Foster Parent Handbook
Colour Code Key:
Fosterplus Policies, Procedures and Guidance
Legislation and Government Guidance
General Sources and Good Practice Information
Referrals for placements come via our referral officer based in Scotland. The referral officer has a direct phone line for this purpose and has built up a relationship with each local authority. However no placement will go ahead without the prior agreement of the Service Manager of the team. In addition local authorities have direct access to the Polaris Vacancy Hub which is online and gives an up to date picture of vacancies across the group.
The referral officer will regularly update the Vacancy Hub which is accessible to all Local Authorities showing our current vacancies and, by clicking on the name of the foster parent, it will open up their foster parent profile giving a lot more information about you and your family.
Foster Parent Profile
As part of the initial assessment of foster parents, a foster parent profile is prepared which is a brief document describing the family and their circumstances, experience and skills, which is then sent by the Referrals officer to local authorities when an initial match with a child is identified. Foster parents and their supervising social workers should regularly review and update the foster parent profile, to ensure that it accurately represents the foster parents. The profiles are also sent to Local Authorities to promote specific skills as well as being forwarded on a weekly basis to give an up to date picture of our availability.
Child Friendly profile
All foster families should have prepared either a ‘welcome book’ or a ‘child friendly profile’ that can be shared with a child as part of the matching process, to tell them about the foster parents in child-friendly language.
The Referrals Officer is the point of referral for potential placements from local authorities, during normal working hours. Referred children may already be in a foster placement and needing to move, or they may be new to foster care. The Referrals Officer will be provided with information by the local authority regarding the child and will use this information to match with possible foster parents. The team will consider the child’s needs, including factors such as gender, culture, language, religion, ethnic origin, disability, sexuality and legal situation. We may decide that, given the child’s needs, we do not have a suitable family with a vacancy. If so, we will advise the local authority that we cannot help on this occasion. The Referrals officer details are:
If they identify a potential foster family, the referrals officer will usually consult first the supervising social worker who in turn will discuss with the foster parent. This will enable the foster parents to form a view of the child's circumstances and to consider the child’s identified needs in terms of their own strengths and capacities. It is fine at this point for foster parents to decide that they do not think this is a suitable placement for them to take. The SSW will keep the referrals officer updated.
If everyone is in agreement that this might be a suitable placement match, the referrals officer will provide the referring local authority with full information regarding the foster parents, including their profile and welcome book (which should be made available to the child by the placing authority’s social worker before any placement is made). Foster parents need to understand that for any placement, details of several potential families may be considered by the placing local authority. The local authority will try to ensure that the child's racial origin, cultural and linguistic background is met, so far as is practicable. The child's religion, likes and dislikes should also be taken into account.
Consultation will also take place with other fostered children who are members of the (potential) foster parent’s household and their placing authority to ensure they are in agreement with any new placement arrangement.
Once the match has been agreed, the referrals officer will refer the local authority to the supervising social worker for further discussions, including planning arrangements for introductory meetings and further sharing of information. If possible, the Child Friendly Profile should be shared with the child prior to meeting the foster parents and the Family Safer Caring Plan shared during an introductory visit so they are familiar with the household ‘rules’. A judgement will be required if the child can deal with this information at the initial meeting, but if not it should happen as soon as possible thereafter. As part of the planning process, arrangements are put in place to resolve any gaps or shortfalls which are identified which could jeopardise the successful outcome of the placement. These could include additional training for the foster parent or practical arrangements such as transport.
Matching and risk assessment
Ensuring the safety of foster children and all members of their foster family is of paramount importance. It is therefore essential that the matching process includes consideration of any potential risks to the safety of individuals. This will determine whether there are any known risks that a child may present, either to themselves or to others.
The accuracy of the initial assessment will depend on the quality of information made available to the referrals officer about a particular child. We should be made aware of identified known risks a child may present, but this should always be viewed with some caution. It is quite possible that a child will show behaviours that can be identified as risks, only after a placement has taken place. Where there is evidence for concern, Fosterplus will robustly request copies of any existing up to date written risk assessments or initiate the completion of a new Risk Assessment within five working days of placement.
