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Fostering and adoption

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The right type of fostering for you

By | Fostering and adoption

Brighton & Hove City Council know that the decision to become a foster carer can take years, and a lot of careful thought, consideration and research. There are many different types of fostering that foster carers can choose to consider; short-term or long-term, ranging from a few days, weeks, months or even years. Children may need foster care from the moment they are born, and some children stay in care up to the age of 18 and beyond. Some children may return to their birth families, others may be supported through continued fostering until they are ready to live independently, and some may move onto adoption.

Here, we look at some of the most common types of fostering, each with their own challenges and rewards.

Short-term foster care
The most common type of fostering is called short-term foster care. Depending on a child’s circumstances, a short-term placement can last from a few days to several years, and as a short-term foster carer you can provide a stable and loving home whilst a longer-term plan is made. The child may return home, move to live with other family members who have been assessed, or move into long-term fostering or adoption.

Long-term foster care
Some children can’t return to their birth family and may be placed in long-term foster care until they are ready to live independently. A family home can provide the security and stability that a child needs to thrive and reach their full potential in life.

Parent and child
Some parents may need extra support to help them care for their child or baby. Parent and child foster carers provide a home for both the parent and their child and work with the parent to help them look after their child independently wherever possible. The parent will receive help and advice, enabling the parent and child to stay together and to develop a strong relationship at a crucial developmental stage.

Respite care
Some children need to be looked after for a short period on a regular basis. This could be for as little as one weekend per month or for a holiday. Respite care can give parents or other foster carers a break or can prevent a breakdown in the family. Some foster carers offer respite care in addition to other short and long-term placements whilst others prefer to just offer respite care.

Supported lodgings
Supported Lodgings carers provide an opportunity for young people (16/17 year olds at risk of homelessness and care leavers 18+) to live in the home of someone who will help them develop the practical skills and emotional maturity they need to move on to independent living. Carers provide a safe and supportive family home and have the time to teach simple life skills. Every young person is different, but they may need help with getting into education, training or work, managing money, shopping, learning to cook and do housework, attending appointments or building confidence.

Emergency care
Sometimes a child will need to be placed immediately with a carer for a few nights and some foster carers will be specially trained for this type of placement.

It is important to explore which type of fostering will be most suited to you and your family and Brighton & Hove City Council’s fostering team will help to guide you through the options. Whichever type of foster care you are interested in providing, they will offer you a range of training and support to help you grow your knowledge so you can provide the best care possible.

To learn more about becoming a foster carer, email fosteringrecruitment@brighton-hove.gov.uk to arrange a call or visit
www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. The team are holding regular virtual information sessions via Microsoft Teams.

The A-Z of fostering

By | family, Fostering and adoption, Mental health

The sons and daughters of foster carers play a vital role in fostering; they contribute hugely towards the success of fostering placements and make a valuable difference to fostered siblings as they settle into their new home.

Isobella, who is 14 years old has been fostering with her younger twin sisters, mum Liz and mum’s partner Caroline for three years. During this time, the family have welcomed two children into their home, the first for nine months and the second for 18 months – both little girls under four years of age.

Isobella remembers how she felt when her first foster sister arrived at their home. “I was very excited to have someone come and live with us because we love little ones and helping other people. When she arrived, it was overwhelming for her and for us but it was a great experience and she settled in well.”

Isobella says the best thing about fostering is “the relationship you build and how strong that is. We have lots of memories that we still talk about, like going on holiday to the Lake District with the first child who was in our care. She hadn’t been on holiday before and she saw snow for the first time! We were sledging down a hill, taking it in turns with her on our laps. It was a whole new experience for her which was lovely to see.”

Isobella and her family like to stay active. They try to get out of the house as much as possible, meeting friends and going for walks. The children in their care have loved being part of the things they love as a family; watching Isobella play netball, cheering at football matches, learning to swim, completing art projects and going to shows are just a few examples.

The support in place for sons and daughters of foster carers includes regular day trips and activities. A team of Brighton & Hove City Council Fostering Support Officers run activities throughout all of the school holidays, for birth children and foster children alike. The trips are a real treat for the children, who get an opportunity to form friendships with children in similar circumstances, and a well-deserved break for foster carers.

