Support to foster carers

Introduction

There has never been a better time to foster for Brighton and Hove Children and Families. We are proud of the wide-ranging support services provided for and with local carers to enable carers to carry out the crucial task of fostering. Carers need not and should not feel they have to soldier on alone in caring for vulnerable, demanding children. You are a key member of the Council’s ‘corporate parents’ team caring for looked after children. In a survey of local carers’ views about support services provided and planned, we received positive feedback about support given. We also received many helpful suggestions for future developments, which we plan to carry forward in consultation with local carers and the Fostering Network.

The following sections outline support services for carers, with a diagram at the end of the chapter on support available. If you have further suggestions for improving support services these would be welcome and can be discussed with your supervising social worker and/or by contacting the managers of the team you work for.

Financial support

The weekly basic allowance is designed to cover the costs of caring for a particular child or young person and the extra costs related to fostering, plus a payment in recognition of the skills, experience and time involved in caring for a particular child or young person. These allowances do not affect any state benefits you might be receiving.

The weekly allowances ensure our carers are rewarded sufficiently for the complex task of fostering and that our rates are in line with independent fostering agencies and other local authorities. Please see previous chapter for details of payments to carers.

Social work support and supervision

All foster carers have their own social worker (called supervising social worker under fostering regulations) who will offer advice, support and supervision. Your supervising social worker is there for you to help with any difficulties you may encounter while fostering. This worker is separate from the child’s social worker and is an experienced specialist in family placement social work. Carers have told us that they value the close, supportive working relationships with supervising social workers. The relationship is very much a two way process. This strong, positive partnership between you and your supervising social worker and their team is at the heart of the fostering service in Brighton and Hove.

Your supervising social worker not only provides support to you but to your whole family and wishes to take full account of the needs of any birth children or other relatives or friends living with you and the child/ren you are looking after. S/he will contact you at least once a month and visit more often if necessary. S/he will be in regular contact by telephone and in other settings such as reviews, support groups and other meetings. Normally visits and meetings will be mutually agreed and to suit the needs of the child you are caring for and you and your family’s interests. However, fostering services regulations require unannounced visits to carers at least once a year as part of the child protection system.

Other members of the teams concerned with foster care – Fostering, Adoption and Permanence, Leaving Care, Youth Offending and Family and Friends – are also available to help you when your supervising social worker is away, with all teams operating a duty/cover system.

The child’s social worker and their team are, of course, also there to advise and support you about the specific needs of the child placed with you. The Fostering Service also runs a duty service which, combined with a dedicated Fostering out of hours advice line, offers 24 hour support to carers.

Membership of national Fostering Network

Once approved we will pay your membership of Fostering Network. This national charity works throughout the UK to promote and improve the service provided for children in foster care and to be the voice of foster carers. Benefits of membership include:

  • legal insurance – carers can get up to £100,000 legal expenses to cover criminal cases caused by a carer’s fostering duties
  • regular information on fostering, including Foster Care magazine
  • specialist publications and training
  • access to independent advice and representation.

Support groups

The fostering, placement support and permanence teams facilitate a range of support groups where carers can come together on a regular basis to offer support to each other, to hear expert speakers and organise training and social events. The following monthly groups meet at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE:

  • training and development standards 1 to 6 groups for newly approved carers
  • a monthly support group for carers
  • a group for parent and baby carers
  • a group for carers exploring therapeutic issues related to fostering
  • an activity group for carers’ own sons and daughters (meeting each school holiday).
  • an ISP support and development group

In view of the importance attached to training, the Fostering Service can occasionally help with childminding fees to enable carers to attend. Please contact your supervising social worker if you need assistance with attending training.

Discussions are on-going with local carers about the possible introduction of other support groups.

Peer support from experienced carers

More experienced foster carers, who are willing to provide advice and support, are linked to newly approved and less experienced carers. These mentors not only are there as a listening ear at a time of crisis or difficulty in a placement for new carers but will proactively contact less experienced carers on a regular basis in order to help prevent possible problems getting out of hand.

