Foster care is it for me? Well, you’ve probably spent plenty of time contemplating becoming a foster carer. You might even have approached a fostering agency (hopefully ours); provided some basic information about your life and circumstances. And if you have progressed this far, you will have been told that the next key stage – providing you wish to proceed with your application – will be the initial home visit. So now you’ll be thinking about what your initial home visit will involve. And this can be stressful. Here at Rainbow fostering, we never forget that the decision to become a foster carer is a huge one and can affect all family members in a profound way. Especially if an applicant already has their own birth children to consider.
Foster carers needed more than ever before.
As we start a new year, the country is still well short of the number of fostering families it needs. There is a shortfall of over 8,000. This means any enquiry we receive is viewed by us as extremely important. So we strive to handle it with particular care and sensitivity. Our staff understand that waiting for an Initial Home Visit (IHV) can be daunting; after all, you have agreed to invite a stranger into your own home and then answer a whole set of questions – some personal – about your life. These will also cover life experiences and more everyday circumstances. Before providing more background information about what the Initial Home Visit entails, Team Rainbow would just like to say just how much we respect all our applicants who apply to foster. We know that to even take such a step requires a great deal of unselfish time and thought. We find it inspiring that the people who contact us are so clearly motivated to want to give something back to society through fostering. Is there, after all, anything more praiseworthy than wanting to provide love, help and support to a vulnerable child or young person.
Foster carers can expect the Initial Home Visit to cover these areas.
Finally, the ‘red-letter’ day has arrived; you have just spent the last couple of hours tidying up and hoovering – maybe now you are thinking about putting the kettle on. The point we always try to get across is that we don’t want; or, indeed, expect, our applicants to have perfect model homes. Our view is that a home is just that; a place for day-to-day living where it’s possible to feel relaxed and comfortable: just think for a moment from the perspective of a child – if they arrived at a home that doesn’t have a thing out of place, that can be intimidating. All we need to be sure of is the child will be offered a warm, welcoming home environment. A place where they can feel secure; quite possibly for the first time ever, somewhere where they can relax and, most importantly of all, get to know you and start to build a relationship.
Firstly, a foster child will need their own room. It must be a warm inviting place where they can sleep, play and do their homework – if that’s where they prefer to do it. With much younger children, we would always recommend a child does homework at the family table or somewhere where it’s possible to talk with them about their school day. This is very important in monitoring how they are doing as well as showing interest. So we will pay close attention to the room that you are making available for a foster child. It should have plenty of cupboard and storage space. And if you are going to be fostering a teenager, it should also have a desk where they can work.
We then ask that you show us around the rest of your house and garden. This is because one of the most important aspects of the Initial Home Visit is to make a safety check. It is very important that your home does not present any risks to a child or young person. We provide advice on fairly basic things: when people may not be used to having children in their home – especially very young children – it’s understandable that some things might not seem to present a risk. The kinds of simple recommendations we make are that sharp objects such as knives and scissors are always put away. The same advice applies to cleaning products such as bleach: all chemical products should always be out of the reach of young children – preferably kept in a cupboard with a child- resistant lock. Medicines can also pose an obvious and significant risk. Carpets on stairs should always be firmly fitted. If your home has large areas of glass – such as french windows or windows in a conservatory – safety glass should always be fitted. There should never be any loose wires or trailing leads across floors. People who are applying to become foster carers who already have their own birth children will be primed to recognise dangers in the home. Again, we offer helpful advice to those people who do not have their own children. We have a section on our website “Staying Safe’ which explores in some detail the ways in which you can reduce risks and identify potential sources of danger in the home. Where we have identified a particular risk, you will need to ensure it is addressed.
