In order to foster you need a spare bedroom. But what happens when your house isn’t big enough and you don’t have the space to welcome a foster child? Can foster parents get help with housing?
Frustratingly, the answer is: it can depend. But in most cases, no, it likely won’t be possible for you to get a bigger house to become a foster parent.
There can be rare exceptions, but it is unlikely that you’ll be helped to move into a bigger property before you’re approved as a foster carer. This can be a bit of a catch 22. We take you through the rules and exceptions relating to housing below.
Moving house before being approved as a carer
If you rent or own your own property, you’ll be able to move as and when you like if you feel a bigger home would suit your needs best. When you start your fostering journey, you will need to be living in the property you hope to foster within- this is the same with any local authority or fostering agency.
When you have an initial visit, a social worker needs to visit your home in order to deem it suitable to foster from. If you are in the process of moving, you will be advised to settle into your new home and start your application to foster once everyone living there is properly situated.
Independent Fostering Agencies are unable to help prospective foster carers moving to a bigger property as IFAs are not home providers. They can, however, provide proof that you are either going through assessment with them or soon to be approved (confirmation that you have a set panel date). However, Local Authorities have the power to offer bigger properties in rare cases.
Local authority housing and fostering
Approved foster carers may be entitled to priority housing if you look after children or are hoping to adopt.
If you’re renting a council house, moving will be a lot trickier to navigate compared to private renters. Some Local Authorities have commented that they look into different potential foster families via their ‘individual merit’ as to whether they’d qualify for help with a bigger property.
It’s not impossible, but the local authority may be able to help you out in exceptional circumstances. If you are looking to get support moving into a bigger property, you will need to speak to your LA about your options, and you will need to be living in a council house already.
Local Authorities state that they ‘expect social homes to go to people who genuinely need them, such as hard working families and those who are looking to adopt or foster a child in need of a stable family. Not to those who do not, such as people who already own a home that is suitable for them to use.’
The Government also has a responsibility to support families in the Armed Forces through the Military Covenant. Families living in AF accommodation are placed in housing owned by the local authority. This means that military families may be viable to be helped moving into a bigger house if they wish to foster or adopt.
Prospective adopters and foster carers
Council housing providers can consider applications from foster carers or families looking to adopt who need an extra bedroom to house a child in need. They are very mindful that there is a risk in offering this as some families may not be approved to become foster parents or adoptions may not be processed.
Providers will likely begin an application for a bigger property once you are towards the end of your fostering assessment to reduce risk of providing homes to families that don’t require the space. They look to ‘strike a balance’ by allocating a certain number of available houses for families that foster and adopt.
Local councils don’t want overcrowded or under-occupied houses, so they take this in mind when working with prospective foster carers. Foster children are not taken into consideration when determining a household’s size when looking at ‘the purposes of the under-occupation measure in the Welfare Reform Act’. Councils will ‘weigh up’ the risk of this happening when looking at properties.
One way this could be monitored and achieved by local councils is creating a system of a set amount of properties each year put aside for the use of families who need to move to larger homes in order to foster or adopt a child.
You can find out about local authority housing guidance here, what you’re entitled to and what local councils are advised by the government. There is additional information about allocation of accommodation specifically for England.
Your home doesn’t need to be a mansion to foster. If you have a spare bedroom and the willingness to provide a safe and stable environment for a child in need, please get in touch with us today. Our friendly team of professionals will be happy to answer any of your questions.
Many people who are looking to foster or adopt feel that very young children would be a good fit for their family. After all, babies are cute bundles of joy- but it’s important to remember that looking after a baby is very hard work for any parent.
Simply put, it is possible to foster babies, but it is rare that very young children come into care immediately within a long-term placement plan.
If the idea of fostering babies caused you to start your research into fostering, then your willingness to help is already an indicator that you could be a fantastic foster parent. Below we explain the reality of fostering babies and the types of fostering young children often come in to.
The realities of fostering babies
Just 5% of looked after children in the UK are under the age of 1, with 13% of young children being aged 1-4 years old. The question ‘can you only foster babies?’ is asked a lot when people enquire to be foster carers, or sometimes when people are confused between adoption and fostering. Generally, fostering only babies is a rare option for foster parents, but if you are highly trained there is always a need for specialist foster carers.