The Individual Safeguarding Risk Assessment
The Individual Safeguarding Risk Assessment is a specific written, caring strategy tailored to the needs of a particular child. There are two version of the Individual Safeguarding Risk Assessment template:
- One for use for children aged 4 and over
- One for use babies and infants from birth up to their 4th birthday, which includes detailed information and compliance with Safer Sleeping guidance
Each placement is individual and different from any other and therefore a child’s Risk Assessment needs to be considered in a flexible and adaptable approach. However, some core factors should always be considered namely:
- Is the child subject to a child protection plan?
- Are there any suicidal/serious self-harming issues?
- Any significant bullying of others or being bullied?
- Does the child present a risk to other children in terms of abuse?
- Are there known behavioural difficulties?
- Is there a likelihood the child may go missing?
- Is the child at risk of sexual exploitation? (This may trigger completion of a Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment)
- Do substance and/or alcohol abuse create any vulnerability?
- Does online behaviour indicate a vulnerability to grooming/grooming others or accessing unsuitable sites/posting inappropriate images?
- Any risk from birth family or others, including abduction, honour-based violence or radicalisation?
- Are there any specific health issues?
- Is the child at risk of being trafficked?
- Is there any threat of violence to foster parents?
- Any risk of allegations against foster parents?
The supervising social worker and foster parents should complete an Individual Safe Care Agreement for the child and any risks identified in the risk assessment should be reflected in both the child’s Individual Safe Care Agreement and the Foster Family Safer Caring Plan, which should always be reviewed whenever there is a change to the household composition.
Where issues relating to the safety of any of the household members (including the foster child) are identified, Fosterplus will ensure the conclusions are acted upon.
Risk Assessments and Risk Management
Fosterplus’s policy on Risk Assessment and Risk Management can be found on CHARMS uploaded files
Review of risk assessments
Once an initial risk assessment has been completed it needs to be reviewed at least annually and more frequently if new significant information comes to light or if significant incidents occur which should influence the calculation of risk or the interventions required to manage the risk. New significant information or significant incidents need to be shared with local authorities and other relevant agencies and a copy of the reviewed assessment should be sent to the child’s social worker.
Supervising social workers will ensure that risk assessments are discussed as a set agenda item in supervision with foster parents. It may be at this point that subtle changes or concerns can be picked up through discussion, the meaning interpreted and the level of risk reviewed. It is also an opportunity to ensure that no new information has been lost and that the current assessment of risk remains accurate.
Safer Sleeping Arrangements
Fosterplus has a Safer Sleeping Procedure, which provides clear and consistent evidence-based information regarding safer sleep. It provides guidance on how to safely sleep a baby to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) which is commonly known as cot death. The procedure includes links to The Lullaby Trust and NHS guidance which must be routinely accessed to ensure that the latest information is obtained. The guidance must be followed for all sleep periods, not just at night.
The procedure has been shared with all foster parents who provide care for babies and infants and the staff supporting them. Supervising Social Workers have talked through all of the safer sleeping guidance to ensure that foster parents, and themselves, are confident that foster parents and / or parents have or are able to implement safer sleeping practices.
The Referral Officer will email links to the procedure and the Lullaby Trust safer sleep guidance to foster parents prior to any baby or infant being placed.
At the start of any new arrangement for the placement of a baby or infant, the Supervising Social Worker will ensure that the foster parent(s) have received this information and understand the safer sleeping procedure. For Parent and Child placements, the Supervising Social Worker will ensure that the parent(s) receives this information and understands how to follow the Safer Sleeping guidance. If a placement begins ‘out of hours’ or in an emergency the on-call social worker will take responsibility for this.
Sleeping arrangements, including the responsibility for, and the frequency of, checks on baby sleeping day and night will be documented as part of the placement planning and agreement process.
All arrangements will be fully detailed in the child specific safer caring plan and any associated risk assessments.
The following key pieces of guidance are an excerpt from the Safer Sleeping Procedure. Foster parents must refer to the procedure for the full guidance, which also includes specific guidance in relation to twins and co-bedding and bedroom safety advice for infants:
- Babies must sleep in the same room as their care giver for at least their first 6 months (for premature babies it is 6 months from their due date and it may be even longer for low birth weight babies.
- The safest place for babies to sleep is in their own moses basket or cot; care givers must never fall asleep with baby (sofa, chair, beanbag, caregivers bed etc.).
