to the individual child or young person as he/she is.
  • An ability to work closely with children and young people's families, and others who are important to the child.
  • An ability to set appropriate boundaries, and manage children and young people's behaviour within these, without the use of physical or other inappropriate punishment.
  • A knowledge of normal child development and an ability to listen and communicate with children and young people appropriate to their emotional age and understanding.
  • An ability to promote a young person's development towards adult status.
  • Providing a Safe and Caring Environment.
  • An ability to ensure that children and young people are cared for in a home where they are safe from harm and abuse.
  • An ability to help children and young people keep themselves safe from harm or abuse, and to know how to seek help if their safety is threatened.
  • An ability to recognise the particular vulnerability to abuse and to discrimination of disabled children.
  • Working as part of a Team.
  • An ability to collaborate with other professional workers and to positively and in partnership with others contribute to the care planning process for children and young people.
  • An ability to communicate effectively.
  • An ability to keep information confidential.
  • An ability to promote equality, diversity and rights of individuals and groups within society.
  • Own Development.
  • An ability to appreciate how personal experiences have affected themselves and their families, and the impact that fostering is likely to have on them all.
  • An ability to use people and links within the community to provide support.
  • An ability to use training opportunities and improve skills.
  • An ability to sustain positive relationships and maintain effective functioning through periods of stress.

During the assessment the prospective foster care will be required to attend all courses on the IFCS Induction Training Programme. This course is derived from the Fostering Network course Skills to Foster: A Foundation for Quality Care.

The preparation, training and home assessment process, which can take between 4 and 6 months to complete, is necessarily detailed, and requires commitment and dedication. Families cannot be considered for approval as foster carers before this process is completed.

The information gathered for the home assessment is kept highly confidential, and will only be disclosed on a need to know basis.

The report resulting from the full assessment is called a Form F. The report is presented to the IFCS Fostering Panel, by a Social Worker, and the Panel will make the ultimate recommendation on formal approval. The decision on formal approval is made by the IFCS Director.

The diagram on the following page outlines the assessment, preparation and approval process for foster carers with IFCS.

View the IFCS Assessment and approval process

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Our role in supporting Foster Carers

IFCS provides extensive support to foster carers in a variety of ways. Below is a brief summary of the support. Further details are contained in the IFCS Procedure Manual on which all prospective foster carers will receive training during the home assessment.

  • Independent Foster Care Services pay allowances to foster carers of £355.50 per week, for every child placed within the family.
  • IFCS pay retainers of £157.50 per household when no children or young people are in placement for 10 weeks in 12 months. Retainers are not paid to respite carers or to carers who limit their age range. Retainer payments will be reviewed after 3 placement refusals. Retainer payments will not be made to foster carers who end children and young people's placements outside the notice period requirements of Individual Placement Agreements/Contracts, for the duration of the relevant notice period.
  • Independent Foster Care Services provides 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, support from qualified and experienced Social Work staff.
  • Independent Foster Care Services provides comprehensive ongoing training, including courses and mentoring required for QCF qualifications.
  • Independent Foster Care Services will provide paid respite care to Foster Carer/s as needed for the benefit of looked after children and young people and their foster families. Respite is for placement stability only, and cannot be used as a holiday from caring for vulnerable children and young people in placement.
  • Independent Foster Care Services provides regular peer group support for all foster carers.
  • Independent Foster Care Services will provide an experienced Support Worker for every foster carer, to provide regular ongoing support. This Support Worker will regularly contact and visit foster carers, provide written reports for the annual review of foster carers, and attend every meeting in connection with the child or young person in foster care.
  • Independent Foster Care Services has detailed policies and procedures, which all foster carers will receive following approval, together with, a Foster Care Agreement, a copy of the IFCS Statement of Purpose, and a computer, access to the internet and the services on the IFCS website.
  • All IFCS Foster Carers are joined as members with the Fostering Network.
  • Above all Independent Foster Care Services will ensure that you as a foster carer are never alone, and that you have the resources, the training, and the support to make a child or young person's life in your family a happy and successful period.

Independent Foster Care Services will keep in close contact with all foster carers, and ensure support is always just a phone call away at any time.

This is not an exhaustive list of how IFCS supports foster carers. Further information will be provided during the home assessment and preparation process.

Our Role with the Children

IFCS will seek to offer foster placements for children from birth to 18 years.

IFCS will give priority to sibling groups, and will expect foster carers to take groups of brothers and sisters. Research has constantly highlighted the great importance of keeping siblings together when, for whatever reason, they have had to be removed from their parent's care. This is often not possible which is why, for this service, the placement of brothers and sisters together will be a priority. Foster carers will be expected to share this priority.

As well as completing high quality assessments of prospective foster carers, and providing ongoing training and a high standard of support for foster carers, IFCS will complete detailed progress reports on the children and young people looked after by ourselves. These reports will be provided for Statutory Reviews and other necessary meetings, to contribute to the care planning process.

IFCS will always request that foster carers provide transport for children to and from school, and if necessary to and from contact between the children and young people and their parents. However, IFCS recognises that foster carers providing transport for children and young people to contact will not always be appropriate, and further recognises that at times foster carers will have difficulty transporting children and young people to school. IFCS will always assist with the provision of transport in these circumstances.

IFCS can, if instructed to do so by a placing Local Authority, facilitate and supervise contact between children and young people and their families.

IFCS will invest significantly in positive outcomes for children and young people, especially to facilitate their enjoyment and achievements in education and in the community.

IFCS will provide staff and foster carers with expert consultancy and therapeutic services from a qualified Family Therapist, to ensure we can provide the best possible care for children and young people with very significant needs.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list of how IFCS supports children and young people in foster care. In summary, IFCS offers a package of foster care for children and young people, which includes high quality family care, and support in education, health, emotional and behavioural wellbeing, contact, and play and leisure, as well as the provision of detailed assessments to assist the care planning process.

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What next?

You will have received this information pack within 5 working days of us receiving your expression of interest in fostering with Independent Foster Care Services. Within a further 5 working days an IFCS Social Worker will contact you. If you are still interested in becoming a foster carer the IFCS Social Worker will arrange to visit you at your home as soon as is convenient.

The purpose of this home visit is to discuss fostering and the full home assessment process further and to conduct an initial assessment. The initial assessment will focus on your family structure, why you wish to foster, the eligibility criteria for Independent Foster Care Services, your family resources and any questions you may have.

The Social Worker will contact you again within 5 working days of the initial assessment. If you still wish to become a foster carer, and Independent Foster Care Services are satisfied with the initial assessment, the Social Worker will again visit you at your home, as soon as is convenient, to plan the training and full home assessment, Disclosure and Barring Service and health checks, and references.

It is extremely important that proper assessments and preparations are carried out. If families start fostering without having been through this process vulnerable children and young people are likely to suffer further, and fostering may be a distressing experience for all. The whole process is therefore likely to take between 4 and 6 months, dependent on past experience and training of/in fostering.

Foster Care is a challenging and stressful but ultimately rewarding role in which, if done positively and with the right support, will make a real difference to the life of a child.

Adrian Wilson (Director)

Independent Foster Care Services

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