In line with national trends, over 70% of children in care in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are fostered. Whilst some local authorities deem therapeutic fostering to be a specialist placement, we believe that every foster care placement needs to be therapeutic and to provide a child with a healing environment. We are committed to developing and supporting our carers to provide the very best care to every child entrusted to our care.
Our Fostering Services is comprised of five teams. The teams are generic in accessing and supporting mainstream and connected carers with each team having a specific area of specialism:
- Initial Enquiries
- Parent and Child
- Shared Carer
- Fostering Duty and Supported Lodgings
The Fostering Service aims to meet a diverse range of need by providing:
- Short break care/shared care to support families when a child or parent has a disability or long-term illness
- Short-term foster care Carers
- Long-term foster care Carers
- Solo placements
- Sibling group Carers
- Assessment and support for friends and family carers
- Staying put Carers for previously looked after young people who wish to remain with their former Carers beyond 18 years of age
- Supported Lodgings Carers
- Parent & child assessment Carers
- Resilience Carers
- Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum Carers
- Step Down from residential Carers
- Foster to Adopt/Early Permanence Carers
- Respite (for foster carers) Carers
- Alternative to BnB Carers
- Always There Carers
- Alternative to custody Carers
- Retained (OOHRS) Carers
The service is committed to offering high levels of supervision and support to carers. Foster carers are also supported through a number support groups such as the Connections Support Group, Support Group mainstream carers, Resilience Support Group, Parent & Child Support Group, Drugs and Alcohol Support Group and Supported Lodgings Carer support group. We have four Fostering Reps who meet with the Fostering Management Team once a month, to give us their view on what is going well and how we can better support our fostering community.
We also have a Funky Monkey (a group for all children in a fostering household).
The model underpinning the fostering service is PACE:
Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy
Foster carers are developed and supported to help children with their feelings and to have big conversations when needed – to understand their past and to shape their future. Trauma-based care and attachment-based care are essential.
Carers are supported to understand what has happened to children, especially abuse and neglect. Training is provided within the National Standards Framework. Carers are required to take a number of courses before they go to the Fostering Panel which embeds our commitment to ensure that all carers have the skills and insight to provide high quality care to our children placed. Approved carers have access to a wide range of training courses and all carers have up to date Personal Development Plans.
There are two Fostering Panels (Main Fostering Panel & Q&A Review Panel), each panel meets weekly so there is no delay to the approval process. The Agency Decision Maker (ADM) is the service director and the panels have a dedicated panel co-ordinator and a dedicated minute taker. There is an experienced chair and three vice-chairs, one of whom is a care-experienced young person.
Supervision and oversight of foster placements are in accordance with the National Minimum Standards Regulations, including:
- statutory visiting pattern
- unannounced visits in the year
- annual fostering review
- allegations and Standards of Care Procedures.
The voice of the child is essential in the review and monitoring of fostering families. We work creatively to ensure that the voice of the child is present in the carer’s annual reviews and in work undertaken with our carers. The team have developed several tools to support children of all ages and abilities to tell us their views of how they are being cared for.
We aim to complete a fostering assessment within five months - compared to eight months nationally - and a family and friends’ assessment in 16 weeks with an option to extend by eight weeks if necessary. Enhanced annual reviews of foster carers take place in the first and third year. Standards reviews take place in the second year and that cycle continues.
We are committed to matching the needs of children to the skill set of carers. We recognise this is key to placement stability and it starts from the quality and accuracy of the initial referral for the child.
Successful family-based care requires a holistically approach and the teams are is encouraged to think creatively in the development of bespoke support packages. The team works proactively to hold placement stability meetings with the wider team around the child in care to develop wrap around support at the earliest sign of placement instability.