- Babies must be laid on their backs for every sleep
- Babies environments must be kept smoke free day and night
- Walkways around adult beds and cots / moses baskets must be clear and allow airflow to circulate
- Babies must not be allowed to get too hot whilst sleeping
- lightweight bedding that is well fitted, not loose and tucked in
- babies heads must never be covered
- bedrooms must be kept at the correct temperature (always check the Lullaby Trust for the very latest advice)
- cots / moses baskets must not be positioned under a window or near a radiator
- Cots / moses baskets must be compliant with British Safety Standards
- New mattresses that are firm, waterproof and well fitted with no raised or soft sides for all babies
- Babies sleep spaces must be flat and clear - no pillows, quilts, bumpers, pods, nests, sleep positioners, cords that baby could grab
- Cot mobiles must not be used for babies 4 months and over, or babies who are starting to become mobile
- Neck cords (used for dummies and biccie pegs) must not be used
- If there is a need to use portable sleep spaces such as moses baskets / travel or carry cots extra padding must not be added and the guidance regarding mattresses must be followed
- Travel cots must not be used in place of a standard cot for permanent or long term use
- Babies must not sleep for long periods in swings or bouncers
- Babies must not sleep for long periods in car seats (maximum of 2 hours)
- Particular care must be taken in relation to premature babies travelling in car seats
If foster parents have any concerns or are unsure about any aspect of safer sleeping then they must seek advice from their Supervising Social Worker, Local Authority Social Worker and / or Health Visitor.
Supervising Social Workers will review sleeping arrangements for babies and infants on the date of placement and during supervisory visits. This will ensure that arrangements continue to be compliant with the very latest guidance.
Foster parents must ensure that any proposed changes to sleeping arrangements are fully discussed and agreed by the Supervising Social Worker, Local Authority Social Worker and Health Visitor, or in an emergency, with the Out of Hours Social Worker. Foster parents and Supervising Social Workers must ensure the detail of the arrangements and evidence of the agreement of all parties is recorded on the child’s record on Charms.
Short Break Sleeping Arrangements
All arrangements for short break care of a baby must continue to be in line with the safer sleeping procedure. All bedding and travel cot/crib must be provided by the baby’s substantive foster parent and transported to the short break foster parent. The Supervising Social Worker of the short break foster parent will view the sleeping arrangements in accordance with the same process as with all new placements i.e. that the sleeping arrangements have been viewed and are in line with the safer sleeping procedure. The Supervising Social Worker of the short break foster parent will ensure that all parties understand and implement the safer sleeping procedure, taking into account any particular needs of the baby as advised by the Supervising Social Worker, the Local Authority Social Worker or the substantive foster parent.
Family Safer Caring Plan
Children who have experienced abusive relationships within their own family may think all families function in the same way. Therefore, they are likely to replicate the same behaviours when they join a foster family. One of the ways such children can begin to re-learn healthier family relationships is by using the Family Safer Caring Plan which should be shared with a child at the beginning and during their placement. All families live by a set of rules, some of which are set by parents and some which are negotiated between family members. Usually, everybody knows what the rules are even though they may not be spoken about very often. For a young person joining a foster family this can be bewildering; the Family Safer Caring Plan help foster children understand the rules of the foster family they are joining.
Family Safer Caring Plan
Every foster family should have a relevant family safer caring plan. The template for this can be located on CHARMS Download.
Not all placements can be planned and children are sometimes taken into care quickly, usually late at night, when it is essential to remove them immediately from a particular situation of neglect or danger. The duty supervising social worker will directly contact a family in this situation. Foster parents who are willing and able to offer these short notice placements must be available to give immediate and unreserved comfort and support to children and young people in what can be a frightening and extremely distressing situation. Foster parents may also have to work with limited information for a period. Emergency placements may only last for a few days, but may extend into interim placements of several weeks or months. They are subject to the same placement planning requirements as other placements and therefore lack of information should be a temporary situation only. Please note that Fosterplus does not make emergency Parent and Child placements.
Information to foster parents
Foster parents should feel reassured that essential information for providing safe care to the child will be available to them at the start of the placement.
