Having a new baby is stressful for any parent, but can be full of difficulties for teenage mums in unsafe situations or who are struggling to take care of themselves.
Sometimes, when these tough situations come up, parent and child fostering can give a new mum the support she needs to become a confident and capable parent – like Jen, who came to her foster family with her baby.
“Living with Rehana and Peter has made me gain confidence and helped me become a better parent than I was in the past,” Jen says. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence and can be ‘Mum’. It’s given me and my child a better life.”
Why teenage mothers go into foster care
Parent and child fostering happens when a new mother (or sometimes father) isn’t able to care for their new baby on their own. Abusive relationships, a history of drug abuse, or having been unable to care for previous children can all result in a mother going into foster care with her child.
The need for parent and child fostering has grown since 2002, when a European Court of Human Rights ruled that taking a baby from a mother at birth is extremely harsh and detrimental to both child and mother. At Compass Fostering, 59% of parents in foster care with their babies are under the age of 24.
Mums can join a foster family straight from the hospital with their newborn, or can arrive before the birth or a little while after. While many are teenagers, mothers in this situation can range in age – the common factor is that they aren’t capable of caring for a baby, and some may not even be capable of caring for themselves. Learning difficulties, mental health problems and a lack of support can all contribute to a mother being unable to cope on her own.
Supporting mum and baby for the future
The goal of mother and child fostering is to support a mum in learning how to parent and care for her baby. Being in a foster care situation can help teen mothers grow into confident and capable parents.
In foster care, new mothers learn skills such as:
• Caring for a baby, including feeding, sleeping and bathing
• Household skills like cooking and cleaning
• Budgeting and planning for the future
• Managing social situations like toddler groups
• Navigating clinic and health appointments and other meetings
Who can care for a mother and child?
Mother and child carers are typically experienced foster carers, as these situations require lots of skill, patience and confidence. Compass provides specialised training to help carers prepare to welcome a parent and new baby into their home. Unfortunately, some mums may not feel able to stay with their baby, so carers also need to be able to take on the care of the baby themselves, if it comes to that.
A key part of being a parent and child foster carer is keeping detailed daily records of how the mum is doing and how well she can look after her child. These records will be used to help determine the mum’s ability to look after her child on her own, and may be used in court or to support future decisions about the wellbeing of the baby.
Mother and child fostering is one very important way that foster carers can help set families up for a good start in life, and break poor parenting patterns that may go back decades. Time in foster care with her baby prepares a new mum to create a safe and supportive environment for her child and start a new cycle for future generations.
If you’re interested in fostering a child, or a parent and child, please get in touch to learn about the support we offer our foster carers at Compass Fostering.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, you might be wondering if foster children can share bedrooms. While foster children usually need their own room, there is one potential exception: same-sex foster siblings.
Read on to learn more about why foster children need their own space, and when and how foster siblings can share a room.
Why foster children need their own room
Having a space of their own is important for all foster children. They need a place to feel safe and secure, and where they can retreat when a new situation or environment becomes overwhelming.
Children often come into the foster care system having experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, and will be further stressed by having to deal with a new environment and being removed from their family. The same as any of us in stressful times, they need space of their own to process their feelings.
Having their own room gives a foster child a place to be alone – and, unlike locations outside the home, you can be close at hand to offer support and reassurance. Having separate rooms will also help mitigate sibling rivalry and conflict with other children in the home.
When foster siblings can share
It depends on the local authority, but it comes down to what will be the least disruptive for the children. If two young siblings have always shared a room, it may well be better for them to continue doing so in a new house.
Such was the case for the sibling group who came to foster carers Deborah and Brian: two twin sisters aged 7 and a third sister aged 3. “Before they came to live with us, they were used to all three of them sharing a bedroom,” says Deborah.
Now the twins share a room with bunk beds, while the youngest has her own space. “The older girls love the fact that their little sister isn’t in their room with them and she loves it that she has her own room, so everyone is happy.”
