Fostering information pack
|Last updated:||30 July 2019|
Thank you for contacting Buckinghamshire County Council’s Fostering Recruitment Team about fostering a child or children. We really appreciate you getting in touch.
Fostering is a way of providing a stable family life for children and young people who are unable to live with their parents at a given point in time. This allows children the chance to thrive in a safe, secure, loving and caring home environment.
We realise that becoming a foster carer is an important decision that will not only affect you but also your family and friends. We are committed to supporting you at every stage of your journey - from your initial enquiry, all the way through the process and if you are successful, throughout your time as foster carers.
We treat all prospective foster carers with respect and honesty and ensure that the process of assessment is as fair and as transparent as possible.
We hope that you will find this information pack helpful and informative. The pack details the application process and the support you will receive once approved as a foster carer. We have also included some useful resources to help you along the way.
If you have any queries about the information contained in the pack, or require more detailed information at this stage, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Fostering Recruitment Team
1. Who can foster and what are the factors taken into account?
Applications from all members of the community are welcome as we need a wide range of people to meet children and young people’s very different needs.
We are committed to recruiting carers from diverse racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. People do not need to be married to become a foster family - they can also be single, divorced or cohabiting. We also welcome enquiries from the gay community.
There are no upper age limits but it is expected that carers are healthy and mature enough to work with the complex needs that some children may have. Applicants wishing to care for children under 12 should be aged 21 or over. To be considered to care for teenagers, an applicant needs to be at least 25 years old.
Being married or in a partnership, or single
If you are in a partnership, either through marriage, civil partnership or a stable living arrangement, you can foster. People of all sexual orientations and genders can foster. You will need to demonstrate that your partnership is stable, permanent and will be able to withstand the challenges that fostering can bring.
Single people can also foster. This arrangement can be seen as a positive choice for some children. As with people in partnerships, applicants will need to show that they have strong and supportive network of family and friends to call on when they need to. They will also need to consider arrangements in the event that single applicants become ill or unable to look after the child after becoming a foster carer.
If you have children with a previous partner, all your children (or adult children if they are grown up) will need to be interviewed as part of the fostering assessment process and there will be a discussion with you about your ongoing involvement in their lives.
It is our practice to make contact with all relevant previous partners whenever applicants have parented together, or:
- if you have been involved in a previous partnership regarded as of significance (i.e. which lasted for over a year and/or was a live-in arrangement, whether the care of children was included or not)
- if you have children with a previous partner or have cared for children within a previous partnership
The previous partner will be asked if they are aware of any cause for concern, about each applicant caring for a child or whether they have known them to be violent, abusive or negative. It is appreciated that this is a sensitive matter which may raise issues of concern, but we are interested in establishing applicant's ability to parent. We understand that some relationships do not end amicably and will take this into consideration.
An applicant’s outright refusal for us to contact ex-partners may have an impact on whether we can progress or not with your application. Please discuss concerns with us as early as possible if this affects you or causes you anxiety. However, in all but the most unusual circumstances we will expect to speak to ex-partners.
It is important to have a spare bedroom to accommodate a foster child. If you live in rented accommodation, we are required to check your tenancy agreement and have a letter from the landlord showing that they are supportive of the tenants fostering.
Experience with children
Experience of childcare is essential whether it is gained through having children of your own, work or voluntary settings. Life experiences and personal qualities can also enhance the care provided.
You will need to be in good health and are able to manage the physical and emotional demands of caring for children. Having a specific disability or medical condition will not necessarily prevent you from fostering. We will take advice from your doctor and the local authority Medical Advisor on your health and the possible implications for fostering. See information about the assessment process below.
Where someone in the household smokes cigarettes or e-cigarettes we would not place children under the age of 5 years.
Foster carers need to be available to care for children to meet their needs including taking them to school if necessary, attending meetings and other appointments as necessary. Carers also need to be available during school holidays to care for a foster child.
Having a job does not necessarily prevent people from being considered for fostering. Applications from those who work from home, are self-employed or have flexible working arrangements will also be considered. There are various foster care schemes that may be suitable for applicants' circumstances.