We know that a placement is much more likely to succeed if foster parents know in advance about behaviours that have been a cause for concern in the past and how these have been successfully (or unsuccessfully) managed. The local authority should inform foster parents of past behaviours such as fire setting or sexually abusive incidents which might put their home or their family at risk. Knowing that a previous placement has broken down and why is also important information for foster parents who have to try to understand how a child is attempting to make sense of difficult and confusing experiences.
Fosterplus will collect the information initially, as well as ensure there is an initial risk assessment and we will pass all this information on to the foster parents. We will also regularly follow up with responsible authorities any gaps in information. These are duties placed upon us by fostering regulations and national minimum standards and we take them very seriously.
What information should you ask for?
There is some essential information that foster parents should have before the placement takes place. The care plan and placement plan will provide these details, but these documents may not be available at the outset. Foster parents should make sure that they have been given answers to most if not all of the following questions by the Placements Team or their supervising social worker:
- Child’s Name.
- Date of birth.
- Ethnicity and religion of child.
- How long the placement is expected to be for.
- Whether the child is subject to a legal order, or accommodated.
- Whether the child is subject to a child protection plan.
- Why the child is looked after or needing to be looked after.
- Is this the child’s first experience of being looked after?
- Where are the child's parents, brothers and sisters?
- Whether there will be contact with relatives.
- What the child's health is like - are they on any medication or do they have any medical conditions?
- Whether the child has any special needs.
- What school the child attends. Do they need to change school?
- Whether there are any specific behaviours which may be of concern.
- Whether there are any activities, clubs, sports or talents that it is important to support and encourage.
- If the placement requires children to share a bedroom are there any known risks?
Information to children/young people
Unless an emergency placement makes it impossible, we aim to provide children and young people with information about foster parentss before arrival, in a format appropriate to their age and understanding. This will be a Child Friendly Profile and may include photographs of the proposed foster parentss, their children and pets, as well as the bedroom.
Wherever possible, children are assisted to visit the foster parent’s home and to talk with the foster parents in private prior to a placement decision being made. Whilst a foster child and foster parent should receive written and verbal information about each other from the local authority social worker before a placement is arranged, a face to face meeting is a much better opportunity to find out about each other and can dispel fears and anxieties for all the people involved. Depending on the nature of the placement, it may be appropriate to organise a number of introductory meetings before all involved feel comfortable to proceed.
Fosterplus has a policy which states that, as a general rule, each child will have their own bedroom:
- A birth child of the foster parents will not share a bedroom with a foster child.
- Fostered children should not share a bedroom with other fostered children, unless they are siblings.
- Children in care under the age of two years may share the same bedroom as their foster parents, if appropriate.
These general standards apply to all families who foster for Fosterplus. Any exceptions will apply to specific children and specific relationships, following a risk assessment, and on condition that the sharing of a bedroom is agreed by each child and their responsible authority, and that each child has their own area within the bedroom.
Before approaching responsible authorities to seek agreement for the sharing of a bedroom, Fosterplus will take into account any potential for bullying, any history of abuse or abusive behaviour, the wishes of the children concerned and all other pertinent facts. A bedroom risk assessment will be carried out as part of this process. The final decision as to whether fostered children share a bedroom rests with Fosterplus and the responsible authorities.
Placement Planning Meetings
When a final decision has been agreed for the placement to take place, a placement planning meeting will usually be arranged by Fosterplus with the placing authority. The purpose of the meeting is for all the participants to provide and receive information so that the foster foster parent/s, foster child, parent/s, child’s social worker, and supervising social worker have a clear understanding of the purpose and likely duration of the placement.
It is best for this meeting to take place in the foster home, as an important part of the meeting is for the foster foster parent and foster child to agree on the day to day living arrangements once the placement starts. The meeting will contribute in a key way to the placement plan.
This meeting is also an appropriate opportunity to share the Family Safer Caring Plan.
What is a placement plan?
The child’s placement plan is part of their care plan. Each time a child or young person has a new placement, they should have a new placement plan and it should be regularly reviewed. The placement plan should clarify the foster foster parent’s role, and how the day to day parenting tasks will be shared between the foster foster parent, the local authority and the child’s parents, as well as the financial arrangements for the child’s upbringing. It sets out in detail how the foster placement is intended to contribute to meeting the child’s needs as set out in the care plan.