In order to share a room, siblings must be the same sex, and most local authorities will only allow sharing up to a certain age (usually around 9 to 11).
Housing requirements for foster children
According to the UK Minimum Standards for Fostering, a foster home must be able to comfortably accommodate all who live there – this means that communal spaces need to be big enough for the whole family to live comfortably. Each child over the age of three (including birth children) should have their own bedroom, or if that’s not possible, each child sharing a room must have their own area within the bedroom.
At Compass Fostering, we only allow room sharing for foster siblings in special circumstances – meaning that all our carers need to have a spare room before they can start fostering.
Having foster children in the home
“Being three girls in the house, they have a lot of toys and clothes and everything,” says Deborah about her foster children. “They’re good girls and they tidy up, so it’s not as bad as it could be.”
“And wow, they have changed our lives! They’ve filled our house and lives with fun, laughter, cuddles and drama, and given us insight into the world through their eyes, which is full of resilience, hope, joy and finding fun in everything they do.”
If you have a spare room and love to offer a foster child, please get in touch to find out more about becoming part of the Compass Fostering family.
When you bring a foster child into your home, they’ll quickly become part of your family – and you’ll want them to share in all your family activities, including holidays! We encourage our foster families to include foster children in travel plans, but there are a few things to consider first.
Here’s what you need to know about travelling – locally or internationally – with your foster child.
Being part of the family
Foster children are part of your family, and a holiday is a great opportunity for the entire family to make fun memories together. Travel can open children up to new experiences and activities they otherwise might not get the chance to try.
For foster families, travelling to new spots also helps put everyone on the same level – after all, your foster child may sometimes feel like an outsider, but in a strange place the whole family is in the same boat.
Get the right documents together
When travelling with foster children additional paperwork can be involved, so allow time for the planning stage. Many foster children don’t have passports, which means that international travel will require a little advance preparation.
For any holiday, you’ll also need to get agreement from the local authority social worker and put together a risk assessment. We’re here to help you with the paperwork, so don’t worry. A risk assessment is simply a document that shows you’ve thought about all the potential risks that any parent would think about for their children – foster carers just need to put it into writing.
For example, you’ll need to set out plans for how you’ll manage disagreements, privacy in bedrooms and bathrooms, and outline rules for play (such as in the pool or on a hotel balcony). With older children you might also decide how and if they’ll be allowed to go out alone, and set out rules for using mobile phones, etc.
Prepare your foster child to travel
Help your foster child enjoy the trip by preparing them in advance for the realities of international travel. If they’ve never been on a plane or boat before, run through what to expect. Talk to them about the different cultures and social behaviours they might see, and the local language and foods. A new place can be challenging but preparing in advance and discussing coping strategies can help your child enjoy the experience.
Consider prepping the family by watching movies set in your destination country, or going out to a restaurant or preparing a meal similar to what you might be eating. For example, if you’re off to Spain you might enjoy a tapas meal and watch Ferdinand. It will get the family excited about the trip and introduce some foreign ideas in a safe environment.
Alternatives to international travel
If your foster child doesn’t have a passport yet, don’t worry – there are plenty of great options for holidays that don’t require a passport.
Compass foster carer Alison found that out when her family began caring for new foster child. Because he didn’t have a passport, they weren’t able to take their planned international holiday to Greece and instead wound up on a camping trip to Centre Parcs.
“It was by far absolutely the best family holiday we’ve ever had,” she says. “We laughed, sang, flew kites, blew bubbles, ate huge ice creams, rode mini trains, swam in the sea, visited animal sanctuaries, dinosaur museums and a pile of other things that we haven’t done in years and every one of us enjoyed them.”
Here are a few UK-based holidays to consider:
• The Channel Islands or The Isle of Wight: These beautiful seaside spots involve either a ferry ride or a flight, which can make them feel like a big trip. Visit in the summer for seaside fun, or in the cooler months for lovely hillside walks and cute local villages.
• Scotland or Wales: Both have lots to offer by way of natural beauty and cultural heritage.