An increasing number of employers are becoming 'Fostering Friendly', including Buckinghamshire County Council. This means that they provide extra leave for employees who are becoming foster carers. Find more information about the scheme on The Fostering Network website.
During the assessment there may be circumstances specific to you as individual applicants that, when considered, lead to us advising you this is not the right time for the assessment to proceed. For example, an individual may have recently experienced a significant loss or change in their lives and it may be thought the assessment would be better pursued after a time of adjustment. We will endeavour to be transparent in our communication with applicants, within the bounds of other people’s confidentiality.
2. Information about the children
Today, most of the children in foster care have left their families of origin in difficult circumstances and the courts will have sometimes been involved, making the decision that they cannot safely return to the care of their own families. The children may have been living at home with family for some time before sufficient grounds for concern came to light and the decision made to remove them. Their birth family circumstances often involve some or a combination of the following:
- misuse of drugs and/or alcohol
- domestic abuse
- mental ill health difficulties
- learning difficulties
- troubled family circumstances leading to poor parenting
The children are likely to have experienced some or all of the following:
- effects of drug/alcohol misuse by parents during the pregnancy or in the child’s early years
- neglect and/or physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse
- inconsistency, poor parenting, chaotic home environment, many moves and changes of carer/parent
- special needs arising from disability or uncertainty about future development
These factors are likely to have impacted on a child’s emotional, social and behavioural development and may well have long term implications for their future development. Some children continue to lack trust in adults and experience difficulties in forming and maintaining lasting close attachments to their new carers.
Some of the children will have developed greater resilience to these difficulties than others – depending in part on other significant relationships in their lives – e.g. brothers and sisters, other adult relatives or friends, foster carers.
3. Information about providing foster care to children
We have a duty to ensure that all the children who come into our care can be assured a high standard of foster care. As a foster carer you will therefore need to:
- provide clean, safe and comfortable accommodation.
- support and promote children’s educational attainment.
- provide a nurturing home environment which promotes health and general development.
- protect children from abuse.
- promote the development of independence and skills, appropriate to the child’s age.
- set appropriate boundaries and manage children’s behaviour effectively.
- listen to children, empower them and advocate on their behalf as necessary.
- have good communication skills, and an ability to work as part of a team.
- keep records in respect of children placed and to contribute to the planning for their future.
- participate in supervision meetings, ongoing training, and other relevant meetings concerning the foster child.
- work within our diversity policy and promote equality in respect of disability, sexual orientation, religion and culture.
- encourage children in maintaining contact with their family, where appropriate.
4. The fostering assessment process
- Once you have decided you wish to proceed the first step is to contact us by phone, email or via the Bucks County Council website to complete an enquiry. This is a brief conversation in which we will check whether you have the basic requirement of a spare room and that you are available to meet with us for an initial visit.
- The initial visit will be a chance for you to find out more about fostering. A member of staff from the Fostering Recruitment Team will visit your home and discuss your circumstances in more detail, in order to consider whether it would be appropriate for you to begin a full fostering assessment.
- After the initial visit, the worker will discuss your situation with the Assistant Team Manager and you will have time to reflect upon whether you wish to make a formal application. You will be contacted by the same worker, who will explain to you whether you will be able to proceed or not, should you wish to. At any time, you are welcome to contact the Fostering Recruitment Team to discuss any issues in more depth. If the decision is positive, you will be sent an application form and an invitation to our Skills to Foster training course (more details on this can be found below).
- Once we receive your completed application form, you will be allocated an assessing social worker and your appointment will be booked with the Fostering Panel to consider your case, usually 6 months in the future. Together with your assessing social worker from the fostering recruitment team you will complete a home study, which includes gathering information on:
- your life and childhood
- the way your family functions
- other matters that might affect the way you would respond to a distressed child
You will need to commit to a minimum of 8 visits with your social worker, setting aside 2 hours per visit. We see the assessment as a two way process and we endeavour to provide you with as many learning opportunities as possible. Therefore you will be set homework tasks such as case studies and further reading. Your assessing social worker will be dedicated to getting to know you and bringing out those skills and qualities which will make you a good foster carer.
