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Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on fostering.

Some really basic initial questions if you don't mind....

(12 Posts)
Runoutofideas Wed 14-Sep-11 11:02:43

I am currently thinking about the idea of fostering but don't know if it would suit us as a family. Please could those of you with experience try to answer the following for me?

1. We have a 3 bed house with a garden and 2 children aged 6 and 4 who currently share a room, leaving the 3rd bedroom free, Is this enough?
2. I would only want to look after children younger than my own - Is this allowed?
3. I'd be happy to do emergency care - I don't mind being rung up in the middle of the night and handed a baby - Can you register as just an emergency carer? (I think I want to do this initially so my children get used to other children coming and going, rather than having say a baby for 2 years who really becomes part of the family).
4. What is the difference between fostering for the LA and for agencies?
5. I am a SAHM with 2 children at school and a DH who works 9-5 type hours - do you think this sounds like something we could do?
I'd be grateful for any comments. Thanks so much.

BusterTheDonk Wed 14-Sep-11 12:09:14

Hiya, hope the below helps..,

(1.) perfect - a child MUST have its own room - babies are allowed to be in your room - our LA allows it until age 2 but every LA is different.

(2.) Yes - they normally recommend at least 2 years difference between your own birth children and ideally your children being the oldest.

(3.) Emergency or respite care is normally a good way to start.. bear in mind though that we had our 2 LO's on emergency basis, and a year later they are still with us!! Really young babies do tend (altho not always) to be moved on quicker - either back home or adopted although its not always fast.

(4.) All children in care are the responsibility of the LA they are part of - an LA always tries (really hard) to place a child with one of its own carers - where they are having difficulties - either due to lack of carers or the child has difficulties and no-one will have, they use an external agency and pay a huge amount of money to the IFA (independant fostering agency) to take this child on - some of this is passed on to the carer - a friend of mine received £1,000 a week to look after a seriously damanged teenage girl.. Support is "apparently" better with an IFA although I cannot fault my LA so far - the smaller IFA's may soon disappear as the LA's are doing a huge recruitment drive to take on more inhouse carers as its cheaper!!!

(5.) Yes, but please be under no illusion as to how much running around there is - if you foster babies, they may have contact with parents 5 days a week - there is a huge requirement for carers who are willing to transport to and from contact (2 hours contact is common), meetings you have to attend (care planning), all the ususal doctors, dentist and LAC (looker after children, although I've heard now its CLA - children looked after) health assessments etc etc.. Be under no illusion it will change your "normal" family life.

I'm not trying to put you off at all, you sound in a good position to be able to do it, I just think that the amount of time running around is never properly explained to interested people and you have to be extremely flexible and willing - our LA is considering not progressing with any interested people if they are not prepared to do the transportation (cost reasons) and have access to a car etc...

It can be a very positive thing for your family and children and I would urge you to put a lot of consideration into it, talk to your LA and they often hold open evenings to find out more. The process (for us at least) took 10months from start to finish. It is a lengthy process to become approved but 12 months into it we are loving it - we don't have our own children at home and neither of us work so for us, the 400 miles we do a month on facilitating contact is not an issue - but reading many threads on here I know its not always so easy for families and SS just seem to be expecting more and more from us these days.

I would also 'shop' around if you are considering taking it further - there are huge differences between LA's and what their attitude is towards costs, payments, expenses etc and I am constantly amazed at times reading on here at how different we are all treated - thankfully we dropped on with a good LA.

Hope this helps and answers some questions - its a huge step but a very rewarding 'job'. smile

Runoutofideas Wed 14-Sep-11 12:41:09

Thanks Busterthedonk - that's all very helpful. Would you say that the majority of the running around could be done within the school day ie 9am-3pm mon-fri? Do you have to stay for the contact, or do you drop off the child and come back to collect? I'm trying to imagine the impact on my 2 children if we were required to do 5 days a week contact during the school holidays and I'm having to drag them around with me..... Is that much contact time normal/average or more rare?
Thanks so much. Any more advice/opinions?

NanaNina Wed 14-Sep-11 14:05:09

I think Busterthedonk has covered all the essential points from the foster carer prospective in a very comprehensive manner,m but I am posting as a retired social wrk and Tm Mgr of a F&A team - 30 years experience in all. It isn't really possible to be approved for "emergencies only" as emergencies don't happen to order (sorry not being sarcastic) and in a sense all short term placements are emergencies, as it means that a child has been removed from birth parents, either with or without their consent. If it is without their consent then the LA have to get a court order. I think Busterthedonk has illustrated this point very well, by her "emergency placement" and the children still there 1 year on. In some cases this can stretch to 2 or 3 years.

Once a child has been removed from birth parents, and placed with foster carers, then assessments have to be carried out on birth parents and this takes an awful long time. The social workers have to carry out lengthy assessments, as do psychologists, psychiatrists (if there are mental health issues) a guardian (who is a social worker but not part of the LA - they work for CAFCASS (Children & Family Court Advisory Service) and all of this takes months and months and all the time you will be caring for the "emergency" placement! Sometimes birth parents are given the opportunity to be placed in a residential setting with the child for staff to monitor how they care for their child.

