Every year, The Fostering Network - one of the UK’s leading fostering charities - launches a campaign called ‘Sons and Daughters Month’. The campaign celebrates the role of ‘birth children’ in the fostering household.
When people apply to become foster carers, an assessment is undertaken called a Form F. This can take many months to complete because it involves a detailed evaluation of the applicant’s life – quite rightly because fostering is providing care to very vulnerable children. When those applicants have children of their own, part of this assessment is to check that the ‘birth children’ themselves are comfortable with the potential fostering arrangements. After all, fostering is something that the whole family unit undertakes, and is quite unique in that respect.
An agreement from birth children that they are willing to accept other children into their household is a necessary step in order for their parents to potentially become carers. What it doesn’t do, obviously, is show how amazing and welcoming these children truly are. Sons and Daughters Month is both an acknowledgement and a thank you to all the fantastic birth children of foster carers who, in their own way, contribute to the fostering task.
FCC’s Director of Child Care for England, Steve Field, said: “Birth children play a vital role in welcoming fostered children into the household. FCC is delighted to celebrate the positive impact and dedication birth children show and we are extremely thankful that they are a part of our fostered children lives, sometimes going on to become foster carers themselves.”
Kim Perkins, FCC’s Director of Child Care for Wales, said: "At the FCC, we always remain conscious that children and young people are placed within a fostering household and that all members of that household are key components of their fostering experience. Unfortunately, the important role played by the sons and daughters of foster carers isn't always recognised so we welcome the opportunity to celebrate them during 'Sons and Daughters' month".
FCC’s message to the birth children of foster carers is: thank you for accepting a new child into your home. Thank you for playing with them, talking to them, bonding with them, making them laugh, listening to them, helping them and sharing your parent’s time with them. Without you, your parents wouldn’t be able to make a real difference to children’s lives. This is something that you should be truly proud of.
Dave & Mary's Story...
Dave & Mary have been foster carers for The Foster Care Co-operative for twelve years, and live in Birmingham. They have fostered many children on a long term basis. Dave is also a trainer for the Skills To Foster course that The Foster Care Co-operative run for all new carers.
"When our youngest son was born visually impaired, my wife and I contemplated seeking some respite care. Whilst exploring this we discovered that there was a need for other children to be cared for. We initially registered with a Local Authority to provide weekend respite care for physically disabled young people.
Prior to retiring from the Police I had made plans to travel for an extended period of time, so we decided that we would suspend the fostering for a while to get the travelling out of our system - and on return to go for longer term foster placements.
We then moved to The Foster Care Co-operative. We were impressed with the ethos of the company: surplus income going straight back into the care of the children. We were also really impressed by their founder, Laurie Gregory – particularly his energy and vision for what he wanted for young people.
Coming from the police into foster care, I found that there were lots of transferrable skills. I knew I was adaptable as most officers are - but my analytical, communication and advocacy skills have always been useful. Also a sense of loyalty and commitment to good moral values are without doubt skills already honed in a tough profession.
The elements I find most rewarding about being a carer is trying to build relationships with young people who haven’t necessarily had the best start in life. Watching them arrive all shy and nervous - then spending time with them, building confidence and self-esteem and watching them grow and progress. Seeing them move into independent living has made us feel that we have really accomplished something - and that the young person is now better equipped to deal with what life will throw at them.
It’s not always easy; sometimes a young person’s behaviour can be a problem, but more than that it’s trying to find what’s behind it, why it occurs and how can we help the young person to turn their life around.
If you’re thinking of becoming a carer, I would say talk to other carers, do your research and attend a recruiting event. Discuss with your family what they think as at the end of the day it’s the family that fosters not the individual - everyone becomes involved and my boys and extended family are just as much a part of our fostering journey as we are."
Following the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, the government is advising local authorities and social and private landlords to assess all buildings over 18 metres high (approximately six storeys) to identify those with external cladding made of Aluminium Composite Material.
If you are a foster carer, and you live in a property of 18 metres or more, the landlord is responsible for checking for the presence of Aluminium Composite Material. If identified, the landlord should submit a sample of the cladding for testing as set out in this letter
The government has also issued advice on the immediate steps owners and landlords should take if it is assessed that they have buildings of 18m or higher with ACM cladding of the type that would not meet limited combustibility requirements. This is summarised in the guidance referenced below.
Regardless of the size of the building or use of cladding, it is vital that owners/landlords have robust fire assessments in place for their properties. If you have any concerns about the fire safety of your residence, you can contact your local fire and rescue service who will be able to carry out an inspection and provide advice on improving fire safety where necessary. Please read the full guidance on the gov.uk website.
When Laurie Gregory, an ex-Deputy Director of Social Services, decided to start an independent foster care organisation – he wanted to do something different.
