Top 10 Tips Preparing for your foster child
Top 10 Tips Preparing for your foster child
Sarah Anderson, Founder FosterWiki
1. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
We never forget the excitement of that first call. We don’t want to dampen that excitement, and as experts grounded in practice the FosterWiki team are with you all the way, but have also learned many things the hard way and want to impart the kind of knowledge to you they wished they had known.
Being prepared to foster is crucial and nothing substitutes hearing it from those who already carry out the role, those who know how it actually works, what that first placement feels like and what they wish they had known or done at the time.
2. Information is critical to success
The National Minimum Standards say:
15.2) Prior to the placement of each child, the foster carer is provided with all the information held by the fostering service that they need to carry out their role effectively. The information is provided in a clear, comprehensive written form and includes the support that will be available to the foster carer. The fostering service follows up with the responsible authority regarding any gaps in the information provided to them on the child or the child’s family, which may hinder the foster carer in providing a safe caring environment that meets the child’s needs and enables them to keep the child, other children in the fostering household and the foster carer him/herself safe.
Information can include things like:
- Legal status is the child being placed.
- Plans for the child.
- Medical, physical and mental health status.
- Where are they at school/college, how are they doing educationally, any specific educational needs?
- Any upcoming medical appointments, medication, or any allergies.
- Any behaviours that may affect safety in and to others in the family home.
- What are the contact/family time/sibling contact schedules, who’s supervising?
- How long has the child been in care, and how many placements have they had?
- Are there any issues around drugs, alcohol, CSE, trafficking, gangs, or county lines?
- Has the child or young person made previous allegations?
- If you have pets are there any issues around this?
Information is critical for matching the best child or young person to your fostering family, this is also crucial to the child’s well-being and giving everyone the best chance of success.
15.1) The fostering service only suggests foster carers to local authorities as a potential match for a child if the foster carer can reasonably be expected to meet the child’s assessed needs and the impact of the placement on existing household members has been considered. Where gaps are identified, the fostering service should work with the responsible authority to ensure the placement plan sets out any additional training, resource or support required.
National Minimum Standards
As you become more experienced you may find you can extend beyond your matching perimeters, however for your first child the best match possible is crucial.
Don’t feel pressurised into anything you are not comfortable with, again in the long term this will benefit no one, least of all the child.
4. Practical preparations
Getting the room ready – A cosy neutral bedroom is best, once your child has arrived you can then help your child to personalise their own bedroom. There may be some information you can get before the child or young person to personalise the room in some way, however, we, as carers, also know that children love to go out and chose things themselves, it gives them a sense of it really being their room and their home.
Family book – create a family book, this may be something the child can have before they arrive as well. It can paint a warm, fun, friendly welcoming picture of your family and reassure them that you are going to take care of them.
Little things make a big difference – If possible find out in advance what their favourite things are, including foods, routines, activities, toys, things like do they like a night light or the door left open/closed, and what they have been used to.
If you can provide these things on arrival will help them feel secure, and safe, with familiarity making them feel more at home.
What to have at the ready – Sometimes a referral can happen very quickly so have things at the ready. Stock up on the essentials like clean bed linen and towels, toothpaste, and toiletries.
Once you get the referral find out how much the young person is coming with, and if it’s not enough find out what age/size they are, and you might also want to do a quick trip to the local supermarket for some basics, like pyjamas, slippers, underwear.
Once the child is settled you might then go out so they can choose some of their own clothes, you will often have to get school uniform, shoes and PE kits.
Food – Have in a selection of easy-to-eat child-friendly food, comfort food, and food they are familiar with. Remember that although you may have family dinners and feel they are beneficial a new child may not be used to sitting around a big table with a family straight away and might find it daunting.
Top up the freezer and fridge with easy-to-prepare meals for the first couple of days, they may not be the healthiest options, but it’s more important for the child to eat and feel relaxed.
Things like chicken nuggets, chips, spaghetti hoops, pizza, super noodles, and cereal, are a safe bet, you can concentrate on healthy nutrition later.
Babies – The baby placements it’s a good idea to read our FosterWiki page on babies to understand all it entails, this will help you with the specific things you need to know and how to prepare for a baby placement.
Teenagers – The FosterWiki page on teenagers will help you understand what to prepare for when fostering adolescents.
Disabled children – The FosterWiki guide will help you on how to prepare for caring for disabled children 16+
5. On the day of placement
The Admin is essential – Make sure you get as much as you can at the point of placement, or even before, and keep your records from day one.
Details – You will need birth family details, school details, a medical card (to register with your own GP and for emergencies) transport details. Contact details for all involved.
Delegated Authority Tool (see top tip number 7) – You must have this form filled in, agreed to and signed, without it can not make all the day-to-day decisions you will need to (even getting hair cut or days out/activities). Foster carers do not have PR (parental responsibility) at any time whatsoever, we have to see permission from those who do for many day to day things.
Allowance – Ask for an allowance right away if you are expected to immediately buy things like new clothes, shoes, school uniforms etc.. many children come with very little and this outlay is expensive, you should not expect to pay out of your own pocket, and these set-up costs are over an above the weekly allowance.