The placement plan should ensure that the foster foster parent understands the child’s likes, dislikes and routines, and reduce the potential for disputes around decision-making on behalf of children. A lack of clarity, about who does what, can lead to confusion, frustration and placement breakdown.
The placement plan should also ensure that the foster foster parent receives essential information about the child, including details of their health, educational and emotional and behavioural needs, how these may affect the child day to day and appropriate strategies for responding to them. In particular, it is important to identify any behaviour which has been of concern to a child’s previous foster parent and which has contributed to the breakdown of a previous placement.
Timescales for the placement plan
The child’s social worker is responsible for ensuring that a placement plan is drawn up before a child is placed. Where it is not possible to do so, regulations state that a placement plan must be made within five working days of the start of the placement.
The foster parent should be involved in this process as they have to agree to the plan and be given a copy. The best way to achieve an appropriate plan is to hold a placement planning meeting which involves the foster parent, supervising social worker, the child’s social worker and the child and their parent/s.
Fosterplus will ensure that the foster parent is given a copy of the written placement plan as soon as this is provided to us by the responsible authority. If provision of any elements of the care plan is delayed, we will actively follow this up with the responsible authority.
Contents of the placement plan
Most local authorities have developed their own format for recording a placement plan. The basic requirements are laid down in regulations and the placement plan should cover at least the following information:
Current Placement Details - including the expected duration of the arrangements and the steps which should be taken to bring the placement to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with their own family.
Day to Day Care and Routines – as far as possible, the anticipated placement routines for the child/young person, including meal times, bed times, getting up in the morning, school attendance, staying out and coming in times. The expectations around smoking, drinking, household chores, visitors, use of mobile phones and computers. Whether there are any concentration and behaviour issues, including issues of control and restraint. The sanctions that will be used if basic expectations are not met. Whether any specialist equipment is required e.g. for a child with a disability.
Health and Diet – the arrangements made for health (including physical, emotional and mental health) and dental care, including the name and address of the child’s registered medical and dental practitioners (current and proposed), and dietary needs; any arrangements for the giving or withholding of consent to medical or dental examination or treatment.
Education and Training – the arrangements made for education and training, including the name and address of any school at which the child is a registered pupil, the name of the designated teacher at the school, the name and address of any other educational institution the child attends, or of any other person who provides the child with education or training, and - where the child has a coordinated support plan in place - details of the local authority that maintains the plan; the role of the parent/s and foster parent/s regarding communication with the school.
Identity – the arrangements to meet the child/young person’s identity needs, including consideration of gender, religious, cultural, language, disability, communication and racial origin needs; if the placement is trans-racial, how it will meet the child’s needs; the impact of diet, clothing and lifestyle; religious observance, festivals, holidays; personal identity needs arising from gender and sexuality.
Social and Leisure Activities - details of the child/young person’s current hobbies, special interests and leisure activities and how they will be supported in the placement.
Family Time – the arrangements made for contact between the child and any parent and/or person who is not the child’s parent, but who has parental responsibility for them, and any other connected person – type, frequency, timing, venue, transport and supervision; restraining or other relevant Court orders; arrangements for notifying any changes in the arrangements for contact.
Placement Support - the arrangements made for the child’s social worker to visit the child, the frequency of visits and the advice, support and assistance to be available between visits; if an independent visitor is appointed, the arrangements made for them to visit the child; the name and contact details of the IRO, the child’s independent visitor (if one is appointed), the child’s social worker and, if the child is an eligible child, their personal advisor.
Decision Making for Children who are Looked After and Accommodated - Studies and surveys have shown that children in care want to grow up just like everyone else and that means to be able to experience the same things as other children – friendships, activities, holidays and family times. Decision making should support this and not be exercised with such caution and risk-aversion that the
child’s experiences are restricted and controlled beyond what is reasonable and compatible with their needs. However decision making regarding the day to day life of a young person must always take account that the rights of children and the rights and responsibilities of parents are respected and supported, while the welfare and wellbeing of children in care is safeguarded and promoted.
Foster parents will be advised at the outset of a placement as to the day to day decisions that they can make and those that require the approval of the local authority as these may vary from child to child depending on the legislative framework a child is subject to.