Isobella says “We’ve been on lots of activity days and they’ve all been great experiences and good fun. My favourite was a trip to Hove Lagoon to do water sports. We did wakeboarding which was new for me but really good fun.We’ve met lots of other families and they’re familiar faces now when we see them again. Everyone is really friendly and it’s nice sometimes to share the things we’ve been through. There’s one family in particular who we’ve become good friends with, they’re long-term foster carers. We love all of them and we go for walks with them quite often.” She continues “I know there is lots of support available from the fostering team too. I haven’t needed to ask for support yet, but I know it’s there if I need it.”

To convey the experiences, feelings and realities of being a birth child in a foster family, Isobella has put together an A-Z to help other birth children to understand what to expect.

A. I was 10 years old and in my last year of primary school when our first foster sister arrived to live with us. I will never forget her ARRIVAL.
B. It is really important to develop a BOND with the foster child. In my experience this takes time.
C. When you are fostering it is important to learn how to have a CONVERSATION.
D. As a foster family we go on lots of DAYS OUT at the weekends and in the holidays.
E. Fostering needs EMPATHY.
F. Our FAMILY sticks together.
G. It’s hard to say GOODBYE.
H. HUGS are important.
I. Being a foster family is part of my IDENTITY.
J. Sometimes when we are fostering, I feel JEALOUS because my mum can’t spend time with me.
K. Always be KIND.
L. Sometimes it must feel LONELY.
M. We love making MEMORIES as a foster family.
N. Sometimes our house is very NOISY when we are fostering.
O. Fostering means OPENING up your heart and home.
P. Good fostering requires PATIENCE.
Q. It’s important to learn what to do if there is a QUARREL.
R. Sometimes I feel REJECTED but I try not to take it personally.
S. It’s important to be able to say SORRY.
T. When the children we look after have TANTRUMS we tell them it’s OK not to be OK and we still love them.
U. We look after the foster children when they are UNWELL.
V. We look after VULNERABLE children.
W. We enjoy making foster children feel WELCOME.
X. XMAS is a special time to make memories as a foster family
Y. We create all sorts of memories, including YUCKY ones.
Z. The fostering journey is a ZIGZAG but overall we enjoy being a foster family. We are good at it and it suits us.

When asked what her advice to families considering fostering would be, Isobella said “There will be highs and lows. It will be difficult but there will be easier bits too, so it’s up and down like a rollercoaster. When children first arrive its usually difficult but once you push past that it gets better from then onwards.”

If you feel you could make a difference by becoming a fostering family, Brighton & Hove City Council would love to hear from you. To learn more about becoming a Foster Carer e-mail fosteringrecruitment@brightonhove.gov.uk to arrange a call or visit www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. The team are holding regular virtual information sessions.

Fostering – is it the right time for you?

By | Fostering and adoption

Brighton & Hove City Council know that the decision to become a Foster Carer can take years, and a lot of careful thought, consideration and research. Foster Carers have a shared motivation and desire to make a difference but come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and often choose to begin their fostering journey at unique and differing life stages. Many will hold back until the ‘time is right’, so here we look at some of the most common fostering circumstances.

We took early retirement
Martin, 64 and Liz, 60 took early retirement when Martin sold his business, and quickly experienced a “change in lifestyle” and a “growing void”. Martin says “I went from being extremely busy, to finding I had a list of things to do that were quick to complete, leaving me in a void when I’d finished. I missed the challenge of problem solving.”

The couple weren’t ready to take things easy and wanted to take on another challenge. They now enjoy fostering teenagers because it is a “familiar stage of parenting”. Liz says, “It doesn’t seem that long ago that our sons were teenagers” and “having teenagers keeps me young, it’s got me back into real life!”

Martin says, “Teenagers are exploring where they want to go and they’re discovering what they want to do with their life. They’re very interesting to talk to because they’ve got ideas that make you sit up and think maybe they’re right, maybe I’m stuck in my ways. And it’s refreshing!”

The idea of fostering is often dismissed because people believe they are too old, however this is one of the most common myths about who can and can’t become a Foster Carer. There is no official upper age limit for Foster Carers and in fact Brighton & Hove City Council believe older people make excellent carers as they bring life experience to the role.