Often, babies are brought into care under a short-term fostering placement. Meaning that they needed to be removed from their birth parents quickly, to keep everybody safe. Sometimes this is so the immediate problems at home can be resolved, or if this is not possible, short-term foster care would change to long-term or they may be adopted.
Why are babies placed into foster care?
Babies in foster care are often removed by the Local Authorities from their birth parent(s) due to abuse, neglect or the parent(s) may be experiencing substance abuse. There are many reasons why babies and young people are taken into care, but ultimately it is because their biological parents are unable to look after them in their current situation.
Some birth parents may give their children over to child protection service, but this is uncommon. If they do, it is likely because they are aware that they will not be able to care for their child well enough.
Parent and child foster care
Many babies in foster care come with one, or sometimes both, parents. This is called a Parent and Child fostering arrangement. These types of arrangements are in place so the foster parent(s) can provide support and guidance for the new parent(s).
Between 2018 and 2019, 14% of Independent Fostering Agencies’ foster parents were approved to be Parent and Child carers compared to just 1% within Local Authorities. If you are interested in this type of fostering, Compass offers extensive training and support for our Parent and Child carers, you can read more about it here.
This type of placement are designed to help support new parents to be able to look after their child once the arrangement comes to an end. Sometimes, this isn’t always possible if the mother or father are unable to meet their baby’s needs. If this is the case, the baby will be kept in foster care- sometimes with the original foster carer or will go on to be adopted.
If you are interested in finding out more about fostering young children that need a safe and stable home, please get in touch with us. Our supportive team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
When a child enters foster care, their relationship with their birth family changes but those connections will still be important. Fostering contact with birth families will help to maintain a child’s identity and culture. Keeping in contact with parents and other family members helps a foster child stay in touch with where they come from. A child in care may even one day return to their families, so maintaining that relationship is vital.
Most children in foster care have regular contact with their birth families, but it isn’t always easy. After being separated from their parents, it can be hard for children to navigate their complicated emotions – but as a foster parent, you can be there to help them through it.
Here’s how contact with birth families is organised, and what you can do to support your foster child.
How does contact with birth parents work?
According to the UK National Minimum Standards for Fostering, foster children should have, where appropriate, constructive contact with their parents, family, friends and other people who play a significant role in their lives.
How and when a child talks to and visits with their families is up to the Local Authority and depends a lot on each child’s situation. It will be clearly set out in the child’s care plan, and reviewed regularly to make sure that contact is as beneficial as possible for the child.
Options include in-person visits and phone calls, but the type of contact will depend on the child’s age and what works best for the family. Every situation is different: some children have open contact and can call their parent(s) whenever they want, while others have minimal contact twice a year. Sometimes, a foster child will decide they don’t want to be in touch with their families. That decision is up to the child, and will be respected for as long as they want.
As a foster parent, your role is to support your foster child, but you’re not expected to be involved in organising or overseeing their visits. The most valuable thing you can do is talk to your foster child about their families and help the Local Authority understand how contact is affecting your foster child.
Helping your foster child with their family relationships
Talking to their birth families can bring up negative feelings, but it’s good for a child to learn to handle difficult emotions.
Sometimes birth parents can be disengaged, which is hard on a child. As a foster parent, you can’t change the situation, but you can provide your foster child with some tools to process what’s happening:
- Give them a creative outlet. Depending on your foster child’s interests, give them a creative way to express their feelings. Colouring, making up stories, and even kicking a football around can all help a child process emotions they might not have words for yet.
- Keep an open conversation. When your foster child is dealing with something difficult, be there with them in the moment. Let them know that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling, and try and empathise with them.
- Be clear about the schedule. The Local Authority will arrange visitation, but you can talk with your foster child about when and where contact will happen, and let them know when the plan changes.
- Be prepared for a tough few days. Your foster child might experience anything from excitement to fear or disappointment. Encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling; it can help them learn how to process and regulate their emotions.
As one Compass Fostering carer explains, “a foster child’s behaviour before and after contact with their birth family can change quite dramatically for a few days. There’s a build-up of anticipation, but with a schedule they can follow and support from their carer, it can be dealt with by both of you as a team.”