It is also a good idea to visit for more information and guidance: www.rospa.com/home-safety
If you have animals in your home, we will need to be sure that they do not pose a risk to a child or young person. Dogs in particular need to be assessed. Certain larger breeds will require to be assessed by a vet who will issue a report. It has to be said that it is quite common for foster carers to own dogs and they can help a child settle into a new foster placement. Of course, no two situations are alike. Some children who have been traumatised, or have never had the experience themselves of being around a dog, can pose risk to the welfare of the animal. Again, each situation has to be assessed on its own merits. With very young children; toddlers, for example, our advice is that it is not a good idea to place them where a dog or cat is present. A child can provoke an animal without realising it. Even the most good-natured dog is going to react if it has its ears squeezed or eyes poked. Where other animals such as hamster, mice or rabbits are concerned, we check to see they are being kept in hygienic conditions. It should be remembered that Rabbits can give a very nasty bite – again close supervision is required if young children are in proximity to animals. The main issues that arise in relation to pets are concerned with dogs. For some good general guidance on caring for a dog –
We like all our applicants to keep firmly in mind the idea that the point of the Initial Home Visit is for us to have a friendly and informal face-to-face chat with an applicant. The main goals we have are to leave someone with a much better idea of what fostering is all about. Importantly, we need to understand your motivations to foster along with an idea of the gender or age of a child you are thinking of fostering. Although there is an urgent need across the country to find people to become foster carers, please be assured that we will never apply pressure. That is not in anyone’s interest – certainly not vulnerable children desperate for loving homes. Sometimes people meet with us and decide that fostering is not for them – and that’s absolutely fine. It isn’t for everyone. We are not doing our job if we don’t provide our applicants with an understanding of their responsibilities towards a child they accept into their home. Fostering is regulated by Ofsted and they; quite rightly, place a huge emphasis on ‘fostering outcomes’ for children and young people in care. And this means a particular emphasis on education. Many children coming into the care system are already very disadvantaged when it comes to their education. They may well have come from homes where they were no books or any kind of stimulation. It’s a sad fact many children will have experienced abuse and/or neglect. Over sixty-five per cent arrive in care having been traumatised.
The importance of educational support and ‘active participation’ in a child’s life and experiences.
All foster carers should understand one of the biggest areas of their responsibility will be to support and advocate for the children in their care throughout their years of schooling. And this will require a lot of effort. Many children arriving in placement may already have missed a lot of schooling and will have fallen behind. this, quite understandably, can be extremely demotivating. Hopefully, this does not sound discouraging. Over the years we have found that when foster carers can get a child’s educational career back on track and help them to be ambitious for their lives, this is an incredibly rewarding experience. our carers are never alone in this. We provide trips and activities throughout the year – especially in the summer months. Our Youth Participation Officer and his support staff ensure our young people are actively engaged. We want our children to have as rounded experiences of life as possible whilst they are growing up. Fostering is in many ways a team activity but the final responsibility for creating that sense of loving security and interest for a child has to be with the foster carer. Carers have considerable responsibility in making sure they are active participants – fully engaged in the lives of the children they care for. Fostering is definitely not just about providing a roof over the head of a child or young person. During the Initial Home Visit, we will also go into some detail about the wide range of activities our agency provides for our foster children. These are led by our Youth Participation Team. We have provided experiences involving music and drama – in the Summer we provide a lot of different activities for children to enjoy. We look to all our carers to play an active part in some of these and certainly support their children in accessing what is on offer. Through the year, there will be competitions that our Youth Participation Officer will encourage children to enter. A good example of this is the annual Coram competition that is all about inspiring children to write creatively. Every year we arrange our Annual Foster Children’s Awards which focus on the hard work, effort and success of our children. This is very much a celebration. It’s crucial that children in care have as rounded an experience as possible. We let you know just how important the work is you will do in supporting a child’s education. Fostering is a big responsibility as it means supporting a child or young person to find their way in the world.
Would you be able to foster a child and welcome them into your family?
A career in fostering career can offer many choices. Foster siblings, foster teenagers – possibly specialise in parent and child placements. You can apply online and set up a call at a time of your choosing or just phone now on 020 8427 3355 or make use of our National Line 0330 311. We’ll be delighted to chat with you about fostering – as well as understand your motivations to want to become a foster parent.
We have been rated ‘Outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted. This means we are one of the leading uk fostering agencies. You’ll be able to depend on Rainbow for all the support and training needed to become an experienced and skilled foster carer. And, we promise, the support is in place 24/7, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
We hope you will find our website a useful and engaging resource with plenty of information. We welcome any feedback you might have
Please take the time to visit: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/news/
Today’s blog choice – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/fostering-in-birmingham/