• Norfolk Broads: Fancy a holiday on the water? Consider hiring a barge and exploring the waterways of Norfolk.
• Seaside Caravan Parks: Dotted across the UK’s seaside, caravan parks are a great option for families who want an affordable getaway. They have a lot to offer a family, including swimming, fishing, crazy golf, and more. Foster parents will just need to be careful about planning accommodation to make sure your foster child gets their own room.
No matter the destination, travelling together as a family is a sure-fire way to encourage bonding by having fun together trying new things.
If your family has the space and love to give a foster child, please get in touch to learn more. Our friendly staff are on hand to support you every step of the way.
There are a lot of questions to consider when deciding to become a foster carer, but none more important than how a foster child will fit into your family – which might leave you wondering what to expect from foster children of different ages.
It’s important to know that you won’t be able to pick the age of your foster child, but you will be able to register a preference. After all, fostering is a matching process and how a child fits into your family is something you will discuss at length with your family-finding team during your assessment, and that includes considering foster child ages.
Whether you have an idea what age of child you’d like to look after, or you’re not sure what to expect from different stages of childhood, here are some things to keep in mind.
The nuts and bolts of foster home selection
When our assessment team approves a new foster carer, we approve them for 0-18 years. That means that you could receive a referral for a child of any age.
However, we are committed to finding the best home for each child, and there are many factors that go into deciding where a child will live. Your preference will matter, and we will never insist on a placement unless both sides feel it’s right.
What are children like at different ages?
Many potential fosters carers think they will prefer young children, or even babies – but every age group has its own advantages and disadvantages.
• Ages 0-5
Children this young can be very sweet, and might suit young foster carers whose friends and family have similar-aged children – but infants and toddlers are also a lot of work. They aren’t in school, which means you will need to be home all the time, and some foster children in this age group may be behind in their development and will need extra help to thrive.
• Ages 5-12
Children this age are in school, which makes for an easier schedule for some foster carers to manage. They are starting to become independent and are old enough to have a sense of self, but are at the wonderful stage where they are learning about the world. Foster children in this age group can also be behind in their development and might need more support and patience to help them succeed.
• Ages 13+
Teenagers are much more independent than younger children. They spend more time at school and in after-school activities, and have a more strongly developed sense of self. They tend to have better communication skills, and are at the stage of life where their achievements can be really significant and rewarding. They are also old enough to remember their time with you– and many fostered teens maintain lifelong relationships with their foster parents. However, teenagers in care may have built up harmful coping mechanisms that require patience and persistence to overcome.
What’s right for your family?
Each foster family is unique, and that’s why every home is considered based on the needs of both the individual child and the specific family. Some foster carers with young children prefer a child of similar age because they can share in activities and interests, while another carer with young children might prefer an older child who can bring a different energy into the home – it really does vary!
Think about what’s best for your family, and try not to make too many assumptions about foster child ages. While some foster carers are open to children of any age, the majority of carers stick with the same age group once they’ve found what works for them.
What’s right for the foster child?
Our family finding team will always keep a child’s best interest at the centre of their decision. They’ll consider the child’s background, including where they’ve lived in the past and what kind of households they may be used to, as well as what’s available in your area, such as schools and other amenities.
At the end of the day, the team will look for the home that will give the child the best chance at fitting in and getting the support they need to thrive.
What about boy or girl?
If you’re wondering about picking the sex of your foster child, the same principles apply – you can register a preference, but as with age, it’s about what’s best for the child.
Every family is different – one family with all girls might prefer not to have a boy entering the house, while another might be ready to bring some male energy in the home. No matter what, you can trust that our team will find the best fit possible for every foster child and foster family.
With Compass Fostering, we keep the best interests of our foster children and our foster families at the front of our minds when deciding where a child should go, and we’ll support you every step of the way. Get in touch to find out more about our assessment process.
‘can you work and foster?’ The question about working and becoming a foster parent isn’t always straightforward. Many foster carers dedicate themselves to fostering full-time, while others continue to work. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to working and fostering, but there are some important considerations to take into account when you’re deciding to become a foster carer.