You can also help prepare your foster child by talking about their family often and positively. Your foster child may take cues from you about how to approach their time with their families, and you can encourage them to be positive about their visits.
Why is contact with birth families so important?
The stories we tell ourselves about our past form a big part of our individual identities, and children in care can struggle to create a cohesive narrative for themselves. Without a relationship to their birth families, a person who has been in care will always have unanswered questions about who they are and where they come from.
Helping a child maintain a link to their family keeps that vital connection to their past, and holds the door open for closer relationships in their future.
Are you ready to change a child’s life and become a foster career? Our friendly team is here to answer your questions – get in touch today!
You’ve done all the paperwork, you’ve passed the assessment, gone through the training, and planned the million and one things you want to be ready – and then the call comes: there’s a foster child that needs you!
What do you do next? In this article, we take you through everything you need to know to feel confident saying ‘yes!’ the moment that call comes in.
What to buy for foster care
Having a foster child in your home means that you will have more mouths to feed, and more minds to entertain! Stock up on pantry staples, as well as age-appropriate games and films – but be aware that you may not know your foster child’s age or interests until very close to their arrival.
It’s also a good idea to stock up on essential medicines and first aid supplies: a thermometer, lice treatments, fever reducing medicine, painkillers, plasters, etc.
Prepare your foster child’s space
Get the bedroom organised for a new arrival – see our article for six tips on preparing a bedroom for your foster child.
Don’t forget to include essential toiletries, like a toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner. It’s also a good idea to have a small selection of clothing basics in various sizes, and some spare towels.
Don’t forget safety!
Consider the age of your foster child – do you need to do any baby-proofing or rearranging of furniture and other household items? Lock away valuables, chemicals, medicines, and don’t forget common household items that could be dangerous, like cleaning products and hair dye. Number padlocks are handy as you can’t lose the keys!
Time to get things in order
Have a good tidy up to clear away clutter, and pack away any items that you wouldn’t want to get broken or go missing. Remember that foster children come from difficult backgrounds and may be prone to acting out, so tucking these items away will help keep them safe.
Get the family ready
Gather the other members of your household e.g. your partner, children, or lodgers and discuss what to expect and how you plan to handle common situations, like privacy, bathroom sharing or meal schedules. You’ll have had discussions like these throughout your assessment, but it’s good to go over expectations once more before your foster child arrives.
When preparing for your first foster placement, it’s important to remember that whilst it might be exciting for you, it’s a scary time for the child! With patience, kindness and showing that you offer safety, a wonderful relationship will begin to evolve.
Get in touch to find out more about fostering with Compass Fostering.
You’re likely familiar with the separation anxiety many children show when leaving their parents or carers, but those feelings can also affect caregivers themselves.
Parental separation anxiety typically occurs in families when a child goes to nursery, starts school, or spends time away from home. For foster parents, it can also be part of the difficult process of saying goodbye to a foster child leaving your care.
If you think you might be struggling with parental separation anxiety, you’re not alone and there’s lots you can do to help yourself cope.
Causes of parental separation anxiety in foster carers
With foster care, the legal responsibility for the child remains with the local authority – which means that sometimes their care situation can change very quickly. On occasion, a child will need to move or return to their birth family, or a child might be old enough to begin the process of leaving care and living on their own. When moving on is in the child’s best interest – whatever the reason – the child’s needs will always come first.
For foster parents with very young foster children, starting school and spending more time outside the home can also create difficult periods of adjustment for both parent and child.
All these situations can trigger feelings of deep anxiety in parents, known as parental separation anxiety. Symptoms include:
- Low mood
- Anxiety or panic
- Depression or sadness
- Catastrophic thinking
- Excessive worrying
What you can do to combat your separation anxiety:
- Stay busy. When your child leaves to begin school, keep yourself distracted by focusing on things you enjoy doing to help pass the time until they return.
- Reach out for support. This is why your social worker is there – if you need help, pick up the phone and a supportive voice will be on the other end.