- At the end of the assessment the social worker writes a report, with a recommendation to the Fostering Panel. You will be involved in the process, from the start through to the end, and you will also contribute to the report. The Fostering Panel meets every month and is usually made up of people from Social Care, Health, Education, a foster carer from another Local Authority and a person who has been fostered. You are also invited to attend the fostering panel meeting. They will make a recommendation based on your assessment and any other relevant information.
- Once you have been approved, your case will transfer to the Fostering Support team and work will start on finding a child for your family.
Statutory checks and references
It is very important that you are honest and transparent with us from the start of your interest in fostering, and discuss any issues which might affect the outcome of your assessment.
(a) Disclosure and Barring Service (Police checks)
As fostering involves the direct care of children, you will be subject to an enhanced DBS check. This will show any previous convictions, including cautions as a juvenile, this is because no offence is deemed “spent” for this purpose, and will therefore show on any DBS It is very important that you share with us at an early stage if you have a criminal record, or have been cautioned or arrested.
The safety and welfare of children is paramount and checks must be made in respect of applicants and anyone else over 16 living in the household. A person cannot be considered suitable to adopt if they have been convicted or cautioned for a “specified offence”. A “specified offence” is an offence against a child, or an offence concerning rape and other matters relating to sexual activity or an offence concerning pornography. (These are specified in the Adoption Agencies Regulations Part 1 Schedule 3) and detailed information is available if required.
Staff will exercise discretion in relation to other offences.
Failure to disclose previous cautions, concerns or convictions will likely result in the Fostering Service declining to progress your application any further. We are only permitted to disclose any specific reasons for this decision to the person who has the conviction or caution. If you have lived overseas for any period as an adult, Police or Good Conduct Checks may be required from the Country of Residence; you will be advised if this applies, and guided through how to secure them. Please raise any questions you may have about these requirements.
(b) Medical report (Adult Health Check)
A full medical assessment from your General Practitioner is required. The medical report is sent to our Medical Adviser, who provides written advice to us. A summary of the advice is available to the GP and prospective foster carers. Additional information may be sought or advice about health issues provided. The medical report is produced at our expense.
(c) Personal references
Three personal references are required from each applicant – one must be a family member and the others should be from someone who is not related to you. At least one of them should have known you for 5 years, and all more than 2 years. It is useful for your assessment to provide referees who have known you across different stages in your lives and where possible to include those who are within easy travelling distance of where you live. This is because the information they give will be reviewed and analysed with the additional information we receive and to enable us to consider what potential support may be available to you in the future. Also, in partnerships, couples will not be asked to provide a separate reference each.
Referees will be sent a questionnaire and then the assessing social worker will choose which three or more referees to visit and to produce a further written report. References obtained remain confidential but can be discussed with you if the referee gives their consent. If concerns are raised from references, these will be considered and discussed with the applicants.
We reserve the right to request references from other individuals in your support network/families, where the information gathered could assist in compiling a full picture of your circumstances.
(d) Employment references
These will be sought to verify information provided and views will be asked for, if your work or voluntary work involves children. You should inform us if you have not yet informed your employer. We appreciate this may be a sensitive area for you but we do need to gather this information to assist the assessment process.
(e) Local Authority checks
These will be made in respect of the Local Authority in whose area you live or have lived in the last 10 years.
(f) Health Visitor/Nursery/School
If there are already children in your family then checks will be made with the relevant services concerning their Education to assist your assessing social worker in gaining a picture of them and your family.
(g) Armed Forces
SSAFA (the Armed Forces Support Charity) will be contacted regarding applicants who are serving or who have served in the Armed Forces. Information will also be requested on the permanent nature of your postings, employment or home circumstances if you are a member of the armed forces, in order to assist us in planning for children.
5. Skills to foster training
Skills to Foster will assist new Foster Carers to meet the challenges of fostering, by providing them with an introduction to the world of fostering and to the knowledge and skills they will require.
Children are at the heart of this important training course. Key topics include the importance of identity, positive approaches to challenging behaviour, dealing with new technologies such as social media and safer caring. Safer caring practices are intended to safeguard a foster child whilst protecting Foster Carers, their immediate and wider family and friends.
