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What is Foster Care?

Children who aren't able to live with their own biological parents are placed with temporary caregivers - foster parents - who have been assessed and approved to be able to provide safe, stable and loving homes for children and young people for as long as they need them. 

The aim of foster care is to ensure that children and young people are kept safe and well cared for while they cannot live with their birth families. Foster parents help their foster children to thrive by providing them with a nurturing and supportive family to live in where their physical, emotional, and developmental needs are all understood and provided for.

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Foster sisters

Foster Parents are the most important professional in the team, directly responsible for the foster child's everyday needs. They undertake ongoing training and assessment processes to be professional parents and foster parents receive financial support to cover the child's expenses and the time that they dedicate to the role. 

The goal of foster care is typically to provide a stable, loving environment for children to live, while working towards either reuniting them with their birth families or finding them a more permanent place to live through adoption, guardianship or long term fostering. If a foster child is thriving living with their foster family and unable to return to their biological family, the family are likely to be offered to care for the child on a long term basis. Ultimately, Fostering is about giving children the love, care and attention that they need to gain confidence and to succeed.


Foster Parents Chris and Lucy share some of their fostering experience

in this video;

Why do children come into care

Children may be unable to live with their own families for a variety of reasons, which can include:

  • Abuse and or neglect: Children may be removed from their homes by social services or the police if they are subjected to abuse or neglect by their parents or caregivers. This can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, as well as neglecting the child's basic needs for things such as food, shelter, and medical care.

  • Mental illness: Parents who struggle with severe mental illness may have difficulty providing adequate care for their children. Mental health issues can impair a parent's ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment, leading to the need for alternative care arrangements.

  • Imprisonment: If a parent is incarcerated, they may be unable to care for their child during their imprisonment. Foster care may be necessary to ensure the child's needs are met.

  • Substance abuse: Parents who struggle with drug  or alcohol abuse issues may be unable to provide      a safe and stable environment for their children. Substance abuse can lead to neglect, endangerment and an inability to properly care for the child.

  • Domestic violence: Children may be removed from their homes if they are exposed to domestic violence between their parents or caregivers. Witnessing domestic violence can have serious emotional and psychological effects on children, necessitating removal from the home for their safety and well-being.

  • Death or incapacity: In some cases, a parent may pass away or become incapacitated due to illness or injury, leaving the child without a suitable caregiver.

These are just a few of the reasons why children may be unable to live with their own families. Each situation is unique, and social services work to assess each case individually to determine the best course of action to ensure the child's safety and well-being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How long do children stay with their foster families?


The length of time that children stay with their foster families varies widely depending on things like the specific circumstances of the child's case, the goals set out by social services, and the availability of suitable permanent homes for them. Some children will only stay for days, weeks or months, however, most of our children and young people will live with their foster families for years, often and ideally, from when they first came into care until they reach adulthood.


Here are some general factors that can influence the length of time a child stays in foster care:


Reunification efforts: In many cases, the primary goal is to reunite the child with their birth family once the issues that led to the child's initial removal from the home have been addressed. Support services may be provided to the birth family to help them to address issues such as substance abuse, mental health challenges, or their parenting skills. The length of time and level of support that each family needs to overcome their issues varies greatly.


Permanency planning: If it becomes clear that reunification with the birth family is not possible or is deemed not in the child's best interest, social services will then work to identify a permanent home for the child. This may involve looking into adoption or special guardianship or, if the child has settled well with their foster family, agreeing on permanency with them, whereby the foster parent would commit to caring for the child until they reach independence.


Legal proceedings: The legal processes associated with child welfare cases, including court hearings and custody proceedings, can impact on the length of time a child stays in foster care. Delays in the legal process are common and can prolong the child's time in care.


Individual needs of the child: The length of time a child stays in foster care may also be influenced by the child or young person's individual needs and circumstances. Some children require very specialised services or support to address issues with trauma, developmental delays, or other challenges, which can affect the timeline for finding them a permanent home.

 


While some children may stay in foster care for relatively short periods, others may remain in foster care for years, often until they reach independence and find a home of their own. And of course, just like our own birth children, they may still pop back to their Foster Parents home regularly and remain part of their foster family forever.

 

 

 

 

 


What is the role of a Foster Parent?


There are lots of different aspects to fostering. Some key responsibilities and roles of foster parents include:


Providing a safe, stable and loving home: foster parents offer a supportive environment caring for children within their home as part of their family where children can thrive emotionally, physically, and socially.


Meeting basic needs: foster parents make sure that the basic needs of their foster child are met, including food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare.


Emotional support: a key part of the role is providing emotional support and guidance to children who are likely to have experienced trauma or instability in their lives and need love and security to be able to overcome that trauma.


Advocacy: we like feisty foster parents who aren't afraid to identify and then advocate for their child's best interests, whether that be helping them to navigate the complicated system, accessing educational resources, or obtaining necessary services needed to help them to thrive.

 


Facilitating contact with biological families: many of our foster children maintain contact with their birth families through family time, which could be frequent or could be once or twice a year, depending on their individual situation. Children can often return from family time feeling confused and foster parents need to be able to help to process these complicated emotions.


Providing Stability: foster parents need to be able provide a stable and consistent environment for children who are likely to have experienced disruptions or instability in their lives. We need foster parents who are able to prioritise their foster children's needs and who are available and dependable.


Working with other professionals: foster parents work closely with social workers, therapists, educators, and the other professionals who are involved in the child's care. Foster parents are likely to know their child best and report on their child's needs and progress.


Fostering Development:  Many of our children will have had disrupted education and struggle to form relationships. Foster parents support and encourage the educational, social, and personal development of the children in their care, helping them reach their full potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Foster parents play an absolutely crucial role in providing temporary care and support to children in need, helping them transition to a permanent and stable living situation, whether that be reunification with their biological family, adoption, or independent living. The ultimate goal is showing the child how life should be and helping the child to develop the skills needed to be able to live happy and healthy adult lives.


Our foster families have access to a suite of services and a comprehensive training programme to help them meet the needs of their vulnerable young people as well as receiving generous fostering allowance for their time and efforts. There is a strange opinion in this country that Foster Parents should not be well paid for the work they do. We have no problem paying nurses, therapists, doctors, teachers, social workers etc for the amazing work they do in the care sector - so why the difference?  If we want the best people in the country to perform the task of living alongside traumatised children - we believe we have to pay them well. Otherwise, some people who could potentially be incredible Foster Parents will be lost to other professions.

 

Find out more about fostering pay and allowances here.


Our Introduction to Fostering brochure includes videos of our Foster Parents, foster children and their families sharing their experiences of foster care and Foster Parent blogs which give insight into the realities of fostering. It outlines the process to become a Foster Parent and more about the support that foster families can expect when fostering with us. Click below to receive your free copy of our “Introduction to fostering” brochure.

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