- Try not to pass your anxiety on to your child. As hard as the separation is for you, do your best not to let your fears create anxiety for your child. The transition should be as fun and positive as possible for your child, whether it’s starting school or moving on to a new home.
- Give yourself space to feel your feelings. There is no right or wrong way to feel – allow yourself time to feel upset if you need to.
- Practice relaxation techniques. These can help keep you calm when feelings of anxiety and fear come up.
- Where possible, stay in touch. Sometimes when foster children leave care, they remain close with their former foster parents – it’s at the discretion of the child’s social worker, as their best interests will always be top of mind.
Making ‘goodbye’ a joyful experience
As hard as it is to say goodbye to a child you love, the moment of goodbye will be a memory that you can both hold on to forever – especially when it’s a long-term goodbye.
Try to make it a joyful experience that celebrates your child’s accomplishments and gets them excited about the next step – whatever it might be. Make a scrapbook of your memories together to help both of you remember the time you spent together. Try to be grateful for the time, and let your child know that you love and believe in them.
To find out more about the support Compass Fostering offers to foster carers, please get in touch and our friendly team will answer any questions you might have.
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, fostering teenage mums 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 fostering young mothers and babies 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.
Mother and baby fostering helps new mothers learn parenting 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
Mother and baby fostering payments
As a parent and child carer you will receive a higher weekly fostering allowance than you would for a standard placement – some as much as 1.5 times higher!
Who can care for mother and baby placements?
Mother and baby 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.
A mother and baby foster placement 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 fostering teenage mothers, 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.”
Have more questions about foster care? Read our most commonly asked fostering questions and answers or visit our fostering infocentre to get all the answers you need to start your journey!
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.
Have more questions about foster care? Read our most commonly asked fostering questions and answers or visit our fostering infocentre to get all the answers you need to start your journey!
‘Can you work and foster?’ Is a popular question, but the reality 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 being a foster carer or you’re interested in joining the fostering 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.
As a foster carer, you’ll come across children with many kinds of special needs, ranging from learning disabilities to cognitive and physical ones. Many diagnoses require specific attention, but a few principles of care form a good foundation to help meet the unique challenges of caring for young people with special needs.
If you’re considering fostering a child with special needs, or if a child in your care has recently been diagnosed with special needs, here’s how you can support their development:
There is an ever-growing demand for foster families in the UK, for every child people think is in foster care, there are actually two. With an increasing need for foster parents, and seriously underestimated numbers when it comes to foster care, it is vital that children are given the safe and stable home they deserve.
For many, filling out tax forms can be a puzzling time. Endless numbers, phrases and thresholds can quickly turn a simple task into a chore. We know that tax can be a tricky territory to navigate, so we’ve prepared a guide to help you better understand foster carer tax returns.
Foster carers are required to follow specific tax guidelines and are entitled to unique tax allowances that help reduce their overall tax bills. Whether you are a new carer, a seasoned carer or are thinking about fostering and how your earnings will affect you, this guide will help you get to grips with foster carer taxes.
A common misconception surrounding fostering is you won’t be allowed to foster if you smoke. As a children’s protection service, Compass are dedicated to ensuring all the young people in our care are provided with the highest quality of support; ensuring that they can lead healthy lives. If you are a smoker, you are considered eligible to foster although there will be restrictions in place.
There are many misconceptions surrounding who can and cannot foster. Often these myths lead to many people believing that they would not be able to become foster carers when in fact they could! At Compass Fostering, we actively welcome carers from various backgrounds, religions, race, ethnicities, gender and sexual orientations as these do not define your ability to be a great foster parent.
A third of LGBT people think they will face barriers when applying to be a foster carer. We want to demystify any myths or worries that you may have when considering fostering and introduce you to Mark and Nick; a same sex couple who are a shining example of brilliant LGBT foster parents.
Can I foster if I am gay/lesbian/bisexual?
Yes – sexual orientation has no bearing on a person’s ability to be a foster carer. Whatever your sexuality, you just need to be able to offer the warmth, care and stability needed for foster care.
Can I foster if I am transgender?
Yes – your sex and/or gender do not affect your capability or suitability to foster.
Can I foster if I’m in a same-sex relationship?
