If I decide to apply, how long will I have to wait before I begin having children placed with me?
After a telephone conversation and if we feel that you are suitable to be a carer we will come to visit you in your home. This will be in the form of an Initial Visit and from the start of the assessment until the end can vary between 3 – 6 months. The timing depends on how quickly your checks come back and your family circumstances.
We use qualified Social Workers who are independent of Next Step. Once your assessment is completed, it will be presented to our Fostering Panel.
What happens now?
Having read this information, we hope that you will want to pursue your interest in becoming a foster carer with us.
The purpose of an initial visit is to give you more information about what fostering involves and to assist us at this early stage if there is anything that may affect your application, for example; insufficient bedroom space or recent changes in your family circumstances. These visits are a two way process and you or we may decide not to pursue the application any further. However, if we all want to proceed, you will then be asked to attend a series of training sessions and have an assessment about yourselves, your family and your backgrounds. All of this information will help us to decide what age of children, how many and what gender you should foster. The process is again very much two way and is an opportunity for you to ask more questions, get to understand the demanding and rewarding elements of being a foster carer for an established agency, as well as getting to know other foster carers in the same situation.
Can I choose how long I want children and young people to stay with me?
Before you are approved as a carer with us, we will have discussed the different types of placements that are needed for our young people. You can decide which types of placement would suit you best. If you would prefer emergency or short-term placements, you do need to be aware that it isn’t always possible to know at the beginning of a placement exactly when a child will move on.
Can I choose which age group or gender I would prefer to foster?
Yes, you can. However, you need to bear in mind that the majority of children referred to Next Step are in the 11+ age group. If you are relying on income from fostering, you are far more likely to have continuous placements if you are willing to take teenagers as well as children.
We do also require carers with sufficient space to take sibling groups and these children are often younger. We also look for foster carers who can look after children with a disability or a mother and her baby.
What sort of support will I get if I am finding it difficult to cope?
You will have your own Supervising Social Worker and support and advice will be available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We provide 16 nights paid “respite” for carers each year and a week’s holiday allowance for any child placed with you.
You will never be expected to cope on your own. In fact, we want and need you to tell us if you are having any problems at all so that we can help and support you and the young person with you.
Our carers have also found that regular Support Group meetings have helped them to form a great network with other carers who are very supportive.
What sort of help would I get with a child who has special needs or a disability?
If a child has on-going medical needs, this will be explained to you before the placement is made and you will receive all the assistance necessary. Our role is to support you and this may include providing specialist equipment or training.
Do I get time off?
Next Step recognises the importance of looking after you so foster carers are entitled to paid respite of 16 nights per year.
How much will I know about the child/young person before they are placed with me?
We discuss every child with our carers prior to them living with you and it is your decision as to whether to take a young person. We will provide you with as much information about the young person and their background as we have, including any difficult behaviour and how to manage it. You do need to be aware that sometimes we have very little information, especially in an emergency. We would always, however, seek to find out quickly as much as possible.
What services are available within Next Step to enable me to carry out my role as foster carer?
You are part of a professional team that aims to meet the children’s needs. This team consists of you, Supervising Social Workers and Qualified and Experienced Managers. As a foster carer you will receive regular visits from your Supervising Social Worker in order for them to support you. You will be invited to regular support meetings with other carers and will also be expected to attend training sessions in order to familiarise yourself with additional information. You may need to advocate for children on occasions at meetings and at some point you may need go to a court and give information.
You will be required to keep daily records about each child in your care and compile monthly reports as well. This is necessary as some children have had many homes in their childhood and these records are extremely useful for them to have later in their lives.
As a foster carer there may be some things that I don’t know, what training do I get if I need it?
Once you have completed our assessment process and are approved as a foster carer you will be expected to attend a variety of training, such as child protection, equal opportunities and working with children. Any additional training can be discussed with your Supervising Social Worker and you will also be offered a route to gain higher levels of training and development. In the past, this has included the Diploma in Fostering.
We hold a Skills to Foster course that takes place over two or three days. During this course we will give you information about the assessment process and about fostering. Most work is in the form of exercises and role-play. Course attendees almost overwhelmingly report that they have found the course extremely enjoyable and informative.
Will I be paid?
There is an allowance for each child that is fostered by you and a fee paid to you as well. The fee is taxable and we have a financial advisor to help you with this advice if necessary. The level of payment depends on your experience and the degree of training courses you have successfully attended.
Your weekly allowance for each child fostered is intended to cover the living costs such as food, clothes, pocket money, basic travel, household bills and savings etc.
Will I be taxed on this income?
Our carers work on a self employed basis. Foster carers receive very favourable tax treatment on income derived solely from fostering.
Under a new tax relief introduced in 2003, foster carers whose gross receipts from foster care do not exceed an individual limit will be exempt from tax on their income from foster care.
Individual and more general advice on taxation is available from a number of sources including the Inland Revenue. We have Accountants available to offer you advice if required.
