Well, you’ve spent time thinking about being a foster carer – approached an agency (hopefully ours); provided some basic information about your circumstances put the phone down and are now wondering what your initial home visit will involve…here at Rainbow Fostering, we always remember that the decision to even consider becoming a foster carer is a huge one. As the country urgently needs new families to consider foster care work (7,000 currently needed), we strive to handle any enquiry with particular care and sensitivity. We know that waiting for an Initial Home Visit (IHV) can seem a little nerve wracking; after all you have agreed to invite a relative stranger into your own home and then answer a whole series of questions about yourself, your life experiences and everyday circumstances. So before providing an idea about what the Initial Home Visit entails, we would just like to take this opportunity to say just how much we respect those individuals who apply to Rainbow: we know that to envisage such a step calls for a great deal of unselfish thought. It is inspiring knowing that the people who contact us, so clearly want to give something back to society. And is there anything more impressive than wanting to help a vulnerable child or young person?
So the day has arrived; you have just spent the last two hours hoovering and are thinking about having a cup of tea! The point we always stress, is that we don’t expect people to have perfect model homes. We think a home is just that; it’s for living in, feeling relaxed and secure: just think, if a young child arrives at home that doesn’t have a ‘thing out of place’, that can be quite intimidating. So we really are not looking for perfect homes – we just need to be sure any child will be offered a warm welcoming environment. A place where they can start to relax and, most importantly, get to know you and start to build a relationship.
A foster child will need their own room. This is where they can sleep, play and do their homework – if that’s where they prefer to do it. The room must be comfortable, warm and have good storage space. So during your home visit, we will pay close attention to the room that you are making available for a foster child. We then request that you show us around the rest of the house and its garden. This is because we need to make a safety check. Above all your home must be free fro risk to a child. We give advice covering areas that are mostly fairly basic: when people have not been used to having children around – especially very young children – it is understandable some things might not seem to present a risk. So simple recommendations that we make are that sharp objects such as knives, or scissors are always put away in drawers. The same applies for cleaning products such as bleach: these should preferably be kept in a cupboard with a child resistant lock. Medicines can also pose a significant risk, so these should definitely also be kept locked away at all times. If there are large areas of glass; such as french windows, then safety glass should always be fitted. If you visit our website, there is a section called ‘Staying Safe’ which goes into a fair bit of detail about reducing risks and spotting potential sources of danger in the home. Additionally, you can visit
www.rospa.com/home–safety/advice/general/ for more information and advice
Foster care and household Pets
If you have animals, we will want to be sure they do not present a risk to a child or youngster. Dogs, particularly, have to be assessed and with certain breeds of larger dog we will ask for a vets report to be issued. That said, a number of our foster carers own dogs and have found that this can help a foster child to settle into their new foster placement. It all depends upon the temperament of the particular animal. With very young children; toddlers for example, we tend to advise against placing them where a dog is present as they can provoke the animal without realising it. Even a good natured dog that has just had its ears squeezed, or pulled is likely to react badly. As far as other animals are concerned, such as cats and rabbits, for example, we look to see they are kept in hygienic conditions.
It’s always worth remembering that the main point of the Initial Home Visit is simply about us having a friendly and informal chat with you. Our goal is to leave you with a better understanding of what foster care is all about. We want you to be able to speak freely and ask any questions you might have. Although there is an acute shortage of foster carers at the moment, we never apply pressure. We want only to learn the reasons you have for wanting to foster children. It’s important that all applicants have an understanding of their responsibilities towards a foster child. Fostering is regulated by Ofsted and they place huge emphasis upon ‘fostering outcomes’ for children in care. This means especially focusing upon educational attainment. Sadly, many children coming into care come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect. This often means that they have missed a lot of schooling and have fallen behind. This means that a large and important part of the role of being a foster carer is to support a foster child in their education. We also go into detail about the range of activities our agency provides for our foster children. We look to carers to support their children in accessing these. It is vital that children in care have as ‘rounded ‘ an experience as possible. Foster carers have a considerable responsibility with regard to making this happen for the children that they care for.
