What help do foster carers receive?

We want to ensure that all our foster carers get the right support to undertake the fostering task.

Informal support
The support you receive through your own immediate and extended family, your neighbours and your friends is very important. Other forms of informal support may be sought through faith organisations, local clubs or other foster carers living in your area. To foster successfully it is important that you have a strong support network within your community.

Formal support
The main source of support will be the social worker allocated to you from the fostering team, known as your supervising social worker. Your supervising social worker may be the same social worker who completed your fostering assessment. The role of the supervising social worker is to supervise and support you when children / young people are in your care. You will have regular contact with them via telephone and visits to your home. When necessary, they will accompany you to meetings or attend meetings on your behalf.

You will also receive support from the child / young person’s social worker, health visitor and other professionals involved. Often birth parents, grandparents, and other extended family are very supportive and appreciative of you.

Outside normal office hours, there is an out of hours service which is called the Regional Emergency Social Work Service (028 9504 9999). This Service is available between 5.00pm – 9.00am Monday to Thursday, Friday 5.00pm to Monday 9.00am and all day on public holidays. The Service provides advice and support to carers who are concerned about the foster child / young person in their care.

There are two voluntary agencies in Northern Ireland who provide support to foster carers:

Allowances
An allowance is paid every 28 days which covers the daily cost of caring for a child / young person. There are a number of other circumstances where additional money is paid eg. nappies, bed and bedding. The full range of payments will be explained by your supervising social worker. It is important to note that fostering allowances do not affect social security benefits.

Scale Rates (From 1 April 2016)

  Age   group   Per   week  Per   4 weeks   Per Annum
  0-4   £122.72   £490.88  £6,381.44
  5-10   £135.60   £542.40  £7,051.20
  11-15   £156.09   £624.36  £8,116.68
  16+   £180.81   £723.24  £9,402.12

Click here for a full breakdown of foster care allowances

Foster carers are free to spend food, household and travel allowances as they feel benefits the child most. In addition to the maintenance allowances outlined above and in some placements that are particularly challenging, an additional fee may be paid in acknowledgement of the greater time and effort being needed to care for and support these children.

Pre approval training
During the initial phase of assessment you will be invited to attend pre approval training. This will give you the opportunity to explore whether fostering is right for you and your family. You will also get to meet and hear from foster carers doing the job and gain some awareness of the support and training which will be offered to you post approval. The pre approval course covers a range of topics such as child development, understanding the impact of early childhood experiences, attachment and bonding, understanding and coping with aspects of child abuse, and ways of saying goodbye to children.

Post approval training
Once approved by the Trust Fostering Panel, any identified learning needs will have been highlighted by the Panel. This will form part of your initial support and development package. Training will be provided to assist you in meeting the specific needs of the child / young person in your care.

As you gain experience as a foster carer it is expected that you attend the regionally recognised Core Issues in Fostering course within 18 months of approval. This is designed to help carers reflect on the early challenges of being a foster carer and provide useful guidance and support.

Areas covered in this training are:

  • Understanding the legal issues
  • Contact with birth family and the impact of fostering on your family
  • Safer caring guidelines
  • Recording and information sharing
  • Participation in LAC reviews
  • Practical and emotional impact of moves in foster care.

In addition to this core training, each Trust offers a wide range of training opportunities for carers such as Recognising Men’s Role in Fostering, Attachment and Loss, and Behaviour Management. Foster carers are provided with a range of venues / times and training methods suitable to their individual needs. Details of courses can be obtained online, through the supervising social worker or the Trust’s Training Coordinator. All foster carer annual reviews will undertake an assessment of the carer’s current learning needs.

Support groups
Many foster carers meet together in small support groups with, or at times without, the assistance of the fostering social work team. This provides much needed opportunity to talk about fostering issues with other carers. Foster carer support groups are often attended by carers who have a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise which they have accumulated through many years in fostering. These carers can offer valuable support to less experienced foster carers.

Formal and informal feedback from support groups helps to inform further training needs which can be addressed through the support group, one to one sessions, or in more structured training settings.

Respite support
Sometimes you may need a break from caring for a child / young person for a while – be it for a couple of hours, a weekend or longer. You can arrange this yourself through your own family or close friends. If required, respite foster care can be arranged.

Fostering Achievement
The Fostering Achievement Scheme offers practical and financial support to foster carers in Northern Ireland so that they are better placed to help children and young people develop new skills, pursue new interests, develop their natural talents and fulfil their dreams.

Educational / training credits of around £800 per year are available in respect of children and young people aged 0-18 years who have been in care for at least three months.

The scheme provides foster carers with funding to access:

  • Equipment e.g. computers, bicycles, sports equipment or musical instruments
  • A range of educational and personal development activities e.g. school subject tuition, driving lessons, sports coaching, gymnastics or singing lessons
  • Advice and training to enable foster carers to be effective first educators of the children in their care

Click here to find out more about Fostering Achievement