On any one day there are more than 62,000 children living with foster families across the UK. It is estimated that a further 8,600 foster carers are needed this year alone to provide the supportive, stable and caring home for these sometimes vulnerable children need. Women UK explores the facts about Fostering.
Every Child Matters (ECM) is an initiative from the Government which was first published in 2003. The biggest change resulting from Every Child Matters was the 5 Outcomes, which are now an important part of the Inspection Framework by Ofsted on Fostering Agencies.
The 5 outcomes are described as follows:
Being Healthy: This includes ensuring every child receives the appropriate medical care, as well as encouraging a healthy lifestyle, receiving a balanced diet, being involved in activities and sports, drug and alcohol awareness and sexual health issues.
Staying Safe: This includes the Fostering organisations responsibility to carry out appropriate checks on foster carers and staff, and links in with relevant child protection legislation. It also concerns children’s ability to assess and manage risk, being free from harm and abuse or exposure to violence and crime.
Enjoying and Achieving: Education is critically important in the success of any foster placement and is a key element of the care arrangement for every child, regardless of their capacity or ability. Further elements of this outcome include school attendance, extracurricular activities, and very importantly having fun.
Making A Positive Contribution: Under this Every Child Matters outcome, it is important to be part of society, to be involved in social groups, to have acquaintances and friends, receiving and giving back, having a sense of belonging and understand (age appropriate) the society we live in.
Achieving Economic Well-being: For children in care this often includes engaging in further education e.g. college, apprenticeships and University. It is important that children in care learn principal of effort (work) and reward (certificate, salary diploma, degree etc). Foster carers are encouraged to have high expectations of every child they look after.
Have you ever thought of fostering? Fostering is not easy, you need to have the energy, patience and dedication to care. But it gives you the opportunity to make a huge difference to children’s lives. Fostering also has many forms. Foster carers can provide care in emergencies, caring for a child for just a few days, or perhaps over a weekend to give the main foster carer a break, known as ‘respite’ foster care. Or it can be for longer periods, sometimes throughout a child’s formative years up to the age of 21.
Whether it’s overnight or for a number of years, foster carers can provide the support, stability and care a fostered child needs. Foster carers play an important role in the team of professionals, including social workers, working with the child to make sure they get the care and support they need. From attending school and health appointments to taking part in extra curricular activities, foster carers look after the children in their care on a day-to-day basis.
Fostering services across the UK need to recruit a diverse range of foster carers to reflect the children in care and offer them as much placement choice as possible to children and young people.
Will I get paid? Yes, the rates for fostering a child vary depending on the age and location of the child. For example, fostering a baby in London will pay you £137 per week and for a 16-17 year old, £209. In the South East the same age groups pay £131 and £201, whereas the rest of the UK, the rates are £119 and £179 respectively.
You could get more if the child has specific needs or you have certain skills. There is also a fixed tax exemption of up to £10,000 per year (less if for a shorter period) which is shared equally among any foster carers in the same household. This means you don’t have to pay tax on the first £10,000 income you make from fostering.
So who can be a foster parent?
There are no skills or formal qualifications needed to become a foster parent. The most important quality is the want to be able to help the children that need fostering and to be able to provide them with a safe and nurturing environment.
– You can be a parent already, or have no children of your own
– You can be single, married or have a partner
– You can be claiming benefits or in work
– You can own your house or rent (as long as it’s stable)
– You can apply to foster whatever your cultural background and religious beliefs
– Your sexuality won’t prevent you from fostering
Applicants can apply from the age of 18, although some fostering services will have higher limits and you can continue fostering past retirement age, as long as your health is good. In the majority of cases you will need a spare room.
If suited, what a wonderful contribution to society, a vulnerable child and the best job satisfaction there is! So if you think this is something you want to explore, contact www.gov.uk/fostering.