Laurie was a foster carer himself for many years, so he had a full 360 degree understanding of the sector. Starting a ‘for profit’ agency was not an option, but he wanted to go further than simply establishing a not-for-profit organisation.
He then contacted Co-operatives UK, and plans for The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC) began to fall into place.
“Quite apart from the morality of it, I wanted to give more children the chance of family life,” Laurie said. “I instinctively did not wish to start a 'for profit' company and after meetings with my Chamber of Commerce and invaluable advice from Co-operatives UK, I chose the model of multi-stakeholder and common ownership and registered the company. We have grown slowly by bringing new people to fostering."
The Foster Care Co-operative was founded in 1999. Since then, the co-operative model has proved hugely beneficial. As there is no involvement from distant shareholders or investors, FCC’s members on the ‘shop floor’ have always been consulted and listened to. This has made the organisation ‘transparent’ and responsive to change – particularly at a policy level. It has also created a culture of greater democracy.
Simply put, FCC have given its staff who work directly with children the power to make positive change within the organisation for the good of those children.
FCC remains the only not-for-profit fostering agency operating as a co-operative in the UK. It has grown steadily and organically and now has teams situated throughout England and Wales, with offices in Malvern, Cardiff and Manchester.
It is Co-operatives Fortnight from 17th June - 1st July - an opportunity for organisations to highlight how co-operating, working together, makes a difference #coopstories
The preparation for adult life is a marathon not a sprint and for most people the process begins pre-school.
For fostered children however, the experience can be very different.
Depending upon the age that a young person becomes looked after, their journey may be truncated and life skills, out of necessity, can sometimes be hastily undertaken.
The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC) life skills training programme has been created to supplement a Pathway Plan, which is a care plan provided by a local authority detailing the services and support required by young people aged 16 to 21 years. It is a structured and interactive resource to enable FCC’s foster carers to work with their young people according to their age and understanding.
This programme, a year in the making, has been developed using the experiences of young people and FCC foster carers using resources, including local authority programmes that have a proven track record and are user friendly.
An integral part of the programme is a tangible acknowledgement of the young person’s progress in their skills development.
The programme is issued one module at a time and a certificate of achievement presented to mark the progress and understanding shown by the young person.
Throughout the programme the user is encouraged to gather information for themselves using links and QR codes that are provided in the pack.
At the end of each section additional information and exercises are provided according to the individual’s needs and capabilities. For example, the person who needs more help with money management will receive additional resources about that. It is very much a collaboration between foster carer and child, and promotes ownership of the young person’s development. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ checkbox programme.
The whole package is designed to easily evolve and develop according to the needs of the person using it – along with future changes to legislation.
FCC’s Director of Childcare, Anne Bard, said: “The programme is an innovative and interactive way of working with young people to enhance and hone their skills ready for independence.”
A big thank you to our Transitions and Leaving Care Adviser, Pete Johnson, for his time in developing this piece of work. Also another big thank you to our Director of Childcare, Anne Bard, for devising this programme.k here to edit.
FtSE Member News: The Foster Care Co-operative - Manchester University: care leavers offered 'ambassador' support
Our Transitions and Leaving Care Adviser, Pete Johnson, attended an event at Manchester University called Supporting the Supporters on 15th February.
The aim of the event was to provide information to foster carers, social workers, teachers and other practitioners about university places for young people in or leaving care.
Just 8% of care leavers access higher education, compared to 50% of the general population (Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, 2015).
He reported that the day was ‘uplifting’, as it transpired that any looked-after child who is thinking about going to Manchester University and is unsure about what it might entail, practically or financially, can request a face-to-face chat with one of the student ambassadors.
These student ambassadors are care leavers themselves, so they have practical experience of the whole application process and would be able to explain what support would be available. It was a group of these students that facilitated the workshops during the conference. They talked about their own experiences, challenges they’d faced and what has made a difference to them.
There was also the opportunity to tour the campus and chat informally to both the Care Leavers and other people at the event.
At The Foster Care Co-operative we have our own training programme, 'Raising Educational Aspirations', and the opportunity of this student input will be a valuable addition beyond that training. We are hoping that more universities offer this level of support and guidance to care leavers, to help make the transition to higher education more accessible and less daunting.
More information about what Manchester University offer to care leavers can be found here: http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/DocuInfo.aspx?DocID=8259
The Fostering Network have recently issued a reminder for all fostering services to produce a Foster Carers’ Charter – to clearly highlight the commitments of both the fostering provider and the foster carer.
FCC have had a charter in place since 2012, and it is provided to all newly registered foster carers along with their carer agreement form.
The objective of the charter is to unite foster carers, local authorities and fostering services around a shared understanding.
The charter can be viewed here.
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