The training and preparation of new Foster Carers through Skills to Foster is of the greatest importance for the future wellbeing of vulnerable children in the care system. Whether Foster Carers are caring for new-born babies or adolescents, caring for children short term or long term, they need the best possible foundation of knowledge and skills. Foster Carers can then build on this foundation throughout their fostering career, as they enjoy the rewards and face the challenges of caring for children with a wide range of needs.
The training course consists of six sessions for prospective Foster Carers, all of which are essential for effective preparation. As all the members of the family are involved in foster care there is also a separate session for sons and daughters of prospective Foster Carers.
The training sessions are:
- What do Foster Carers Do?
- Identity and Life Chances
- Working with Others
- Understanding and Caring for Children
- Safer Caring
The above sessions are held one day a week over a period of three consecutive weeks. They are informal, relaxed days with a mixture of small/large group work, and presentations, including DVD’s. It gives applicants the opportunity to meet others and share their thoughts and views. We encourage experienced Foster Carers to co-deliver Skills to Foster and sharing their own experiences of the fostering role is of great benefit.
Feedback from former delegates has always been positive and they find it essential in their learning as prospective Foster Carers.
The Skills to Foster course is run alongside the assessment of prospective Foster Carers. This is to ensure that the topics they have covered are fresh in the minds of participants, and so that they can raise any questions or concerns they have with their Assessing Social Worker at the earliest opportunity.
6. Support for our foster carers
Fostering social worker
The fostering social worker supports and supervises the foster carers, discussing any matters relating to the placement of a child and will work to resolve any issues that arise. All fostering social workers are qualified, experienced workers who bring with them a range of experiences in childcare. They also run Foster Carers groups and encourage new carers to meet with other more experienced carers.
We pay allowances to cover the costs of caring for a child placed with foster carers. The allowance will depend on the age of the child and any special needs the child may have. The payment covers the expenses for food, clothes, heating and lighting, pocket money, dinner money, leisure, social activities etc.
Additional allowances are paid for the child’s birthdays, holiday and religious festivals. Other expenses may be payable to ensure carers are compensated for the full costs of caring for a child on behalf of the Council. The allowances are based on the rates recommended by The Fostering Network and are reviewed annually.
Income Tax and Benefits
Foster carers receive very generous tax allowances on income solely derived from fostering with the introduction of new tax relief in 2003. Carers do not pay tax on income from fostering up to a maximum of £10,000 p.a. plus an additional allowance for each foster child. Fostering allowances are paid whether a carer is receiving state benefits or not.
You can receive more specific information on taxation from the Inland Revenue to consider your personal circumstance further. Alternatively, contact The Fostering Network on 02072 611 884.
National Insurance contributions
Since April 2003, foster carers have also been entitled to Home Responsibility Protection – a way to make sure that you do not get less Basic Retirement Pension just because you have stayed at home to look after a child.
We provide regular, high quality training to carers to assist in caring for children, some of whom may be exhibiting difficult and challenging behaviour. Buckinghamshire has a strong commitment to providing a number of training opportunities each year.
Carers also have opportunities to attend courses alongside other childcare workers such as social workers and residential workers.
Other benefits of fostering for Buckinghamshire County Council:
- You will be considered for placements first as an in house foster carer;
- Integrated working with Children’s Social Workers;
- Fostering expenses are paid;
- Excellent training courses;
- Honorarium of £100 for foster carers who complete five or more training courses per year;
- Payment for skills to recognise and reward skill levels of foster carers;
- Support Groups, including sons and daughters group;
- Emergency support;
- Paid subscription to Fostering Network;
- Essential Equipment is provided;
- Max Card for fostering families. This is a discount card for foster families and families to obtain free or discounted admission to different attractions;
- Two weeks paid respite for long term placements;
- Annual Dinner and Awards Evening;
- If you are BUCKS CC employee it is possible to take a maximum of 10 days' paid foster leave in the first 12 month period if you are a newly assessed foster carer. Thereafter you will be entitled to 5 days’ paid leave in the following 12 month period (pro rata for part time employees).