Once we have given you an idea of what fostering is all about, we will inquire about your preferences. Some applicants want only to foster babies or very young children up to the age of twelve. We explain that we will still ask that everyone be trained to care for children up to the age of 18. This is because if you were looking after a child; and everything was going well, we would not want you to have the inconvenience of needing additional training once they got older. So we train everyone for approval to foster up to the age of 18. This is also important because of ‘Staying Put’: this is the arrangement whereby children, once over the age of 18 have the right to remain in placement until 21 if the foster carer is in agreement. In relation to your preferences, we will also ask about gender and ethnicity. Where foster carers look after children from another ethnic group, it is important that they are prepared to facilitate certain needs that child may have. This can mean enabling them to attend their place of worship, or recognising certain dietary requirements they may have.
So hopefully after we have ‘put you in the picture’ about foster care in general, we will explain the procedures and training opportunities we offer. We support all our carers to be as professional as they can be: we intend fostering with Rainbow to be a career. Some of our foster carers are paid higher rates because they have specialised offering therapeutic care for children with complex needs. Rainbow provide a range of different training opportunities making it possible to develop your fostering career in a number of different directions – should you so wish. There is no pressure to do this – many of our foster carers have just thrived on the care and support we give them and as their confidence has grown, they have sought new opportunities.
We do not expect you to make a firm decision about fostering at the end of the Initial Home Visit. Some people decide that fostering is not for them – and that’s fine because it isn’t for everyone. Being a foster carer is a big step, and as it can involve other family members there is a lot to be considered. So we simply ask that you think over all that has been discussed before you reach a decision. We will have also explained that you will have to attend a special three day course, all fostering service providers run called ‘Skills to Foster’. Here you will meet with other applicants and trainers in a very relaxed, friendly and informal environment. If after your Initial Home Visit, you decide you want to be a foster carer, you will be invited to attend this course. All our applicants describe it as being stimulating and enjoyable. It goes into a lot more detail about fostering and so at the end you will really know if becoming a foster carer is for you: there are no exams the course is run along the lines of a workshop so that people can feel relaxed and able to contribute their thoughts and ideas. After the course, some people decide against fostering as a career: again, this is fine – we want all our applicants to be completely committed to fostering.
At the end of your Initial Home Visit, and before leaving, we will take a series of pictures – kitchen, bathroom, WC, living room, dining room and also the garden. This is because if you progress to become an approved foster carer we will create a small booklet for a child: this will show them where they will be going into placement. And this can help them feel more relaxed and settled before they arrive.
One important point: we often find that when we meet with people – after having a chat, they want to progress their application as quickly as possible. To do, this please make sure you have the following documents available for us to verify your identity: driving licence, passport, National Insurance Number (card or tax document); utility bill or council tax bill (but not a mobile phone bill).
We can then start the process of getting your DBS through as quickly as possible.
And finally, we are very proud of the fact that many of our carers have been with us for many years. From the very start, we do our best to provide close support for those choosing to step into the world of fostering with Rainbow. Ours is a close knit family and we are keen to add to it all the time.
And the good news at the end of this fostering rainbow…more birthdays to celebrate this October for our children – Birthday Greetings from everyone here at Rainbow! And we are getting close to booking our venue for our prestigious 2017 Foster Carer Awards…watch this space for news!
Please don’t forget our ‘Rainbow Rewards’ for carers
A generous bonus of £500 is made available by us if you refer someone to be a carer with our foster care agency. The bonus will be paid once your referral has been approved and the first placement made through Rainbow. Existing carers transferring to Rainbow, can also qualify for this special bonus: note – payment will be made for foster carers who are already caring for children or young people on a long-term basis.
And if you are possibly giving consideration to being a carer for the first time – how to foster a child? What are foster carer requirements? How long does it take to become a foster carer? And what about foster carer pay? These are only just some of the many and varied questions we are asked by people considering fostering. We have a dedicated recruitment team – always happy to answer these, or any other questions you might have. We are now particularly eager to find people who want to make a difference by providing stable homes for vulnerable youngsters. So, if you might now be interested in fostering babies, fostering children or teenagers please call us today on 020 8427 3355 today.
Rainbow News – keeping you right up to date if you are a carer…
Foster carer recruitment under the spotlight
October 2nd, 2017
The leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, currently estimates that around 7,000 new fostering families are needed in the next year to cope with a shortfall. It is challenging finding people to step forward to care for children – earlier this month ‘Action for Children’ released a report that indicated 85% of adults in the UK showed little or no interest in fostering