The Brighton and Hove Foster Care Association also run a 'buddying' scheme and assist with putting carers in contact with other carers in the same area.

This is not a replacement for other support services, especially the supervising social workers, but complements help already available. The mentoring scheme is a recognition of carers’ skills and experience and a development opportunity for existing foster carers to share and pass on their particular expertise in caring for demanding or damaged children.

Social activities and events

Whilst we agree with local carers that for most of the time fostering is satisfying and enjoyable with its amusing and challenging moments, we also agree with carers that there should be a fun dimension to caring. The Fostering Team at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE, hold a number of social activities throughout the year for foster carers.

In conjunction with Brighton and Hove Foster Care Association we arrange a variety of social events over the year, including a summer garden party and a Christmas party. We also run an annual awards event which recognises the achievements of carers over the previous year. There is also an annual awards ceremony for young people in care which is attended by them and their carers.

The various support groups also have a social dimension which have triggered informal social networks and activities.

When we consult carers from time to time about key issues these meetings are held in a pleasant venue, such as a hotel, which also allows an opportunity for carers and staff to socialise. Social gatherings enable carers to meet each other and form links.

We are open to suggestions from carers about other social events/activities. We believe they can help to promote recruitment and retention of carers and the fostering service and provide another enjoyable way of giving recognition and support to carers.

Foster Carers Independent Support Service

Click here to download the FISS leaflet.

FosterTalk is a not for profit organisation focussed on providing high quality independent support for foster care households. FISS will deliver a cost effective solution to assist Fostering Service Providers in meeting National Minimum Standards / Best Practice Guidance.

Foster Carers Independent Support Service (FISS) offers locally based, highly qualified Advisors to provide support, advice, advocacy and / or mediation to foster families.

Many foster carers face an allegation during their career and some give up fostering due to the way the situation is handled.

FISS enables foster carers to engage with the process, providing a link into their Fostering Service Provider and helps them feel more positive and in control of their situation. Foster carers who had decided to give up fostering have often reconsidered after receiving FISS support and have continued fostering.

FISS ensures carers are provided with quality independent support during an allegation or complaint situation. FISS enhances recruitment and retention of foster carers.

Why FISS?
When a foster carer is facing an allegation, concern or complaint, FosterTalk’s locally based FISS Advisors are qualified independent practitioners who are there to provide key support.

Responsive to need: FISS offers an effective response time ensuring foster carers are contacted within 24 hours of a referral being made.

Personal and professional: FISS Advisors provide professional, objective support to foster carers enabling them to stay involved and make informed choices.

Accountable and cost effective: FISS can be spot purchased or contracted by Fostering Service Providers.

Keeping communication going: The FISS Advisor maintains a crucial link between foster carers and the Fostering Service Provider. This helps to keep relationships going and promotes carer retention.

Positive outcomes for all: Foster carers who had decided to stop fostering have often reconsidered after receiving FISS support therefore saving the fostering service an expensive and valuable resource.

Who benefits from "FISS"?

Fostering Services

  • FosterTalk is a leading provider of support services for foster carers.
  • Enables you to meet National Minimum Standards / Best Practice Guidance.
  • Cost-effective spot purchase or contracted service.
  • Quality assured by regular monitoring and reviews.
  • Assists with communication during difficult, emotional and conflict fuelled times.
  • Demonstrates commitment to your foster carers and the essential work they do.
  • Enhances recruitment and retention.
  • Advisors have extensive fostering experience and relevant qualifications.
  • FISS is fully managed by a professionally qualified and experienced manager.

Foster Carers

  • The Advisor is independent of the fostering service.
  • FISS will contact the carer within 24 hours of referral.
  • The Advisor will make personal visits to carers if this is requested.
  • The Advisor will liaise with key professionals as required.
  • The Advisor will provide advice, support, advocacy or mediation.
  • The support will be confidential, responsive and personal.
  • The Advisor will attend meetings and panels as appropriate.
  • By providing objective support and guidance carers will be informed and supported throughout the process.
  • Carers will feel more positive and in control of their situation.

The Fostering Support Team (FST).