What our Foster Carers say
Val has fostered for five years and lives in Aylesbury Vale. She is a single parent with grown-up children and is an approved foster carer for two children aged 0 to 6 years. She has fostered a number of sibling groups. This is her story:
"I was looking through the local paper and saw an advert about fostering. I thought that it was something I would like to do, but I still gave it a lot of thought before I enquired about it, but I’m glad I did. I’ve had a mixture of children; one little boy was with me for three years. Although he was very difficult, with lots of support he became a very happy and lovely child who I still see occasionally which is very rewarding. I also had two siblings for quite a while and when mum had another, the social worker wanted to keep them together, so I offered to have all three of them. I thought it was important for them to stay together and they wanted to be together so they could bond as a family. I would not have liked to see them separated. I’ve had others as well who would not cope if they were parted, so I will always keep them together. After all, happy children make fostering a lot easier for them and for me. I get upset when they leave, but then if I didn’t, perhaps I should not look after them, because all they require is for me to care about them the same as I did for my own children."
Janice has been fostering for about three years. She says….
"Jennifer came into our family just over 3 years ago. She was a nineteen-month-old toddler who has experienced a very traumatic start to her early life. There were many reasons why Jennifer was placed with us, but one of the underlying reasons is that our family met her cultural needs, as she is a child of dual heritage background like my own children. I feel it is important that children, who may already be disadvantaged, are placed with people who can meet their needs by positively reflecting their own culture. Caring for a child that is not your own is not necessarily an easy job, but there is great pleasure and satisfaction to be gained from being able to give of yourself by providing a child with a chance which they may not have otherwise had."
Terry and Jenny
Terry and Jenny have been foster carers for approximately four years. They live in the Wycombe area and are approved for one teenage placement and one respite placement. Jenny says:
"We had thought about fostering for several years and eventually phoned the Recruitment Team after seeing an advert in the Wycombe Star newspaper. We have always had lots of teenagers around and felt this was an age that was so important. We thought we had something to offer. Sometimes it is difficult, but we’ve had excellent training and plenty of support from our Assessing Social Worker. We feel it is so rewarding being part of a team helping young people with their first steps to living on their own - a daunting thought for any teenager. I would certainly encourage people who have been thinking about fostering for some time, as we were, to make further enquiries, as we have certainly found it very worthwhile."
Not all foster carers are part of a conventional two-parent family. David is a case in point.
"Hello, I am David, I’m single and have been a foster carer with my cousin for nearly four years. My parents fostered and it was something I always wanted to do. For ten years I cared for terminally ill relatives and when they died I wanted to use my experience of caring for others. We have had three teenage lads so far. Although we are an unconventional family, I feel it is good that there are single male and female carers as there are young people who benefit from what we offer. It can be a demanding task to foster young people in this age group, but I feel enormous pleasure and pride in seeing them develop self-confidence, self-respect and hopefully make a success of their lives. With my current placement now doing well at college, it more than makes up for any problems I have had."
Comments from children placed with foster carers
" It was strange at first, being part of a big family, nothing like my own, but the foster carers own children have accepted us as part of the family which makes things much easier for us. I am relieved that I’m placed with my younger brother as we have always been together through everything"
"I didn’t know I was intelligent. No-one ever told me or expected anything of me until I moved to my foster carers."
"If we have problems our carers listen to what we have to say - there is nothing to be afraid of here, it’s safe."
"It’s scary when you first arrive. On the first night I was really nervous, but then I got used to the family and now I think it’s really great. We are all totally accepted as part of the family, and that includes grandma and grandad. That’s particularly nice as I’ve never had a grandad before."
7. Sons and Daughters Group
We recognise the role of the sons and daughters whose parents foster and value the contributions they make to children who are in their parents care.
The purpose of the Sons and Daughters Group is to support the children and young people whose parents foster. It is available to children 5 to 18 years old and offers them a chance to take part in fun activities and meet others with similar experiences.
They meet during each school holidays apart from at Christmas and will often be split into the over 11’s and under 11’s age groups.