If at the end of all this the child can be reunited with parents, but more usually the LA will go to court for the final hearing, with an application for a Care Order or a Placement Order (this is used for babies and young children as the plan will be to place them for adoption and the younger the child, the quicker it is to find an adoptive placement) However if adoptors cannot be found, then the next option is to look for permanent foster carers. Here lies another problem, because if there is no one in the extended family is suitable, and permanent foster carers canot be found, then the child remains with the "short term" carer and this can go on for years......

It is possible to be approved as respite carers, which means having a child for a short period to give foster carers a break to re-charge their batteries. Some LAs have schemes whereby respite carers take children straight from their birth family for short periods of time (maybe 2 weekends a month) or something similar. Not all LAs have the latter scheme.

The other thing I would say is that you are looking at babies and children in the age range of 0 -2 and to be honest, most LAs don't have a need for carers as it is a very popular age range with foster carers. The need is for older children (7 - 12) sibling groups and children with disabilities. You may find that some LAs will not assess you for this reason. A pity I know but most things are finance related (it was bad enough before the govt took
over) but now all public services budgets have been slashed and it is becoming more and more impossibe to run services with depleted budgets. This ties in to the point BtheD made about LAs expecting foster carers to transport children to contact. This was never the case in the past (children were collected by contact workers who supervised the contact and returned the child home) BtheD is quite right if it is a baby or very young children, daily contact will be the case, because as I'm sure you realise babies and toddlers will not have the recall of birth parents if they only see them once a week.

As BtheD says her LA is only prepared to assess prospective carers who are drivers and will agree to do the transport. Quite shocking really, but that's a sign of the times.

Just a warning about IFAs. They will probably be very willing to assess you, and they do pay carers considerably more but what I don't think many carers realise is that the IFAs charge the LA huge amounts of money to "sell" them one of the families that they have recruitred. This means that their are massive profits for the directors of IFAs - I know some of them and one drives a Porsche and another has bought his 4 adult children their own homes and has a string of race horses - I could go on but I'm sure you get the message. They don't have access to any children of course, so they have to "sell" you to an IFA and as DtheB says LAs are loathe to "buy" these placements for cost reasons. Mind I think if it were a toss up between a carer saying she wouldn't do transport to contact, and the only other option was an IFA they would quickly agree to provide contact transport!!

I would be very surprised if LAs had to buy placements from IFAs for 0 -2 years. But it all depends, if it happens that all their foster carers are full then they have no option. If you do decide to contact IFAs I would ask them how many 0 -2 placements they have sold to the LA in the past 12 months/2 years. They are a business and are sometimes economical with the truth!

You ask about transport for contact and whether you have to stay - I don't know the answer to whether they now want you to stay (a contact supervisor) is meant to observe contact, make notes on the interaction between the child and parents) and I think it grossly unfair if they are expecting carers to do this. It isn't that carers aren't capable of doing this - I'm sure most carers are far better than some of the contact supervisors I have comes across (one used to be half asleep during contact) and the notes they make are hardly worth the paper they are written on.

I honestly think that carers for LAs should get together (united we stand divided we fall) and negotiate some sensible arrangements about this business of transport and observation. As you say the idea of dragging your own children for miles in the school holidays is ridiculous in my view. So long as foster carers keep agreeing to do it, nothing will be done. I know LAs budgets have been slashed but that is not the problem of the carers and Directors of LAs should be telling the govt that they can no longer ensure that children have contact. The importance of contact is not only to ensure the child knows the parents haven't disappeared off the face of the earth, but when it comes to court, lawyers for the birth parents will drive home the point to the judge that the parents have been afforded proper contact and that could mean the LA are sent off to give them this opportunity and that means a longer and longer wait for the child's future to be secured.

Sorry I am going on so long ......................

Have you thought of childminding instead!!! (seriously)

BustertheDonk - any chance you could organise with other carers for proper negotiations and compromises made to deal with this issue of transport to contact?

Runoutofideas Wed 14-Sep-11 14:53:12

Nananina - Thanks for all that- I'm really grateful for the input. I'm starting to get an understanding of some of the issues involved. I've been looking at the policies of councils local to me and they do seem to vary hugely. Could I work for one LA while living in another ? - (as long as the distances are feasible etc)
To be honest I have thought about child minding, but fostering seemed to be more appealing because of feeling like I was doing something really useful to help children in potentially difficult circumstances. Hmm - will continue looking in to it but thanks for your help.

BusterTheDonk Wed 14-Sep-11 15:02:22

wow - Nananina.. I just love your responses... I wish you worked for my LA !!