Yes – couples can apply to foster together as a primary and secondary carer. A same-sex relationship does not act as a defining factor in your capacity to foster.
Mark and Nick’s story
Mark and Nick have been fostering with Compass for over 7 years. They currently have three foster children living with them and have created a loving, supportive family together. ‘When we applied with Compass, I was worried that they wouldn’t want a same sex couple or our house wouldn’t be big enough,’ Nick remembers.
‘Initially it was a fear of what people would think of a gay couple looking after someone else’s child, but we are a strong couple and knew we could address any challenges sent to “test” us and thought to ourselves “if others can do it, why can’t we?”’
‘We are just ordinary people- we had a house with a spare bedroom and that’s all that we needed.’
Luke, (23), one of their foster children is living with them in a ‘staying put’ arrangement. He came to Mark and Nick when he was 16 years old. He was the couple’s first foster child and has been with them ever since.
‘We were worried that Luke would leave soon after he came to live with us, as he was 16, he’d turn 18 and he could leave- but we could see that he needed us.’ Luke had been struggling with his own LGBT identity and Mark and Nick helped him through this period. The family even moved to a new house after Luke’s time in care came to end so he could continue to stay with them.
When in assessment, Nick was asked by their Social Worker why he wanted to foster. He remembered how he struggled as a child with his own identity- and to help a young person through this would be a worthwhile achievement. ‘We believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe that Luke came to us for the right ones. He was just 16 years late to us.’
Within their first year of fostering they were nominated and won FosterTalk’s New Carers of the Year award in 2014, act as ambassadors for other foster carers and commit their time to focus groups with Compass.
C, another of their foster children said that being cared for by LGBT foster carers doesn’t make much of a difference to him in his day to day life. ‘I don’t really think about it that much, they’re just ordinary people that look after you. It feels just like a normal everyday family, except they’re the same gender.’
Both Mark and Nick act as role models and provide support for every young person that steps into their home and they have created an environment where each of the boys feel safe. ‘A typical day in our house is similar to the TV shows where everyone is running around in the morning, yelling “where’s my trainers- have you brushed your teeth- have you got your bag?” It’s just what we call a typical family life. ‘
‘You don’t just open your home when fostering, you open your heart, your mind and a whole new way of life for all involved.’
If you believe that you could provide a safe and caring environment for young people who need it, please get in touch with us to find out more about foster care. Our welcoming team of professionals will be happy to take you through any questions you may have.
There are many different reasons why a child might be taken into foster care. We’ve created this infographic to explain some of the main ones.
Whether you’re near the end of your assessment process with us, or your fostering journey is just beginning – it’s good to have an idea about the types fostering assessment questions you’ll be asked in the final step of your assessment: your fostering panel interview.
This isn’t a session to grill you, but more a chance for the panel members to get to know you as a person. Whilst this can feel daunting, you will have had lots of discussions with your Assessing Social Worker about the topics that these questions are based around. The group of people sitting on the panel will have read your assessment (your Form F Report) and considered your own personal circumstances and lifestyle, so mostly they are tailored to you as an individual.
That being said, it’s always good to have an idea about the kind of thing you’d like to say, how you’d like to come across to others and being able to put your thoughts into words.
Take a look through our 4 fostering assessment questions to prepare for and have a think about how you would answer them – we don’t want to put you in a position where you are surprised by anything we ask you.
“Why would you like to be a foster carer?”
If you’re at panel, you’ll have been asked this fairly often by now, likely at the beginning when you first showed interest in becoming a foster carer, throughout the process with your Assessing Social Worker and now finalising your assessment. You’ll be well-versed in your answer and that’s great, panel will want to make sure that you’ve thought about your motives especially this far into the process!
“What’s your support network like?”
We want to make sure that you as a carer will be getting the support you’ll need from those around you, emotionally and physically, like help with the school run or doctors’ appointments. We’ll be there for the expertise, guidance and everything else, but it will be good to know that you’ve got someone you can have a cup of tea with when it gets a little challenging.
“How will your family adapt to fostering?”
This could cover one or many things; perhaps you have children who will need to share their space with another child when they may not have had to before. Or maybe your partner works away from home occasionally and you’ve had discussions around how this will fit in with placements. You could be a single applicant who has applied along with the support of a family member who lives outside of your home.