- trips to theme parks
- art and craft activities
- meals out
- children’s indoor adventure playgrounds
- trips to the Farm/Zoo
- theatre Trips
- horse Riding
- outdoor Activity Days
We also offer fun and interactive workshops, such as:
- easing the Move
- play and Development
- first Aid
- safer Caring
- using the Internet Safely
One to one support can also be offered to children and young people on a needs led basis via referral from your fostering social worker.
What children and young people say about the Sons and Daughters Group
'The Sons and Daughters Group is just one of the many perks to fostering. We have both attended many of the days out that social care have provided and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. A favourite of my sister’s has been horse riding, spy missions and making pizzas at pizza hut. A favourite of mine has been going to the theatre to see 'Oliver', the activity days at Green Park and platoon laser. A few years ago we made cupcakes and decorated them; I really enjoyed this and would love to do it again. The sons and daughters groups are so much fun and are a great opportunity to make new friendships with people whose parents both look after children, you find that you have so much in common with these people and can relate to them greatly. Both my sister and I highly recommend attending these group activities for these very reasons'
'I have been attending Sons and Daughters Group for quite a lot of years since my parents started fostering. Over all the years I have participated in a number of activities with sons and daughters such as rock climbing, canoeing, archery, biking and many different fun activities. I've always loved going to sons and daughters because it gave me chance to meet other young people whose parents foster so we have a lot in common. I enjoy seeing these people regularly and making new friends. I would recommend any young people who parents foster to go to sons and daughters because it's such an amazing experience and you get so many life skills from the things you do'
'Our children have had some wonderful trips and activities the past two years they have enjoyed meeting other children from fostering families, it is very valuable as it makes them feel a real part of the fostering journey and allows them to chill out with like-minded others'
'I really love coming to the activities with you. I always have fun and can't wait for the next one. I have made some nice friends there too'
8. How to progress your application and prepare for the assessment
- Call us on 0800 160 1900 to complete an enquiry and for a personalised chat about fostering and your circumstances
- Book an initial visit with us to determine whether the time and situation is right for you to have a full fostering assessment
- Go to the Coram BAAF website and the Fostering Network web pages where you will find a huge amount of useful advice, support and resources about fostering
- Watch relevant television programs and videos
- Increase your experience in caring for children other than your own e.g. volunteer in scout groups, nurseries, youth groups, Sure Start, baby clinics at the GP surgery, schools and libraries. (You will need to wait until the DBS is returned, unless you have one already)
- Once you are in the assessment process, ask to be linked with one of our foster carers who lives near you
9. Points to consider
Caring for children can be a demanding task and we need to be confident that becoming a foster carer is right for you, your family and any children that we might place with you.
You may wish to consider the following points to help you decide whether fostering could be for you:
- caring for children from another family is different to caring for children of your own family
- you need to enjoy working with children and can remain enthusiastic, even when things are difficult
- fostering will have an impact on your own family and any birth children
- children/young people may reject the care you offer or disregard your views and feelings
- some children may show difficult behaviour
- a good sense of humour is required
- support for yourself and foster child is always available and you will be given all of the tools and strategies required to become a good foster carer
- you can celebrate simple progress and achievements made by a child
10. Next Steps
If you would like to take your interest in fostering forward:
- call our friendly team on 0800 160 1900 or email us to complete an enquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org
- we will arrange an initial visit to your home to find out more about your circumstances and whether fostering is right for you
- Keep an eye on our website to see whether there is a fostering information session coming up. These are held every few months and are a great opportunity to meet with some experienced foster carers and hear first-hand what fostering means to them
We look forward to hearing from you!
11. How to complain, compliment, or comment
We hope that you won't be, but in the event that you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the service you have received, please do let us know as soon as possible so that we can work with you to try to resolve the difficulty.
Please raise this in the first instance with your Assessing Social Worker or the Team Manager or Assistant Team Manager.
Buckinghamshire County Council has a complaints process that you are entitled to use. The address below is also the contact for compliments and comments, if you prefer that they go to someone other than the worker involved.
Compliments & Complaints Team
Buckinghamshire County Council
For further information please contact:
Fostering Recruitment Team