Draft Guidance on Decision Making for Foster Parents in Scotland
This draft guidance is intended to provide foster parents with an understanding of decision making about children: who can make decisions and why, what decisions a child can make, and the powers of foster parents to make decisions about the children they are caring for. It is not intended to be a definitive guide to the law and practice. It is a tool to ensure that the rights of children and the rights and responsibilities of parents are respected and supported, while the welfare and wellbeing of children in care is safeguarded and promoted. It is intended to provide foster parents with the confidence to participate effectively in planning and in the care of the child.
This draft guidance can be found at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00488249.pdf
N.B. this guidance may change following the consultation.
Financial Arrangements – the arrangements for the financial support of the child/young person during the placement, including pocket money/personal allowance, clothing, savings arrangements etc.
Consultation – details of who has been involved in the making of the plan.
Beginning a Placement
When the child arrives
We all feel nervous meeting new people. Children are usually wary of strange adults and it may be more concerning if they are not. For a child having to leave their home and meet foster parents may be extremely stressful. When we think in terms of the secure base model, it is easy to see how, not knowing you at all, a child may find it difficult to trust you, or be unsure about what to expect and how to behave. Foster parents need to remain very sensitive and patient, continuing to be available and affirming of the child and mindful of what the child may be thinking and feeling.
It is important that you try to understand how confused and frightened a child may be. Your home may be very different from the child's own home, or previous placement, and things which you take for granted can be bewildering to a child. Meals and other occasions when family members are together may be tense. It will help if you can do the following:
- Start the way you mean to go on.
- Be understanding.
- Accept the child or young person for who they are.
- Be super aware.
- Make sure you have checked the information given to you by the social workers telling you about the child; ask if you need more information.
- Tell the other child(ren) about the new child and keep them involved.
- Have a welcoming tea where everyone can meet each other.
- Remember all children's needs are different.
- Do not treat one child with favouritism.
- Remember the child has parent(s) - talk to the child about them if appropriate and not detrimental or distressing to the child – seek advice from the LA social worker
- If you know them, continue with the routines which the child is used to, such as bedtimes, and use similar words and languages if appropriate.
The first few days
Little things can be initially important in helping a child to relax and start to get to know you. For example, what do they like to drink and eat? Do they have a favourite television programme? What was the child’s routine at home? This is a good starting point to understanding the foster child joining your family and how routines may differ.
A tatty teddy and dirty clothes should not be discarded or immediately washed, because they remain the child's link with their home and family. Smells are particularly important to some children and they usually hate their comforters or soft toys to be washed. Older children may have a comforter, but may be embarrassed about anyone knowing. Never throw away any clothes or possessions that a child brings with them before discussing this with your supervising social worker.
Some ideas to help children adjust to their new home
- Ask what was their lunch box like - would they like a similar one, or a different one?
- Find out whether Mum or Dad, or their previous foster parent, walked them to school or did they go on their own?
- What about jobs around the house - are they used to helping? Would they like to help?
- Did they get any pocket money?
- Did they have a pet? Do they like pets?
- Were they used to noisy play? Did they go to play at friends' homes?
- Has the child a comforter? What is it called?
- If the child is old enough, let them help to choose what to wear and to select new clothes.
- Do not cut the child's hair or change their appearance without discussing this with their parent(s) (this would be via the local authority social worker) and getting their consent (for some families, e.g. Sikhs, there are religious prohibitions on cutting hair).
- A child may be uncomfortable bathing/undressing in front of a stranger - be sensitive and find out what the child is used to.
- Enable them to continue at the same school if at all possible, and discuss any difficulties in doing this with the social worker.
What if I have doubts?
During this initial period, foster parents should be realistic about the child and clear if they have any doubts. If you do, please keep a careful record of what concerns you and discuss this with your supervising social worker, who will listen carefully and talk to you about whether any more support can be offered to enable the placement to continue. We all know that frequent changes of placement can be very damaging to children’s overall wellbeing and we should try to avoid unnecessary moves. New placements often go through recognisable stages.
New placements – stages of adjustment
The honeymoon period – this can refer to the first few weeks or months. The child may be trying to make a good impression. Sometimes they feel so bad they are afraid that if they show how they really feel their foster parents might send them away. They may be so depressed they do not care anymore. Even children who seem contented may not be able to express their feelings.