Pocket Money – Find out what the child or young person’s pocket money or allowance is and what the arrangements are for giving it to them (ie cash or into a their bank account) Find out if they have a bank account. If they have been in care they should come with a savings account, ask the CSW (Child’s Social Worker) for this.
6. The Placement Plan
When the child arrives they will have a Placement Plan document. Make sure you get it even though this can be difficult as your main priority will be welcoming the child or young person into your home at the same time, however it’s important to read it as you should also be signing it.
It is good practice that services will have a Placement Planning meeting prior to placement, however very often it will happen in your home on the day the child arrives, if not it has to happen within 5 days.
These are the details in it:
- Details of child/young person.
- Contact information of key people.
- Placement information – ie reason for being looked after, previous placements.
- Family plan – for the fostering family, routines, holidays, travel, activities, finances, equipment etc.
- Information regarding health issues.
- Emotional and behavioural development.
- Unaccompanied asylum seeker.
- Contact/family time.
- Other essential information.
- Information checklist for the carer.
- Signatures of placing social worker and foster carer.
7. Delegated Authority – Really important!
The placing social worker or officer should have the ‘Delegated Authority Tool’ paperwork for you to go through together and both sign, this is crucial as it gives you permission to make day-to-day decisions around things like activities, haircuts, visiting friends, etc.
The Delegated Authority Tool (a form that gets filled in and signed) is very important for foster carers, you will need this delegated authority form filled out and signed to make many normal day-to-day decisions.
The placing social worker or officer should have the ‘Delegated Authority Tool’ paperwork for you to go through together and both sign, this is crucial as it gives you permission to make day-to-day decisions around things like activities, hair cuts, visiting friends, etc.
Remember as a foster carer you never have PR (Parental Responsibly) Never make decisions or take action on things you do not have permission for, this can result in allegations or standards
of care investigations.
9. Checklist for things you need
Here is a list of kind of things to ask for, it includes passport and birth certificate but you may not always get those immediately.
- Copy of referral.
- Copy of chronology.
- Copy of care plan.
- Medical consent authorisation.
- Delegated authority tool/form.
- Copy of children’s guide (for child or young person).
- Data protection policy (for you and child).
- Birth Certificate.
- Child’s savings account.
- Contact details, phone & email of all those involved in the child.
- Details of allowances and pocket money.
10. The child’s first days
Preparation: If you are prepared in all of the above it can lay the foundations for a successful placement. The first days in placement are as unique to the child as they are to you and can help lay the foundations for the future.
Be trauma-informed: This is when your education in trauma-informed therapeutic care will start to become practice, always remember that anyway a child is presenting, behaving and any emotions they are or are not displaying, are all outward expressions of how they feel, what happened to them in the past, and the trauma they carry. Having sufficient education in trauma-informed therapeutic care will inform and support your practice, you will understand the underlying reasons why behaviour may have changed and be better equipped to engage and support the child or young person in a helpful and empathic way.
Give them time and manage your expectations: Have no expectations and know that it takes time, patience, kindness, love, understanding and trauma-informed care to build a relationship with your new foster child. Don’t expect them to love your home immediately, or be grateful, its a foreign land to them however nice it is and they are suffering from trauma and loss.
The ‘Honeymoon period’: Be prepared for this, many experienced carers will tell you that children or young people may be on their very ‘best behaviour’ when they first arrive. This is for a myriad of reasons, but be prepared for it to wear off after a few weeks, or even a few months, this is not a bad thing, but it is because the child is feeling comfortable enough to express how they are really feeling.
11. Education is key
As we always say at FosterWiki, education, education, education. It’s the key to everything.
Experience is great, but it takes time to build, however, if you have the very best education you can find it will help support you, so you can help and support your children and young people to thrive and create lasting loving placements for foster children.
So source the very best education you can, accessing quality education is key.
Here are some FosterWiki courses, they are free, nationally recognised NFCE CASHE accredited courses tutored distance learning on FosterWiki.
DN College Group: include ‘Behaviour that challenges ’ ‘Counselling Skills ’ ‘Understanding Autism ’ ‘Mental Health First Aid ’ and more.
Dr Mine Conkbayir (Hallmark eduction): An unmissable course written by an award-winning author, this important and thought-provoking course combines two highly topical themes within child development and early years provision – neuroscience and self-regulation, it is a gentle introduction and accessible to all. Click here to find out more about the course.
12. Utilise FosterWiki to the full
Foster Carer’s Tool Kit : A good start is the Foster Carer’s Took kit Open FosterWiki: Explore the pages and use key words to search any topic.
The members’ area : has lots of other helpful inside information, help, support, guidance and newsletters, and as a member you can email us at anytime, in complete confidence, for help, support and guidance.
Information, Help and Support
Help and support created for foster carers, by foster carers, we are the experts by experience. We have the first foster carers knowledge bank.
Please find our help and support page here.
Access both the open pages and members area. Both are free to access and footprint-free. The member’s area gives you privileged confidential access to FosterWiki’s experts by experience for advice and guidance. You will also find short courses and guides from the foster carer’s perspective, top tips, allegation help, templates, and the ability to add to FosterWiki. With more content being uploaded regularly.
Please let us know what information or advice pages you would find useful and we will put them in place. https://fosterwiki.com/register/