Foster Carer Support
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This section ensures that Hull Foster Carers, Fostering Social Workers and placing Social Workers understand the minimum standard of support that we, as a fostering service, set for each foster carer household. Attention is drawn to the fact that these are minimum standards for Hull Fostering and that support to the foster carer household should reflect the needs of that household over and above these minimum standards.
Hull Fostering offer high quality support to our carers and our Fostering Social Workers work alongside our carers to ensure that they provide our looked after children with good quality care that meets their needs. The care that our foster carers offer will take into consideration the needs of the child and their wishes and feelings. Foster carers should also promote individual care for each child and supports children's safety, health, enjoyment, education and preparation for the future.
RELEVANT GUIDANCETransfer of Foster Carers Protocol (Fostering Network)
1. Support to foster carers from their named Fostering Social Worker
Each fostering household will be supported and supervised by a named and qualified Social Worker who will meet with the all approved carers in the household and other household members, as appropriate on a regular basis. These meetings will take the form of Supervision Visits to the household and will an opportunity to supervise the work being undertaken by the foster carers including how the carers are meeting the child's needs, alongside the development of the carers' competencies and skills.
It is important that the Fostering Social Worker informs the foster carers of all Hull Fostering procedures and they are aware of, understand and operate within all regulations and standards.
Foster carers should feel able to call on their Fostering Social Worker to support them over the telephone, at their home, or as their advocate or support in professional meetings conducted as part of the business of Fostering or caring for Looked After Children, such as Planning meetings, Child Protection Conferences and planning for adoption.
Foster carers may require differing levels of support at different times in their carer and this is reflected in the minimum standards of support offered to them. It is accepted that some carers with many years of experience require less guidance and support on a weekly basis than newly approved carers and those carers who are experiencing some difficulties. Setting minimum standard of support allows both foster carers and their social workers to work flexibility with their households dependent on the level of support required and allows more time and energy to be given to those carers who require it.
1.1 Support levels
The level of support carers will receive is discussed in supervision with the carer and put in writing with them.
Typical characteristics that would lead to a lower minimum support package are:
- Designated long term foster placements;
- Carers providing limited placements i.e. respite or day care;
- Experienced and skilled carers;
- Carers with robust support networks.
Characteristics of fostering households who would require a higher support package are:
- Caring for children with complex need(s);
- Carer facing an allegation or serious complaint;
- Carer facing personal difficulties i.e. ill health, bereavement, separation;
- New Carer (within one year of approval);
- Carers where a Maintenance Meeting has been required.
Carers on a lower support package would receive as a minimum:
- Supervision visit every other month which need not always be held in the family home;
- Telephone contact appropriate to the support needs of the carers;
- Support or advocacy at meetings, as and when required;
- Any additional support calls or visits as appropriate to the needs of the foster carer household.
Carers who would benefit from a higher support package would receive, as a minimum:
- Supervision visits every month, preferably held within the foster carers' home;
- Telephone contact fortnightly;
- Support or advocacy at meetings;
- Mentor to be offered to all new carers and considered for existing carers.
It is important that foster carers and their supervising social workers understand that this is minimum requirement and is designed to set a service standard above which support and guidance should be offered according to the needs of the fostering household.
2. Support to carers from other foster carers
2.1 Foster Carer Support Groups
Foster Carer Support Groups are coordinated across most of Hull and in other areas where there is a grouping of foster carers, living within travelling distance of each other, for example in the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Lincs. There is also a male carer's support group. Foster Carer Support Group serves to offer an opportunity for carers to meet with their peers in their local area, share experiences and develop their skills.
Support Groups will always be initiated by a member of the Hull Fostering team with a key, active foster carer in the locality. The agenda for each meeting will be known and distributed in advance to all carers in the locality. Guest speakers will give the carers opportunity to learn about specific areas of practice or different teams within their local authority or Hull City Council, for example, the Adoption service, Leaving Care or Training and development standards for carers.
The key fostering link will hand over the running of the group, over time, to the nominated foster carer lead but will still be available for guidance and practical support, as and when needed.
Each support group will have a representative on the Foster Carer Consultation Group.
2.2 Foster Carer Consultation Group
The Foster Carer Consultation Group is the key vehicle for the voice of Hull foster carers on service developments, best practice and new ideas. We seek to reflect the diversity of our carer population in Hull and East Riding and as such the Consultation Group has the following categories for nominations.
- 5 carer representatives from Local Support Groups;
- 1 Level 3 carer;
- New Carer (approved less than 2 years);
- Carer who has been approved for 10 years or more;
- Carer who is interested in special educational needs;
- Short Break Carer or Family and Friends carer;
- Carer who looks after babies/adoption;
- Carer who looks after siblings;
- Male Carer.
The group meets for 2 hours every month chaired by a manager from the Hull Fostering Service. Membership of the group lasts for 2 years; nominations are then sought from our foster carer households by a nomination form.