We don’t have children of our own, but we have plenty of experience to share Sarah, 33, and Gemma, 35, don’t have children of their own, but both worked professionally in childcare roles. They talked about fostering since the day they met, and each grew up with it in their families, so once they had married and settled down they thought “it’s now or never!”

They remember, “Our Assessing Social Worker visited our family and friends, and also our place of work. Having no children of our own, she needed to see how we interacted with children in our care. For extra child care practice, we borrowed our niece and nephew for sleepovers. We were very popular!”

It’s true that you will need some childcare experience to foster, but this does not have to have been gained through parenthood. To gain the childcare experience required, you need to understand how it feels to be fully responsible for a child overnight and on a regular basis.

We wanted to make a difference as a family
Sarah, Stephen and their two children aged 11 and seven began fostering a year ago. Fostering has been a positive experience for them all and Sarah says she is proud of the “wonderful compassion, kindness and maturity” that her children have displayed.

Sarah wanted to be able to spend more time at home, so she reduced her hours to part-time and applied to foster school-aged children. She says “the children love having me around so much more. I love having a busy home and I love having kids around, so fostering felt like the obvious option for us as it means we are able to help other children who are in need.”

Concern about how fostering might impact younger birth children can sometimes hold people back but having other children in the house can often be a considerable advantage. Sarah and Stephen have found that the experience has enhanced their children’s social understanding and empathy and brought them all closer together.

Stephen says, “It has turned out to be one of the best things we have ever done – for the children as well as for Sarah and myself.”

Brighton & Hove City Council ensure there is lots of support in place for the sons and daughters of foster carers. As well as regular day trips and activities, a team of Fostering Support Officers run activities throughout the school holidays which serves not only as an opportunity for birth children to form friendships, but also a well-deserved break for foster carers.

I needed to re-evaluate my life skills and my career path
Dave, 45, gained valuable experience through his 15 year career as a youth worker, but felt the time was right for him to help change the future of one young person at a time. “I loved my job, but I love being a Foster Carer even more. I’ve been able to use my professional experience to help guide the young people in my care.”

Choosing fostering as a career allows you the opportunity to work in a field where you can directly change a child’s life for the better. And for many people, fostering is life-changing not just for the child in care, but for the carer, too.

There are a wide range of professions, such as teaching, nursing, and emergency services that provide the skillsets that can enhance your ability to foster, but that’s not to say that office workers cannot make great foster carers too.

Beverly, 39, felt unfulfilled and unhappy in her role as a sales executive, so took a new direction in life as a foster carer. “I felt sick of feeling like what I was doing wasn’t enough – it all felt very meaningless and I wanted to make a difference.”

She received extensive training to ensure she had the skills and expertise to feel confident in her new role as a Foster Carer. She says, “The training was incredibly thorough and I’ve felt supported at every step”.

It’s important to remember though, that becoming a Foster Carer does not have to mean giving up employment altogether. It’s true that foster carers are expected to be available to care for children, but depending on your circumstances, you can sometimes foster and continue to work flexible part-time or even full-time hours; it just may make a difference to the type of fostering that you can do.

When my children left home, I needed to fill the void
When Nick and Felicity’s children left home, the time felt right for them to make a difference as foster carers.

Felicity reflects “I used to be quite a busy mum but suddenly I didn’t have so much to do with my time. We’ve always had an open house, full of children and I was bought up in that way too. So, when the children left, I thought what am I going to do? I didn’t want to go into retirement because I didn’t feel old enough.”

The couple urge others whose children have headed off to university to consider filling their ‘empty nests’ by becoming foster parents too. “We felt devastated when our son Sam moved to London for university but caring for our seven year old foster daughter has been such a positive experience.”

For some parents, children leaving home is a liberating time, but many find it difficult to adjust to the sudden emptiness and space. Fostering is a great opportunity for people whose own children are moving on in their lives. Felicity says, “I had so much more ‘Mum’ left in me.”