Whatever your circumstance, it’s important to know and acknowledge how fostering with affect those around you, both for your family members as well as the young person you’ll be caring for.
“What did you think about your Skills to Foster course?”
We believe in empowering our carers to develop a full range of skills and professional expertise – not only to help and support the children they look after, but also to enrich and enhance your own lives.
The three-day Skills to Foster course is an important part of your assessment, we like to offer you the opportunity to mix with other prospective foster carers, learn about the types of care that young people may require and create an environment that you feel comfortable asking questions in.
Panel will be interested in your take away from the course, and as you’ll be required to attend additional training once you become a foster carer it’s good to have an idea about what you find stimulating, too.
If you have any questions, please get in touch, our highly experienced team of specialists would be happy to talk through any concerns with you.
Our experience in fostering
Hi my name is Paul and my family have been fostering for nearly 16 years, initially with the Local Authority and now with Compass Fostering.
Over the years I have tended to foster problematic boys which I have enjoyed. It is about being able to make a difference in their lives and understanding why they behaviour the way they do. Watching them develop and grow as individuals gives you an enormous sense of satisfaction and they still come back to say hello as adults!
Through my knowledge and experience over the years I now work in specialised fostering with Compass and look after young people who need more high level supervision. It’s also about being an advocate for the children you foster, for them to have someone who cares enough to fight their corner.
Every journey starts with a single step. I took mine first step into fostering 15 years ago. I am now a full-time foster carer to a young man with learning difficulties. Looking back my wife and I had talked about fostering and decided we would look into it when our youngest child reached 16 years old. We did not know what to expect but both felt we had a lot to offer a young person or siblings; a good and loving family home life.
There it was an advert saying we are looking for foster parents for two boys, siblings, aged 12 and 8. So I rang the number and enquired. It was the local authority and we were asked to attend a course over 6 weeks of 2 nightly sessions of 4 hour tuition. It gave helped us understand what was expected of foster carers and how to handle situations that might arise. Most of it was common sense but there was the information about happenings that did not occur in most parental lives.
Some things are hard to understand at first like us having a social worker then the children having a different social worker yet we all worked together. Lots of acronyms that everyone talks about. SENCO, EBD, MLD and ADHD and lots more. Section 20 or a full care order did not mean anything to us at first. Then LAC reviews every 6 months and Multi–Professsional meetings.
My advice is keep written records and inform your supervising social worker about everything, and if you’re not sure seek advice first. Don’t panic if something happens outside of your control, just contact out of hours support and inform them of the situation. Most placements are pre-planned and are done in stages, unlike emergency placements where it can be a lot quicker. When most children move in there is a period of time we have called the honeymoon period which both parties try very hard to get along together.
Before you have a placement I would ask what are the rules about pocket money, clothes allowance and savings. Contact with birth family, telephone contact and letterbox contact. Mobile phones and Internet use are hard to monitor and can cause lots of problems. We have always believed in actions carry consequences so without getting into arguments it can be discussed with the children before anything happens.
Routines are a part of every day life and we always try to establish them in a positive manner so it becomes a pleasure instead of a chore. Every school day is similar which helps in becoming acceptable norm and also stops any problems that might arise before we get to school. Activities are pre-planned and enrolment is encouraged. There are lots of small rewards for positive behaviour and any problems discussed when everyone is at base level.
We have been with Compass now for over a year and our young man is progressing and learning lots of every day chores which will help him into some kind of independence. Training is good and offered on a regular basis. There is a myth that independent companies only receive the children who are too hard to place locally, this is definitely not the case and there are not enough carers to take every placement. We can honestly say that we have been supported at every level.
On the day I rang and enquired about the siblings who needed fostering the were was an animal programme on TV and at the very end they were advertising for people to look after a three legged donkey. They received over 3,000 calls. We were fast tracked through our fostering course and went on to foster the 2 brothers who stayed with us until the oldest reached 21. They are now 23 and 27 respectfully and both working full time. After are initial meeting with the boys I asked the social worker how many calls they had received to foster the boys and you probably guessed. Just one.