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Fostering is a way of providing a stable family life for children and young people who are unable to live with their parents or other relatives. This can be for many reasons including:

  • Relationship problems
  • Family breakdown
  • When a child’s welfare is threatened
  • Parents’ Illness

Providing a foster care placement in your home, allows a child or young person the chance to thrive in a safe, secure, and caring home environment. Fostering is challenging but also rewarding at the same time. It takes time, patience and commitment to foster.

The children and young people placed with foster carers are from a number of different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds and will display different behaviours depending upon their various experiences.

All children and young people are different, making it difficult to define a ‘typical child’, however, what you can expect is that, as with any child or young person, they need security, stability and the chance to develop and thrive.

Fostering differs from adoption. With adoption you become a child’s legal parent permanently, whilst with fostering you never obtain full parental rights for the Child or Young Person and it is usually temporarily with the hope and plan for the Child to return home.

Foster care placements can last for days, months or even several years. Many children return to their families but when this does not happen they may receive long term support; either through continued fostering, adoption, residential care or being helped to live independently.

Key facts for foster care

  • Around 65,000 children are in care in England on any one day with around 75% in foster care*.
  • Ofsted inspect foster care providers who are both Local Authorities and Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA’s).
  • Foster care is regulated by The National Minimum Standards, and Fostering Regulations 2011.
  • There is a shortage of approximately 10,000 foster carers in the UK*.
  • You need a spare room for the Child or Young Person in order to foster.
  • All foster carers receive an fostering allowance to cover costs and provide a “reward element” for their skills.
  • Many placements are made with very short notice in an emergency.

* Source – Fostering Network

What is an Independent Fostering Agency?

When a child is placed in care, their welfare generally lies with their home Local Authority Social Services. Historically, Local Authorities have been responsible for providing fostering services through carers they have recruited.

Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA) developed to support Local Authorities services and provide greater choice of foster family for the child being placed.

In 2002, Fostering Guidelines and Regulations were introduced for IFAs to adhere to and the private sector provision has now increased to 30% of all foster care placements. The Local Authority provision remains far higher than IFAs but the Government is committed to expanding choice and supporting the private sector growth.

The market for IFAs includes a small number of larger national players, several regional operators and small businesses. The majority of IFA’s are companies.

When selecting an IFA to foster with, it is important that potential carers consider many areas but in particular the support they will receive, fostering allowances payable and whether they will receive a placement of a child.

Who will I look after?

It is important that potential foster carers have an understanding of the types of children they may care for and challenges they may face and this needs to be considered alongside your own family’s circumstances and views.

Children can be placed in foster care from birth to 18 years (depending whether they are in education):

  • Consider which age range would be best suited to your family.

Placements can be for short periods, emergency, long term or for a respite period

  • Consider which length of placement would be preferred.

If a child is part of a sibling group it is common for the children to be placed together:

  • It is usually the preferred outcome to place children together.
  • Consider whether you have sufficient space for one child or more.

What type of behaviour and experiences can you manage?

  • Children have many different experiences, challenges and abilities – how supportive can you be and what would you be less confident managing.
  • Would you be confident with training and support to take children with specific needs including:
    • Children with Disabilities
    • Complex needs such as autism or significant health needs
    • Children with challenging behaviour
    • Parent and child placements

Are you able to care for children from different religions or ethnic backgrounds?

  • Do you have a good knowledge of other religions and ethnic backgrounds?

All the above areas would be considered when you make your application during the assessment process and would be in­cluded in your “Approval Terms” when you become a carer.

Your approval terms are then used to “match” you to the appropriate children.

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