As with most decisions regarding foster care, the best interests of the child and the foster family need to be kept front of mind.
Putting the child’s best interests first
Children in foster care often come from unstable backgrounds where they’ve experienced abuse or neglect. The chance to give a child the safe and stable home they deserve is one of the great joys of becoming a foster carer – and to do that, you must be able to provide consistent care.
The most important element to consider is the child’s wellbeing. To give foster children the best chance, young children can’t be in full-time day-care, and school-aged children shouldn’t spend their morning and afternoons in preschool and after school care. There are exceptions, of course, such as older children who are in homework clubs or sports clubs – it all depends on what’s appropriate for the child.
A foster carer’s ability to meet the needs of a foster child is considered during the assessment process. Our family finding team will work with you to find the best solution for your family, but it’s important to consider your availability first.
If you work, flexibility is essential
Foster carers need to be able to drop their child off at school in the morning and be there to pick them at the end of the school day. They need to be able to stay home if their child is ill, and accommodate school holidays and days off.
That need for flexibility if you have a job is the main reason why many foster carers don’t work full time – but there are exceptions. Some work environments are adaptable enough to offer carers a flexible schedule, such as freelancers and contractors who make their own hours and can change plans at short notice. Other carers have readily available support networks that can step in when needed, like actively involved parents who live nearby.
Have a plan
If you join the Compass Fostering family, it’s important to consider your situation carefully to figure out how you’d meet the needs of your foster child. If you want to continue working, plan ahead for inevitable situation.
Review plans for school pick up and drop off, and figure out how your child will be looked after when they’re ill or off school. Identify your support network and have clear contingency plans in place. All these concerns will be covered in your assessment, so it’s best to have an idea of how you’d manage them ahead of time.
Foster parent support
At Compass Fostering, we support our carers financially with a fostering allowance and benefits. In fact, many of our carers foster full time thanks to our allowance, which covers the day-to-day costs of looking after a child as well as a professional fostering fee, and generous tax breaks.
We also support foster parents professionally by giving carers the opportunity to build careers in fostering.
The professional positions available with Compass include ambassadors and educators:
- Carer Support Ambassadors support foster carers in different localities, helping them with specific needs identified by the social work team, such as transport or IT.
- Educational Ambassadors support educational outcomes for foster children by giving advice, offering coaching and mentoring, and attending meetings as representatives for foster carers and children.
- Experiential Educators work mostly on a one to one basis with children in care who are unable to attend school. They teach skills like cooking and lead experiential activities that encourage independence.Language Ambassadors work with children and carers whose first language is not English, including children seeking asylum or disabled children who use other forms of communication such as British Sign Language or Makaton.
- Recruitment Ambassadors are the face of the Compass Fostering family! They attend events to talk to people about fostering, distribute flyers and attend meetings with our recruitment team. They help spread the word about fostering so we can find a home for every child who needs one.
Every foster parent’s situation is different, and every foster child’s needs are unique. Some foster carers work, while many others don’t. No matter your situation, our recruitment and family finding teams will always consider what’s best for each individual child and each foster family.
If want to know more about can you work and be a foster carer with Compass Fostering, please get in touch to request an information pack.
For any young person leaving home to live on their own for the first time, the experience can be a bit overwhelming – and it can be more challenging for young people who don’t have a close family support network, like teens in foster care. That’s why the government and Compass Fostering step in to help during that difficult transition period.
From the age of 16, the young person and the local authority, their foster carers and Compass Fostering (or other fostering agency) will work together to build a plan to successfully leave care and start looking after themselves. While a child in foster care only remains the responsibility of the government until they turn 18, they can keep accessing support up to the age of 25.
How long do kids stay in foster care
The UK government also offers clear guidance for how a young person will leave care. Here’s what happens at each age:
16-17 Years Old
A ‘Pathway Plan’ is created to help the young person prepare for leaving care. It’s best for care leavers not to go straight from a foster home to living independently, so several options are considered to ease the transition, including returning to the family home, staying with their foster carers for longer, or moving to supported housing.