What sort of checks are carried out on my home?
We undertake an assessment process that provides you with the information about fostering and lets us get to know you. We carry out a criminal records check (DBS) as well as checks with the local Social Services Department, the Health Service, the education department and a register which lists those prevented from working with children. We would also need to carry out a standard safety check on your home.
If I am going to be the main foster carer, do you need to carry out checks on my partner?
We regard all couples living together as partners in the fostering process so we require that you both have the necessary checks and training and that both take part in the assessment process.
We will need to carry out checks on anyone in the household over the age of 18. Even if you are the main carer, anyone sharing your home will have some involvement in and influence on the fostering task.
What information will be kept about my family and me?
A Social Worker appointed by Next Step will undertake an assessment with you and your family. This information is then held in confidential files at our offices in Faversham. Part of this information is called a “Form F” and this may be shared with Local Authorities when they are seeking to place a child with Next Step. This ‘matching’ process is done in consultation with yourselves as well. It is very clear that all staff that work within Next Step should maintain confidentiality regarding the work we do and especially regarding the children we look after.
What will my task be as a foster carer?
To provide a good standard of care appropriate to the needs of children from a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Your role will also be to help children in your care to develop an understanding of their past and their identity, including race, culture, language and religion. In short, to work with children in an anti-discriminatory manner and to offer them a safe and nurturing experience in your home. It will be a challenging task, but one that is hugely rewarding.
What types of children come to Next Step?
Next Step specialises in caring for children with a wide range of emotional and behavioural needs. Some children may have suffered severe traumas such as abuse or neglect. Some may have had a number of placements that will leave them mistrustful and wary of making new relationships. All of these children need considerable and sustained reassurance and care in order for them to come to terms with their circumstances.
We also have carers who foster children with a range of physical disabilities and foster carers who take mother and baby placements, which again is one of our specialist services.
How old do I have to be to foster?
We do not stipulate an upper or lower age limit to become a foster carer but look at what experiences you have had. It is important to be fit and healthy, to keep up with active children.
What if I haven’t had children of my own?
There are many carers who have not had children of their own. However, you may have experience of caring for other people’s children, be in a profession where you have had contact with children or maybe the type of person or couple who have a natural aptitude in working with and understanding the needs of children and young people.
As part of the assessment you must be able to demonstrate a good understanding of how the needs of children who are fostered may differ from those within their birth families.
Would previous convictions prevent someone from fostering?
A previous criminal conviction would not necessarily disqualify you from fostering; it would depend upon the nature of the conviction and when it occurred. It is standard for us to check police records at an early stage of the application process so we would need you to discuss any convictions with us as soon as possible so that we could decide whether or how it might affect your application. This information would remain confidential at all times.
Do I have to have my own home?
No, we have carers who own their home and also carers who rent. The only major stipulation is that you have a bedroom for a foster child to call their own. There should also be sufficient room for children to play and do their homework, as well as space in the garden areas.
What is Next Step Fostering?
Next Step is an established and creative childcare organisation that has offered a wide range of fostering services to children and young people since 1988. We have our Head Office in Wrens Hill House, Faversham, Kent and have additional offices and a foster care network across London the South East.
Within Next Step, we have a qualified and experienced team of professionals who offer immediate support, training and guidance to carers to ensure the children we look after are given the best opportunities.
You can call us on 0845 6038354 or contact us to find out more.
What is the difference between an independent fostering agency and Local Authority fostering?
The Local Authorities are ultimately responsible for the well being of all children in public care. They need to find the best way of looking after these children to make sure that they receive the best possible standard of care.
Independent fostering agencies such as Next Step provide a specialist fostering service to Local Authorities and we work in partnership with them. We have our own foster carers, Social Workers, therapists and staff who work hard to ensure that the needs of the carers and children are met to high standards and without delay.
The team of professionals within Next Step includes qualified Social Workers and Link Workers who work actively with foster families, colleagues from Local Authorities and other professionals who see the children. In addition to a 24 hour emergency service to carers, we offer staff and facilities for children to see their families within a supervised setting.
What about transport?
As foster carers you will be expected to make the necessary arrangements to get children to and from school or to attend any activities, as you would for any birth child. It is expected that the main carer would certainly drive and you will need to have transport of sufficient size to accommodate extra children and make sure each child has a seatbelt.
Who is responsible for taking the children to school and to the doctors etc?
We would normally expect foster carers to undertake these tasks. Occasionally, if you have a particular problem, your Link Worker would endeavour to make alternative arrangements. Although, we would expect you to have your own support methods in place to help you.
Next Step believes that as a small group of people, opportunities should be available for everyone to get together on occasions. As such we hold a variety of training lunches for carers as well as other fun, social events throughout the year.
Further questions that need a response?
Please do not hesitate to contact any member of staff at Next Step and we will try to answer your questions as soon as we can.