Community

Starting your journey as a foster carer…

Our carers are amazing people, but they are also normal people like you or I who have made the decision to help vulnerable children by fostering. The assessment process is designed to explore and develop your ability to foster as well as assess your suitability. Indeed, many carers find that by going through the fostering process they realise skills they perhaps didn’t know they had. Here are some of the key questions that crop up when setting out on that journey

Words: Tony Darnell, Communications Manager for Fostering & Adoption for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Councils

Am I suitable?
Carers suitability to foster is looked at on an individual basis. We do explore your availability to fostering in terms of not just the care of the children, but also in the wider fostering role. For example, carers are required to attend meetings, training, support groups and supervision and some of these would take place in traditional working hours. Sometimes this means that there is one main carer who is at home or has more flexibility around work commitments so they can still attend these events. Beyond that, we welcome as wide a range of people as possible. Being single is not an obstacle, there is no upper age limit (lower limit of 21) and you do not necessarily have to be in work. We speak to all of your household and members of wider family during the assessment process to make sure this is the right thing for all of you.

What backgrounds might the children come from?
Children in care come from all different backgrounds and have had a variety of experiences, and we need our carers to reflect this diversity. However, we also need carers who are open to caring for children from backgrounds different from themselves and be open to learning about what someone’s identity means for them and supporting positive self image. The age range which you are approved for is discussed and explored during your assessment. There may be some areas which preclude you, or make you more suitable for caring for children of a certain age.

How would I manage challenging behaviour?
Children who have experienced abuse and trauma can view the world very differently, and this can impact on the way they express emotions or react in situations. The assessment process will develop your understanding of children’s experiences and how to respond to behaviour in a way which is most helpful for them and yourself. This includes training, regular supervision, peer support as well as 24/7 support from professionals to help in times of need. This means that you should never feel isolated when fostering for us.

What other support is on offer?
You have your own fostering social worker who is there to support you, as well as out of hours cover for when your FSW is not available. We also promote peer support with other carers as we value the experience that other carers can offer. In your first year you will be mentored by another experienced carer as well as meeting a variety of carers at foster carer support groups and training. We also have a wide variety of training available and last year there were 60+ courses run.

How long does the application process take?
We would normally aim for prospective carers to spend six months from application to approval, it is important that we give enough time to assess and most importantly develop your skills and understanding of fostering during this time.

I’ve heard of something called a ‘panel’ – what is that?
One of the final steps of fostering is presenting the assessment report – which your assessing social worker will have written – to a panel. This report is shared with you ahead of panel, and your comments on the report are also shared. A variety of panel members who come from different personal and professional backgrounds will ask around five questions based on what they have read about you and your circumstances. It is their job to make sure that you have been well prepared in your assessment process and that all the necessary steps are done to safeguard the children in care as well as your family, so that your fostering assessment can get off to a positive and successful start.

What if I change my mind?
Whilst we ask people to consider their motivation and commitment to fostering it is important to remember that the assessment process is just that, it’s a process and a journey. I always say its not a ‘runaway train’ and that just because you enquire or apply does not mean that you are obliged to continue if you change your mind.

● If you would like to register your interest then email or call 0800 328 8433. Find out more by texting FOSTERING to 60777 and we will send info straight to you. We pay generous allowances and support you throughout your journey.

For more information about Fostering visit: www.peterborough.gov.uk/fostering

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