Withdrawal - as they relax the child may need time to get their thoughts together. Try not to intrude at this time. This may be the hardest behaviour to manage because the child is not able to give you anything on which to develop your relationship or help them. You need to remain physically and emotionally available to them, so that they can learn to trust you.
Acting out - the child may now become more challenging; they will take the lid off their feelings and spill them in all directions. No one will know how long this will last. Try to remember that your job is to help them develop a secure base in your family home and to find safe ways to express these feelings and reassure them. This means being sensitive to the emotions that may underlie their behaviour. Children will need to feel accepted before they can develop self-esteem and learn to trust you. Their behaviour may make you angry and you need to find a safe way of expressing your feelings too
What do we call each other?
Most children you care for will have parents. It is very rare for a child not to have known a mum or a dad or both. In temporary placements, it is not appropriate for the child to call a foster parent ‘Mum’ and/or ‘Dad’ because it can be confusing to the child and insensitive to the birth parents.
Some children struggle to know what to call foster parents and may choose not to call them anything at all, at least in the early stages. Foster parents should suggest to the child what they could call them; this may be a first name, ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ or anything else that is appropriate in your view.
It is vital for a child to be aware of their identity and their birth name is a major part of that identity. Please ensure you have the correct spelling of a child’s first name and surname, and please do not change or adapt it to call them something else. Foster parents are not allowed to change the surname or the first name of a child placed with them. Where a child is old enough to make this decision for themselves and wishes to do so, foster parents should seek advice from the child's social worker.
Belongings and Suitcases
Foster children may bring items of clothing, toys or other possessions with them when they come to stay. These belongings may not seem very valuable, but they may be precious to a child and therefore should be treated with respect. Any toys the child brings along, whatever condition they are in, are regarded as the child’s belongings. They should be looked after and go with the child when they leave. This also applies to any toys bought for the child whilst living with you or any toys given by relatives for birthdays and at other celebrations.
When a child first arrives in the foster home having left their own home in a crisis, they may have few belongings and may not have a suitcase or holdall. Foster parents should purchase a suitable bag which is solely the property of that child and will go with them if they leave the placement. This bag should be purchased irrespective of the child’s length of stay in the foster placement.
Moving Children On
Why do children move on?
Ideally, children and young people should only move to another placement by agreement following a statutory case review. Such moves should clearly be in the child or young person’s best interests, the decision should take into account the child or young person’s wishes and feelings, and the move be properly planned. For example, foster children may return to their birth family, usually back to their parents, but sometimes to grandparents or other relatives. If children can live successfully and safely within their own family, this is the preferred choice. Foster children may also move to a new family for a permanent placement, through adoption or permanent foster care. Older foster children may move to live independently.
In some situations, a move is not planned. This can happen when parents decide to resume the care of an accommodated child immediately or when a foster placement breaks down or is disrupted. There will be cases when remaining in the foster placement is clearly impractical, or significantly compromises the welfare or safety of others in the household. In some cases, placements can break down because people find they are not well matched and do not get on well – but it is important not to assume that if a placement does break down it means that the child or foster parent is at fault.
Arrangements for ending placements
When it appears that a placement is ending, foster parents and Fosterplus workers should work with the child’s social worker and others to help the child to understand why they are moving, and we should support the child through their transition to a new living situation, whatever that may be. Even in situations where moves were not planned, our aim is that Fosterplus and foster parents will work together to ensure sufficient time for planning and arranging the next placement, in order to avoid moving a child as a result of a crisis or emergency.
Where foster parents wish to end a placement, we expect a 28-day notice period. We will never move a child on the same day, other than in very dangerous circumstances, where serious harm will occur if the child is not moved.
Can I maintain contact with the child when they have moved on?
It is very important for a child or young person not to just move away and have no further contact. The longer the placement has been, the more important this is. Children need to know that important people who have looked after them have not just ‘disappeared’ from their lives, even where placements ended unhappily. It can often happen, however, that once placements are finished no arrangements are made for future contact.
Fosterplus will try to ensure that placement planning includes arrangements for the type and timing of future contact in line with the needs of the child. Contact may be by letter, phone or in person. Foster parents should be prepared to discuss and review the planned contact arrangements with the parents, the new foster parents and/or the social workers involved. The child's needs come first.