Why not be a foster carer in Bristol?
Advertorial content created by Voscur for Bristol City Council Fostering and Adoption
According to a survey last year by Coram, around 11 million people in the UK would consider fostering. Despite this enthusiasm, there are many UK children in the care system – over 72,000 in England alone.
On a local level, 83% of Bristol’s looked after children are in foster care (including kinship care, where they are placed with a relative). As of May 2018, there were nearly 700 children in care in Bristol. The city also has a higher percentage of children aged 10-17 in care than the average across England. Dedicated foster carers give looked after children the love, support and attention they need to thrive.
You may have read about Filton-based foster carer Rita Coles, who has looked after more than 50 children since the 1990s. Rita told the Bristol Post that “the children keep me going,” which goes some way to show how rewarding foster care can be.
Reasons to be a foster carer
- A sense of fulfilment: knowing you are making a difference to children’s lives. “At the end of the day, we get into bed knowing we have done something so worthwhile and rewarding,” say local foster carers Mark and George.
- With full training, a dedicated social worker and 24-hour support available from the Bristol City Council Fostering team, you’ll be equipped to handle any challenges and will have others on hand to help you whenever you need it. “On paper, the challenges of being a single foster parent look impossible, but they are conquered more easily than you’d think,” says single foster carer Christian.
- As a full-time role, fostering is like no other job you’ve had before. It’s a personal and professional achievement to be proud of. If you’re unable to commit full-time, why not consider becoming a Short Break Carer for disabled children? This gives respite to their family and lets the children make new friends and new memories.
- You’ll receive an allowance for you and your foster child, with extra payments to help celebrate their birthday, any religious festivals, and to take them on holiday. You also get rewards and discounts to use locally and nationally.
- To become more involved in your community. Foster children are placed locally; you can also meet other foster carers through support groups, social events and a Buddy Scheme. Meanwhile, Bristol City Council takes part in awareness campaigns, such as LGBT Fostering and Adoption Week (4-10 March), which you are welcome to get involved with.
Different types of fostering in Bristol
Specialist TFCO (Treatment Foster Care Oregon) roles offer an exciting opportunity to help children aged 7-11 who have moved at least once within the care system. TFCO foster care placements last 9-12 months and focus on changing a child’s behaviour patterns. Your loving and stable home environment is the starting point for this change, as a place where they can learn new skills, be praised for good behaviour, and thrive with clear boundaries in place.
The support you’ll receive will include training, weekly meetings with a social worker and the TFCO Programme Supervisor, individual meetings between the foster child and a TFCO Skills Worker, and regular contact with a psychologist and the child’s teacher at school. At the end of the placement, the child will either return to their birth family or move onto more long-term foster care.
You don’t need a large house or even a partner to foster a child through TFCO – single people are welcome. As long as you are at least 25 years old, you’ve been with any cohabiting partner for at least a year, and you have no other children under 15 in the house, you can apply. TCFO carers receive £650 per week.
Parent and Child fostering takes a different approach: a parent and their child stay in your home for 12 weeks to get guidance on parenting. This foster placement may lead up to a court assessment or just be in place to prepare the parent for living independently. There are many different circumstances that might lead to a parent needing this kind of foster care – for example, they may have learning difficulties or mental health needs, or they may have been in the care system.
Your observation skills are really important in this role, as you will help build up a picture of the parent and child relationship, and see how the parent adopts the parenting skills you teach them. This is a full-time role where you must be able to share your living space with the parent and child, and give them their own room. Your contacts during this placement would include a health visitor, the assessing and supervising social workers, and any other professionals working with the parent. Parent and Child carers receive £630 per week.
Lastly, being a Contract Short Break foster carer means you provide respite care for disabled children, typically hosting one child every few weeks who will usually stay overnight in your home, giving their family and everyday carers a break. You have the flexibility to choose how many children you care for, and how often. Payment is in an eight-hour block (£32 per block), then four-hour blocks beyond that (£10.62 per block), with mileage for any activities you do with the child.
Over time you’ll build up a relationship with children and their families, knowing you are part of their support system. Should you choose to go full-time, which means a minimum of 200 nights per year and caring for multiple children with complex physical or mental health needs, you would receive £25,000 per year.
What do you need to be a foster carer?
- Enthusiasm – if you’re genuinely interested in caring for children and helping them develop self-confidence, it shines through. You don’t have to be a parent, but you must have personal or work experience of looking after children, whether that means members of your family or through volunteering.
- Patience – your foster child’s challenging behaviour won’t change overnight, and it takes patience from the whole team to see results. “Anyone thinking about becoming a foster carer would need to be understanding, encouraging, able to set consistent boundaries and not take any setbacks to heart,” say foster carers Alan and Marie.
- Consistency – you’ll set rules and boundaries for the child, and you both need to stick to them. Having a routine is vital.
- Good communication skills – a foster child may be quite withdrawn or unsettled as they adjust to living with someone new. It’s important you can connect with them on their level and talk through any problems, showing them loving concern.
- A spare room – just like you, your foster child needs their own space, to fit a single bed and other furniture.
Right now there are children in Bristol waiting for foster carers just like you. Contact Bristol City Council today to find out more.