This team is based at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE. It comprises skilled, experienced workers who provide support to children and young people in care. The team becomes involved in placements where the child or young person is struggling to settle or is going through a difficult patch or is excluded from school. The FST staff work closely with the carer, supervising social worker, child’s social worker and if appropriate the birth parents.

The team also provides school holiday activities programmes for children and young people in foster care and carers’ own children.

More staffing has been put into the FST to improve support to carers and their own children. Support is now provided at weekends and there are a range of groups on offer for children, including ones for girls, climbing and Saturday activity. The team also distribute Brighton & Hove Albion tickets to foster families (6 tickets) for each home game.

Out of hours service

The fostering and permanence teams offer an out of hours ‘on call’ telephone advice and support service to all carers. (Details are provided in your post-approval pack.) So in the evenings, at night and at weekends you are not left alone to struggle with problems, professional help is there for you.

Respite care

You can have access to respite care when the need arises, if you or your supervising social worker consider a break from caring for a particular child/ren is required or a situation has arisen which means you cannot care for a child placed with you for a period. For example, you may have booked a holiday abroad prior to a placement of a child and it has not been possible to make arrangements to include the child on your holiday. You should discuss any need for respite care with your supervising social worker.

We would hope that looked after children would normally accompany you on holiday as part of your family. However, we do recognise that the demanding nature of contemporary fostering requires carers to have holidays and periodic breaks from caring in order to avoid ‘burn out’ and on occasions devote time to their own families.

Therapy for looked after children

Some children who are in foster placements do need access to individual therapeutic support. The social worker for the child should discuss this with you and your supervising social worker. It may often be more appropriate for the adults involved with the child to have access to some specialist support and advice. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service [CAMHS] within Brighton & Hove does endeavour to provide a particular service for looked after children, their carers and families. If a social worker makes a referral that is accepted, the worker from CAMHS would organise a meeting with the key people involved including you to decide the best way to support and work with the child and the adults involved. If a child is offered individual therapeutic work there should be liaison with you and this work is regularly reviewed. There are other organisations that provide counselling or therapy for looked after children including the Youth Advisory Centre that offers a service to older children, aged 12 and above. Occasionally it is agreed through CAMHS that a private therapist can be funded to work with a child. This is usually because the child and carers live at such a distance from Brighton & Hove that it is difficult for them to access the service at CAMHS.

Additional therapeutic support to carers

Therapeutic support to carers regarding particularly complex placement issues has been enhanced by the involvement of local freelance consultants. Leslie Ironside, a freelance psychotherapist who is experienced in work with foster carers and children in care provides sessions every month to the fostering and adoption service. He does not provide individual therapeutic support to looked after children as this is provided by CAMHS but he does offer consultation/short term work with carers in his consulting rooms near Preston Park in Brighton. Support is also available from Pam Nicholls, a Therapeutic Fostering Consultant. Carers have found this support beneficial. You should speak with your supervising social worker about access to either of the above services.

Advice to carers about caring for black children if trans-racially placed is available from Virginia Collison, the Fostering Team’s Recruitment Officer for Black and Minority Ethnic carers.

Access to other health and education support services

Education is a key issue for fostered children. The increasingly close working relationships between education, health, and Children and Families staff means there is now greater understanding by education staff of the needs of looked after children and their carers and access to education services has improved.

Brighton and Hove Children & Families commissions the provision of children’s services so that there is greater integration of services. Access to health services for looked after children and their carers has become more straightforward.

Equipment

When new equipment is needed you should purchase it and arrange reimbursement through the initial set up costs of a placement. Your supervising social worker can advise as necessary.

Library and information resource bank

Staff are developing a library of books, videos, CD-ROMs and other information and materials on fostering at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE, which carers can access. Please consult your supervising social worker.

Website support

Brighton and Hove’s website for foster carers has been improved for 2015/2016 – it is at fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.ukfosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. It contains an open side for prospective foster carers and a password-accessed side for approved carers with a number of different pages on support services, training and other information that may be needed.