Brighton & Hove City Council Foster Carers foster children and young people in all sorts of difference circumstances. Whether they are retired, looking for a change in career, channelling professional experience into a fostering role, adjusting to life at home without their birth children or wanting to take on fostering as a family, they all share the same desire to make a difference.

If the time is right for you to open up your home to a child in need, Brighton & Hove City Council would love to hear from you.

To learn more about becoming a Foster Carer e-mail fosteringrecruitment@brighton-hove.gov.uk to arrange a call or visit www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. The team are holding regular virtual information sessions.

It’s a family affair

By | family, Finance, Fostering and adoption, Uncategorized

The sons and daughters of foster carers play a vital role in fostering; they contribute hugely towards the success of fostering placements and make a valuable difference to fostered siblings as they settle into their new home.

Fostering is a life changing decision and should be considered and thought about as a family. Sometimes, the perceived impact of fostering on birth children prevents families from finding out more as they feel they need to wait until their children are older, however for many of the families who foster for Brighton & Hove City Council, the experience has been positive and rewarding.

Hannah (12) and Louis (16) have been fostering with their mum and dad for seven years. When they began, aged five and nine, they weren’t sure what to expect but they are now wonderful examples of the compassion, kindness and maturity essential to the success of a fostering placement.

Louis remembers, “It was a really long time ago when we first started – there was a sense of nervousness, but I thought it was exciting. I knew I was looking forward to meeting whoever came to live with us.”

Hannah was much younger when the family’s fostering journey began but remembers getting to know everyone involved in the assessment process. The pair would draw and write about some things they were looking forward to and were encouraged to talk about themselves; their likes, their worries and their hopes.

“Our Assessing Social Worker would sit us down, sometimes with Mum and Dad, sometimes without, and go through the process to make sure we were OK. I remember we had to talk about what we’re like, and they’d tell us what the kids could be like.”

For Louis, the best thing about fostering is the first moments of a child’s arrival into his home. He enjoys talking to them, learning about them and finding out about what they like to do. “I soon found out the foster child we have now really likes playing Mario. I said hey, we have a Wii, do you want to go and play?” Louis says that further down the line it gets even better “because then you really know them. They’ll come up to you and ask hey, do you want to do this or hey do you want to that? It becomes a real connection I guess.”

Hannah has found it hard at times to see children move on, but has a close relationship with her social worker, who visits her frequently; “She’s always there to make sure I am OK and I know the children will be going to a nice home or back to their family.”

Louis says, “If we need to talk, there’s always someone there – we’re never left in the dark.”

The support in place for sons and daughters of foster carers also includes regular day trips and activities. A team of Brighton & Hove City Council Fostering Support Officers run activities throughout all of the school holidays, for birth children and foster children alike. The trips are a treat for the kids, who get an opportunity to form friendships with children in similar circumstances, and a well-deserved break for foster carers.

Louis talks excitedly about one of the most popular trips. “A group of us kids go to Chessington, to have an entire day there, and then we get back for a bit of pizza. There’s loads of activities, be it for foster children, or children like us, so we’re all in included and we have a really fun day out.”

Reflecting on their seven years as a foster family, Hannah and Louis both feel that fostering has bought them closer together.

Hannah says “I feel like it’s definitely made me and my brother a lot closer and it’s definitely made us a lot closer as a family. We talk to each other a lot more now.”

Louis says “It’s taught us to understand and respect others. It’s made me who I am today, not all on my own, I’ve had help from everyone around me, but it’s been really good. I now work in a primary school. It’s my first job. I’ve taken my love of fostering and taken it out into the wider world, looking after 30 kids at an after-school club! It’s definitely made me who I am, and I do what I love and enjoy.”

Fostering younger children with an earlier bedtime means the family can enjoy time together in the evenings, watching a movie or playing a board game. They are keen campers and if it’s not possible for the children in their care to join them on their trips, they call upon respite carers to help. Hannah says, “The children always go to the same respite carer, so they feel comfortable when they go.”

Louis feels that fostering “makes you a better person and brings your family together.” His advice to parents who want to explore fostering but feel unsure how to begin the conversation with their birth children is to “let them know you’re still going to be their mum and dad. Nothing is going to be severely affected, it’s still going to be your family – just with extra people.”