Runoutofideas - contact can be any time of the day.. really at the moment depends on when/if they have someone available to supervise, and a room available.. we currently have 2-4 during the week x 3 and then sat 11-3. I drop off and then come back later.. pretty much leaves me 1hr free if that inbetween drop & collect. Contact centres are supposed to be nearest to the child in care, but some of ours have been closed (cuts!!) so it takes me 20 mins drive each way.

I'm still a learner, but I think contact can vary greatly - each case is individual but I'm told 3 times a week is normal..

I think pretty much you are 'expected' to fit in around what is best for SS, rather than them fitting in around you...

Lots of food for thought....

Nananina - luckily for us the transporting isn't an issue, and to be honest I wouldn't want 'strangers' or a different person all the time bringing the kids back - we get paid well for our mileage (thankfully) so I'm quite happy at the moment to run around like a blue arsed fly to contact and back grin

NanaNina Wed 14-Sep-11 16:33:20

Runoutofideas - yes you can be registered with a LA outside of your own area, but you can only be registered with ONE LA. I honestly think you should go and have a chat with your own LA and then a neighbouring one and you then can compare the two. A prospective foster carer on here recently said she thought she had "paralysis by analysis" and I think that can be a danger. Social workers are ordinary mortels and most of them don't bite!!

Thanks for your kind words BtheD. I do take your point about strangers taking children to contact, but in the "good old days" when this used to happen i think they did try to keep to the same person and there didn't seem to be any problems. One grnadmother who I was assessing as a Special Guardian was surprised one morning when a strange young man turned up to take her gr/dghtr to contact. She said he was scruffily dressed and was concerned, so aske for his ID but he said he didn't have it with him, so she told him she was driving the child to contact. He was bona fide but I applauded her decision.

This contact issue has quite a history. When I was newly qualified at the end of the 1970s (yes I'm very old!) all contact took place in the foster carer's home - they had to agree to this to get approved. Only in the rarest of cases where there was evidence of violent behaviour, was contact outside of the foster home. Opinions varied between foster carers and many of them didn't like it - they weren't being asked to observe as such but to "keep an eye" on the situation. Mostly a far as I can recall carers complained about young immature mums telling the carer all her problems and not taking much notice of the child, or giving him sweets before lunch, feeling uncomfortable at nat parents have "sly digs" at the foster carer. Some carers were very good at it, others less so.

It was without doubt best for the child because he was in a safe place with a trusted adult and his routine was not disrupted. Then sometime in the 80s (can't remember why or exactly when) all contact seemed to be out of the foster home and children were collected, observed and returned. I always thought this unfair on children having to travel sometimes long distances for contact. I knew one contact suspervisor who wouldn't allow the children to drink in her car! We quickly sorted that one out!

Now it seems because of finance, foster carers are being asked to do the transport. Am waiting for the pendulum to swing back to the 70s when sws will be expecting carers for the child to have contact with the nat parents in their own home.

Wonder how many carers would favour (or not) this old practice?

maypole1 Wed 14-Sep-11 17:05:18

In our la hardly any carers do transport, but it can have draw baks often the contact works aren't very good

But your sw would keep in mind you already have children when placing a child as a child who is having heavy contact would be too much

NanaNina Thu 15-Sep-11 18:51:40

Hmm - not so sure about that Maypole - I have met many social workers (especially if they don't have children of their own) who have no idea of the fact that carers have to fit in foster care stuff with their own children.

I remember a male sw (no kids) saying to me once "whenever I visit Mrs x she always starts getting up and looking for kid's shoes and stuff around 2.30 and seems not to be listening. I said that she was probably getting ready to meet her own school age children, and you can't be late for that. "Ooh" he said. I suggested he visited in the morning instead and would you believe that the carer was much more relaxed............doh!!

scarlet5tyger Fri 16-Sep-11 13:11:29

I like contact being in a contact centre and taking the children myself as it's the one place I get regular contact with other carers. The staff who run my local one are so supportive of the foster carers too, even making us tea and toast if we don't get time for breakfast!

bonnieslilsister Fri 16-Sep-11 14:59:15

we have a water fountain scarlet!!

i am another one who wishes nananina worked for our la xx

fostermumtomany Wed 28-Sep-11 23:53:53

we have a lo with us now who was coming for 2 nights and exactly one year later she is still here with no plans to move her until after christmas at the earliest!
also with regards to contact, we have 5 sessions 50 miles away, so 100 mile round trip, our la insists on having carers who can drive.
as well as that, there is now a lot of training courses that they say has to be done or you will be de-registered as well as having to attend monthly support groups or no allowance. seriously!
on top of that there are meetings, docs appointments, appointments to great ormond street (400 miles away) etc etc etc
you have to look at fostering as a job as you really are doing something almost everyday.
i am a mum of 3 as well as a foster carer and to be honest it hasnt impacted on my lot per say as they are at school however, there have been times when i have been unable to collect them (due to being in london or having contact at stupid times), i would go along to your local info night and think more after that x

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