Training support

We provide a comprehensive annual training programme to help carers develop skills and knowledge and become more confident. Under the new payment scheme the fee payment is linked to an expectation that you attend the 4 priority mandatory training courses in the year following approval, and the remainder of the mandatory courses in the second year post approval. You will then be expected to attend further training once you have been approved for more than two years.

Training is another occasion for foster carers to meet other carers. Your training needs are discussed with your supervising social worker on a regular basis and child-care costs are covered to enable attendance at courses. As well as attending required and discretionary training courses/events suggested by your supervising social worker, you should feel free to raise particular training needs as there may be other ways of meeting these through individual study, participation in other activities and through contact with other carers.

Please see ‘Training for foster carers’ for full information on training opportunities for carers.

Self care

As part of training, support groups and in other settings, you will be reminded of the truism that in order to care properly for other people’s children you need to also look after yourself. In discussion with your supervising social worker, your family and other carers you need to work out ways that suit you to ensure you deliberately plan time in the busy caring week for yourself, be it going to the gym, cinema, an evening out or a country walk to allow you to recharge your emotional batteries and come back afresh to the fostering task.

We stress this apparently simplistic point and wish to underline that as a responsible professional in a pressurised job you have Children and Families' permission to take breaks from caring and should not feel guilty about taking them. Your supervising social worker can help you devise a self care schedule if you find this difficult to achieve by yourself. Proper self care of carers should lead to better care of looked after children and a more healthy life-work-own family balance.

Communications with carers

Communications with potential and existing carers are of the utmost importance in the fostering service as another form of support and information exchange and to aid service development. On top of the most important communication system – the relationship between carer and supervising social worker – there is a variety of other ways we keep in touch with carers, including:

  • a regular newsletter which is sent to all carers from the fostering and permanence teams. Contributions from carers are most welcome;
  • Children First, a bi-monthly magazine of Brighton and Hove Children and Families which is sent to all carers and staff;
  • the website already referred to, which increasingly will become an important two way means of communication
  • from time to time the Team Manager for Fostering, and other senior managers, will inform you in writing and electronically about service developments and/or as part of our ongoing consultation process;
  • periodic surveys are carried out to ascertain carers’ views on services provided and obtain suggestions for improvements to services;
  • your attendance at Fostering Panel to consider reviews also provides opportunities for two-way communication about progress made with children placed, clarification of issues of concern and ideas for service development. You are required to attend Panel after your first carer review and attend any subsequent Panel considerations of your annual review if specifically requested. After attending you are invited to complete a questionnaire and feedback is welcomed about carers’ attendance at Panel as we wish to improve the process and ensure your views help to shape the annual report and Panel’s work.
  • The Brighton and Hove Foster Care Association also has a newsletter to keep carers up to date with information and developments.

Involvement of foster carers in development of new policies and services

Brigthon and Hove Children and Families is strongly committed to working in partnership with carers to promote and develop fostering services. We consult regularly with foster carers about the development of new policies and services and your views are taken into account before decisions are made. Local carers have helped to significantly shape the improved payment scheme for carers aided by a Fostering Network national consultant.

The development of support services for carers has been strongly influenced by feedback received from a survey of all carers.

Carers are also regularly involved in information evenings and preparation courses for potential applicants. Experienced carers assist with the training programme for carers.

The Brighton and Hove Foster Care Association

The Brighton and Hove Foster Care Association (BHFCA) represents the interests of local foster carers. This is warmly welcomed by Children and Families, especially as an active association enables us to involve carers more fully in future service developments. BHFCA has carried out a wide-ranging survey of carers’ views on support, training and other key issues, which will have a major influence on the provision of services to carers. BHFCA is also a source of important support to carers. BHFCA is now a registered charity.

Though we are proud of the support services we provide for and with carers, we are aware that there remain areas that need to be developed further in consultation with BHFCA, and that services have to change to reflect changing needs of carers and children. Priority has been given to supporting the Fostering Support Team’s range of work and to assisting carers with children excluded from school.

We welcome further suggestions from you about how to improve support. Please feel free to talk to your supervising social worker, managers and other carers about this crucial issue.

 

 

 

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