2.3 Mentor Support
Mentoring within the fostering service is when a foster carer helps another foster carer to achieve something. More specifically, something that is important to them. It is about giving help and support in a non-threatening way, in a manner that the recipient will appreciate and value and that will empower them to move forward with confidence towards what they want to achieve. Mentoring is also concerned with creating an informal environment in which a foster carer can feel encouraged to discuss their needs and circumstances openly and in confidence with their mentor who is in a position to be of positive help to them.
Our aim at Hull Fostering is to provide newly approved foster carers with peer support from an experienced foster carer during their first year of fostering. A mentor will be appointed once a carer has been approved at panel.
At the early stages, a mentor will enter a mentor and mentee agreement which will agree upon duration of the mentoring programme, projected frequency of meetings, maximum length of each meeting, mentoring activities (this may include expectations from each about the relationship, information that can be shared and learning objectives.
In addition to the mentoring scheme support is also available to existing foster carers in circumstances were additional support is deemed needed. In these cases foster carers are asked to request this service through their Fostering Social Worker.
3. Out of Hours Support
3.1 Merlin Bridge out of hours support
Merlin Bridge is a residential service providing out of hours support to foster carers including accommodation for up to four young people aged 10-15 years of age who are unable to continue living with their foster family or need of a break within their current foster placement.
Merlin Bridge aims to function as an ordinary home where young people have time and space to prepare for a return to an exiting or new foster placement. Through offering support, both on an emergency basis and via on-going support packages, the home hopes to prevent the need for young people to experience placement moves. To facilitate this support, the home will work in partnership with carers/families to enable them to address and overcome turbulent times.
Foster carers are able to contact Merlin Bridge for advice or support if a child fails to return home or are presenting difficult behaviours. Merlin Bridge understands the pressures of caring for a looked after children. We are on the end of the telephone to listen and help in any way they can, sometimes you may just want a listening ear and to be reassured you are doing the right thing.
Merlin Bridge offers support packages to foster families which are unique to each family. Referrals are made by your Fostering Social Worker
Ad-hoc support via the telephone is available to all foster carers as and when required. Merlin Bridge is based in Bilton Grange, East Hull and their telephone number is (01482) 783688
3.2 Emergency Duty Team out of hours support
The Emergency Duty Team provides out of hours support and can be contacted on 01482 300304. The Team provides an emergency service, where intervention is needed by the Department outside of normal office hours to protect children without delay.
4.Other Support Opportunities
4.1 Foster Carer Training and Development
Hull City Council is dedicated in offering high quality training to meet your needs as a foster carer. We offer a wide range of courses including evening and Saturdays to fit around your family routines.
There is an expectation that foster carers will attend and participate in training throughout their fostering career. This will be monitored by your Fostering Social Worker. Supervisions and your annual review will give you the opportunity to discuss your training needs.
4.2 Sessional Worker support
Sessional Workers provide support and assistance to foster carers, supporting children in particular tasks, activities or by giving the foster carer respite for a number of hours per week.
Sessional Workers have a variety of experience of working with children and families. They will be expected to undertake training in Safeguarding Children, Child Development and any other training that is specific to their own development or a requirement as part of a specific piece of work with a child.
If a child requires support from a Sessional Worker a meeting will be arranged with the child, the foster carer and the foster carers Fostering Social Worker to complete a Sessional Worker Agreement. Sessional support is time limited and should continue for as long as the child or the carers requires it and it is meeting a clear need within the household. This will be reviewed every 3 months, to ensure that the right support is being offered.
4.3 Breaks from caring
Hull Fostering fully understands the demands of caring for children, whether they are your own birth children or other people's children living with you and your family. We support out foster carers in many ways to be able to have a break from fostering, to recharge your batteries, to enable you spend time with your own children or to attend important appointments or events that would be unsuitable for all the children to attend with you.
In most cases, our foster carers have already identified close family members or neighbours who form part of their usual support network for babysitting or looking after children for a few hours during the day. This is usually discussed during approval and appropriate police checks are undertaken ensure that carers support networks are safe for all children not just Hull's looked after children. Hull fostering will pay an allowance for each time a babysitter is required, but this should be discussed in advance with the Fostering Social Worker.
In some circumstances, working with a Sessional worker could allow the carers a break from fostering for a few hours; it is enjoyable for the child or children and can be flexible to meet the needs of the household, often at short notice.
For carers who require additional day care, this is arranged in consultation with the fostering social worker and other approved Hull carers will offer to care for a child during the day.
Some carers may wish to have an extended break from caring and to support our foster carers, we recruit, assess and approve Respite Carers who will care for a child up to 28 days, to allow their usual carers to have a break or take a holiday.
Foster carers are actively encouraged to make use of out-of-school activities and free nursery placements for the children who live with them. Again, this should be agreed between the fostering social worker, the child's social worker and the foster carer.