Adolescent Fostering Partnership Scheme

Belfast Trust

Adolescent Fostering Partnership is a partnership between Barnardo’s and the Belfast Trust. It offers young people aged between 12 and 18 safe and supportive placements for medium to long term care. Generally this means for a period of between several months and two years. Young people come from either a background in residential care, from their own family or from another fostering placement. The service has been running since 1996.

Who can apply?
Carers with Adolescent Fostering Partnership can be single people or a couple with or without children living at home. Any placement involves careful matching between the carers and the young person to ensure that the needs of all concerned, including the carer’s children if there are any, are considered. Barnardo’s and the Belfast Trust operate Equal Opportunities Policies and have strong anti-discriminatory policies and procedures. We welcome applications from people from a variety of different cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds.

What sort of employment history should a carer have had?
Carers can be in paid employment or not. If people have experience of employment in the field of caring – either paid or voluntary – that may be very useful. Many of our carers though have employment experience in many other sectors and this can make an enriching environment for young people to live in. What is important is that any employment arrangements would not conflict with caring for a child.

What training is provided?
All carers are required to complete the Skills To Foster programme which usually involves up to 6 sessions. These are constructed around information-giving discussion and debate on the topics which include:

    1. What do foster carers do?
    2. Who are the children and young people?
    3. Working together
    4. Safer caring
    5. Understanding behaviour
    6. Moving on

This training involves project staff, existing carers and other potential carers and usually takes place on a Saturday and a series of evenings. In addition, carers have found other training opportunities extremely beneficial including courses on child protection, working with abuse and health and safety.

What sort of people make good carers?
There is not – nor can there be – a prescriptive list to answer this question. We can, however, say that we are looking to recruit people who have the following characteristics:

  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Warmth
  • Desire to work with young people and their family
  • Understanding of what it is like to be a teenager in today’s society
  • Ability to make relationships with young people
  • Ability to negotiate with young people
  • Ability to convey that everyone has a value as an individual
  • Flexibility and ability to see the other’s point of view
  • Willingness not to judge either the young person or their family

What does the assessment involve?
The assessment is a process which allows project staff the time to get to know potential carers and potential carers time to assess for themselves if fostering would be right for them. Following an open evening when potential carers can find out more about Adolescent Fostering Partnership from staff and carers, project staff meet potential carers in their home and a decision is made about whether to proceed to training. At the end of the training course an application to foster can be made and the case is then allocated to a worker for assessment. Individual sessions are held to cover areas like:

  • Background
  • Life experiences
  • Motivation
  • Personal qualities
  • Experience of working with young people

Joint interviews (if a couple are applying) are held to cover issues relating to their relationship. Potential carers will also be asked to complete a permission form for PSNI and Social Services checks. An extensive medical check will also be completed by the GP. Potential carers will be asked to supply two referees. All referees will be interviewed by the assessing social worker.

After the assessment and checks have been completed, a date is arranged for the Fostering Panel. This is made up of professional and lay members who have experience in working with young people or have been carers themselves. Their job will be to review the assessment and to make a recommendation as to whether the potential carers should be approved. The potential carers are encouraged to attend part of the panel and to meet the various members. The Panel’s decision will be made in writing.

What support would be offered?
Each carer will be allocated a Supervising Social Worker who will meet at least monthly with the carer to look at how the current placement is going, what strengths they felt they brought, difficulties which arose, training needs and any other issues which the carer or the worker wish to raise in relation to the placement.

The carer can also contact project staff for advice or for onsite support. The Adolescent Fostering Partnership provides 24 hour emergency support via the Regional Fostering Helpline. In addition to the carers and the staff at Adolescent Fostering Partnership, other professionals are involved in the team of people who plan for and carry out tasks to meet the needs of the young person. The field social work staff have ultimate responsibility for the young person but typically there are others who may include a teacher from the school, a therapist to help with special needs, an educational psychologist, a care worker from a previous setting and so on. Carers should experience the input of these people as additional supports.

Support groups are arranged for carers so that they can benefit from mutual support. Payment is made to carers of a professional fee as well as full living expenses.

Do I need special insurance?
It is important that carers have adequate insurance to cover the fact that they have a young person placed with them. Carers should advise their insurance company that they are carers for Barnardo’s. We can provide details to the insurance company of the scheme. Hopefully there should be no extra cost but if there is an increase, attention should be drawn to project staff. Similarly, if a carer has a car and is involved in transporting a young person, the insurance company should be informed of this.

Contact us
If you are interested in finding out more about the Adolescent Fostering Partnership Scheme please contact Karen McQuillan, senior social worker Tel: (028) 9504 0302 or email karen.mcquillan@belfasttrust.hscni.net