18 Years Old
The UK government is legally responsible for making sure the young person has a place to live and enough money until they turn 18, but the care leaver will also have a support team that includes their foster carers, their social worker, and a personal adviser (a role sometimes filled by the foster carers themselves).
In some cases, the young person can stay with their foster family until the age of 21, or 25 if they are in an educational or training programme. This scheme, called ‘Staying Put’ in the UK, or ‘When I Am Ready’ in Wales, helps the young person develop the skills they need to transition into adulthood.
Before leaving care, the young person will have a review meeting to discuss housing, working or continuing their education, and what kind of support they’ll receive.
21 Years Onwards
A young person can continue to get help and advice from the council and their personal adviser up until the age of 25 if they choose.
A bit more about the Pathway Plan
The Pathway Plan is a very valuable tool for making sure that a young care leaver has the support to start living a happy and healthy independent life.
It should include:
- The assistance to be provided to the young person and by whom
- Details of accommodation
- A detailed plan for education or training
- How the responsible authority will assist in developing and maintaining family and social relationships
- A programme to develop practical skills for living independently
- Employment assistance
- Financial help
- Any health needs and how they will be met
- Contingency plans should the pathway stop working
More help for care leavers
After a young person has left foster care, they still have access to a range of support options, including the following charities and networks:
• Become supports care leavers with advice and resources
• Shelter offers care leavers help with housing
• Catch 22 gives guidance to looked-after children and care leavers
• The Rees Foundation offers ongoing support to care leavers for as long as they need
Leaving foster care involves a number of challenges, but it can be a very rewarding experience for foster carers to watch a young person develop the skills and confidence to live independently and start succeeding on their own.
Want to find out more about what age can you leave foster care? If want to know more about can you work and be a foster carer you’re interested in joining the foster carer family with Compass Fostering, please get in touch to request an information pack.
A lot of the young people in our care at Compass Fostering are teenagers. Unfortunately, some people think teenagers will be difficult, distant, or troublemakers – but often the relationships between teens and their foster carers are some of the strongest and most rewarding we see.
“We love fostering,” say two of our foster carers, Mark and Nick. “We get to watch these teenagers achieve things they never thought they could. We give them the chance to blossom and be who they want to be.”
In fact, because of their age, teens will remember their time with you forever. Mark and Nick’s first teen foster, Luke, came to them at 16 – and is still with them 7 years later as part of a Staying Put placement.
“Probably within the first week of Luke living with us, we knew we wanted him to stay for a long time,” they say. “The comfort was there straight away, and we knew this would be a lifelong relationship. He was just 16 years late coming to us.”
Here are a few helpful tips for bringing a teenager into your home.
Take a child-centred approach
When you prepare to welcome a foster child, you’ll be given important information about their background. Be mindful that a teenager in care may have been exposed to some dangerous and upsetting circumstances, such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence, or sexual exploitation.
Be prepared. Learn everything you can about their history, and seek any training or support you need to meet their needs. You can read more about the support we give our foster carers here.
Give them privacy
Privacy is important for any teenager – and it’s a two-way street. Give them their privacy, and teach them to respect yours. Knock before entering their room, and don’t go through their personal stuff. At this stage in life, children are learning to become independent and it’s important that you support that.
“We keep on top of internet usage, but we don’t go snooping,” say Mark and Nick, “we just make sure they’re using safe sites. Prying is only going to make a teenager want you to butt out completely.”
It’s also important to keep an eye out for their safety. Talk to your supervising social worker to know what signs to look out for.
Accept them as they are
This stage in life can be confusing for some teens who are struggling with self-acceptance. When Luke came to stay with Mark and Nick, he was grappling with his own identity.
“We could see that he needed us,” says Nick. “When our social worker asked me why I wanted to foster, I said it was because I would love to be able to help a teenage boy come to terms with his identity, or sexuality, because I remember as a kid how I struggled. And then we got the call for Luke.”