If you feel you could make a difference by becoming a fostering family, you can find further information and details of upcoming information events by visiting
www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. Alternatively, please call 01273 295444 to speak directly with a member of the team.

Could you provide Supported Lodgings?

By | family, Fostering and adoption, Relationships

Brighton & Hove City Council is continually seeking people from all walks of life to provide safe and supportive homes for vulnerable children and young people. From short-term and respite care, to long-term foster care and Supported Lodgings, all you need is a spare room and a genuine desire to make a difference.

Brighton & Hove City Council welcomes applications from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds and encourages families,
couples and single people to apply. Similarly, the young people they seek placements for come from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.

Graeme has been providing Supported Lodgings care for almost a year. He says “I have a full-time career, my own hobbies, my own pastimes, my own friends. Being a Supported Lodgings Carer hasn’t interrupted my life. In fact it’s augmented my life.”

One of the main differences between Supported Lodgings and foster care is that the young person is considered a member of your household rather than a member of your family. It is also easier to combine full-time work and Supported Lodgings compared to fostering.

Graeme’s parents took his cousin in from a broken home when Graeme was a teenager, so he’s had some experience of helping a younger person in need and setting them on the right path. Since then he has always wanted to foster, but felt he needed to be within a ‘couple scenario’. However, as he found out more, he realised he could do it on his own. “I’m able to hold down a full-time job and still be there to give a young person some direction in life.”

Michelle has also been providing Supported Lodgings care for almost a year. She feels rewarded because she is making a difference to a young person’s life. “They enjoy staying in my home, and they thrive in different areas. I wanted to make a difference.”

Graeme and Michelle provide an opportunity for young people (18+ care leavers and 16/17 year olds at risk of homelessness)
to live in the home of someone who will help them develop the practical skills and emotional maturity needed for independent living. For example, the young people they care for may need help with getting into education, training or work, managing money, shopping, learning to cook and do housework, attending appointments, building confidence or managing relationships.

Graeme says being a Supported Lodgings carer is like “being a sounding board for young people, giving them direction and teaching them about budgeting. It’s helping them to make the correct life choices.” He doesn’t tell his placement what to do; instead they talk through the options. “It’s his life and his decisions. It’s about giving direction not instruction.”

Both Graeme and Michelle like and respect young people and have an understanding of some of the issues they may face. They have the time and flexibility to offer advice in a safe and supportive environment.

Becoming a Supported Lodgings carer will take approximately three to four months. The assessment will look at your lifestyle, finances and experience, and it will include a visit your home and statutory checks on you and members of your household.

Graeme recalls “The assessment for Supported Lodgings is a lot easier, it’s a lot simpler and a lot shorter than you might think. You’ve got to prove you’ve got the right experience but it’s nothing to be scared of, it was really easy and I quite enjoyed it!”

Michelle says “It was absolutely fine. Someone will assess you at your home, but they are very friendly; we’re all human at the end of the day! Obviously you have to have the right skills, so it’s good to understand what you’re going into.”

As a Supported Lodgings carer, you will be part of a team that also includes the young person’s key worker and other professionals – you will not be on your own.

Michelle says “there is a lot of support and a lot of regular meetings. There’s always someone at the end of the phone and there is very good training.”

Graeme approaches his role as a Supported Lodgings carer with an open mind. “I didn’t have a fixed concept of what I thought it was going to be like as I’m the kind of person that deals with situations as they come up. Some aspects of it have been a lot easier than I thought they might have been – and some other bits are harder. I’m a few months in and at no point have I thought ‘what have I done?”

Graeme’s advice is to “find out more. Go to one of the open evenings, speak to people, talk to them about how it would fit in with your life. Supported Lodgings is not 24/7 parenting, it’s being there in the background as the safety net and being a gentle guide through life.”

Michelle says “if you’ve got a spare room, if you’ve got the skills, if you’re patient and if you’re passionate about supporting young people for a brighter outlook, I would recommend it very highly, it’s very rewarding.”

If you are interested in becoming a Supported Lodgings carer or foster carer for Brighton & Hove City Council, you can find out about upcoming information events by visiting www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk.
Please call 01273 295444 to speak directly with a member of the team.