The teenage years are a stressful time for every child, so it’s important that your foster child knows you accept them. Teens can have a lot of opinions, so listen to what they have to say. Show them you’re paying attention by incorporating their likes into your routines.
Fostering teenagers won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it! Your care can offer a safe and secure environment for a vulnerable teenager at a crucial moment in their development. Be resilient, and don’t take anything personally. The most important thing you can do for them is stick around.
“Luke had a voice, but he wouldn’t use it,” say Mark and Nick. “He had all sorts of social workers that he could go to, but he wouldn’t unless he was talking to people that he trusted. At that time, we were his only way to get through the rubbish that he went through.”
“We supported him 100% through that. And we even said that if his time with us didn’t work out or it ended, we would always be there for him, no matter what.”
If you think you have what it takes to be a foster parent and foster teenagers, please get in touch. We’d love to welcome you into the Compass Fostering family.
Our foster carers come from all sorts of backgrounds and bring their own unique strengths and abilities to the fostering experience. At Compass Fostering, we focus on building the strengths of our carers through the REACH approach.
Underpinned by positive psychology, REACH is unique to Compass Fostering and supports both carers and children in making the most of fostering.
The REACH Approach
Children in care often come from unstable backgrounds, and the ability of foster carers and workers to stick with it despite the challenges that come up is really important in helping a child feel secure.
That’s why we support every carer to build your strengths and develop true resilience. You’ll learn how to bounce back when things go wrong and nurture a connection with your foster child that will last through the good and the bad.
One of our foster carers, Alison, learnt the value of resilience when her family of five accepted a foster child into their home for the first time. “Nothing could have prepared me for the little boy of just four years old who came to live with us,” she says.
“He was broken, vacant and presented worrying behaviours and we have all, including him, worked so very, very hard to find the beautiful, bright, clever and funny boy that now lives with us. We love him dearly.”
You can read more about Alison’s experience – both the challenges and the rewards – in this post.
Education of carers
Changing the mind and behaviour of a child begins in the mind of their caregivers. Our training explores how attachments are formed and gives you actionable tools and approaches based on positive psychology.
You’ll become better equipped to meet the needs of your foster children and help them develop positive and secure attachments. Approach the process with a willingness to learn and you might be surprised how much you and your foster child can achieve!
Young people in care often have low self-esteem – but the acceptance and appreciation a foster child gets from their carer can make a huge difference in their ability to accept themselves.
Our training will help you build your child’s self-esteem, provide creative opportunities for your child to accept themselves, and guide you and your foster children in building ‘happy habits’.
Empathy is a vital quality for foster carers, and our child-centred approach encourages it. You’ll discover how to put your child’s needs front and centre and manage your own feelings to give your child a positive model of emotional literacy.
To support this process, there’s plenty of ongoing peer supervision and support from psychologists too.
We want the children in care with Compass Fostering to feel a part of their birth family, their foster family and their community. That’s why we take a holistic approach to build a sense of belonging that will help the child accept who they are.
When you foster with Compass, you and your foster child will join a supportive and close-knit community. Through group activities and social events, you’ll both build meaningful relationships that last.
Our wrap-around service helps you support your foster child in accepting themselves and managing complex relationships in the short and long term – ultimately setting them up for success.
If the approach outlined above sounds like it could work for you, there are a few requirements you must meet in order to qualify as a carer, like having a spare bedroom. To find out more about what it takes to become a foster carer, please get in touch.
Bringing a new foster child into your home is an exciting time for the whole family. You may not know exactly what to expect, but you want to make them feel as welcome as possible.
To help things go smoothly, follow our top foster child bedroom ideas!
If you’re interested in fostering a child, you might be wondering about the UK National Standards for foster care. These are set out by the UK government, and give important guidance for fostering services, local authorities and foster carers.
They may seem complicated, but don’t worry – the concepts underpinning them are simple to understand, and if you decide to foster with Compass Fostering, we will guide you every step of the way.