Fostering is looking after a child or young person aged 0 – 18 in your own home for which you will receive a fostering allowance. The length of time they may stay can vary from a few days, months or maybe over years until they are adopted, move back to their family or go on to independent living. There are different types of fostering alongside the regular mainstream service such as short breaks for children with disabilities, respite foster care for shorter time periods or specialist fostering for children with challenging behaviour. Many foster carers start with short or long term foster care and go on to develop specialist skills.

There will be a weekly allowance for the young person to cover their food and household costs, entertainment and sports and activities. You are paid a professional reward fee for your work in supporting the young person as well as a training and placement allowance that is paid for the training you do to help build your skills. Foster carers living in Islington do not pay council tax.

All foster children are in the care of their local authority. Fostering directly with a local authority usually means that everything you and the child need is local to your home making life easier for everyone. Being with a local authority means there should be no long school runs and less traveling long distances to contact or placement meetings. The young people you care for will all be from Islington and the north London area.

“If it wasn’t for the children I wouldn’t be the foster carer I hope I am. In every placement I learn something. We have an awful lot to be grateful to these children for.”

- Kate, foster carer.

Foster carers need a good level of both understanding and spoken English but English does not need to be your first language. This is because most of the children and young people will need you to speak English with them. Training will be delivered in English and you must be able to fully understand any special needs the young person may have such as medication or dietary requirements. The foster child will also need you to speak at meetings for them with social workers, teachers and other professionals.

There are many reasons a young person may need fostering, not all children in care have behaviour problems! Children of many different ages, cultures and backgrounds come into foster care in Islington but they will all have had sad and difficult experiences and need foster carers they can trust. Their parents may have problems with drug and alcohol abuse or mental health problems and many of the children will be worried about their parents. Some children may enter foster care for a short time due to family illness.

If you think you could look after a child 3 and above then you would need a spare room as a looked after child would not be able to share a room with your own children. While a baby can have a cot in the foster carer’s room if there is space, the Islington fostering team are not currently recruiting carers without a spare room. This is because of a drop in the number of babies coming into the care system. We would not want carers sitting vacant for long periods of time and as we have no way to guarantee placements.

You may work while you are a foster carer but this will limit the ages you may look after. For example a baby would need you to be available all the time. Caring for an older, school age child may allow you some flexibility but you would still have to consider how you would attend meetings and training or if the young person was not at school. However, some of our current foster carers work and you can discuss this further with the team if you are concerned.

“It was my foster carer who made me who I am today, taught me how to wash up, clean my room, the basics. It’s those little things that count so much.”

- Crystal, care leaver.

As part of the process to become a foster carer you will attend the three day Skills to Foster training and work with a social worker to complete an assessment that will also include simple checks and a medical. This assessment considers how you will look after a child or young person but is not a judgement about you as a person. You will work together with the social worker to look at your past and reflect on your experiences. It may seem daunting but it is also a way to help you and your family prepare for becoming a foster carer. The assessment process should take 6 months.

Once you are approved as a foster carer there is a lot of help available. Islington has a great range of support in place including a phone line that has a member of the team on the other end 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you have a question. You will have your own social worker to help and support you as well as support groups with other Islington foster carers. There is also support from the Islington foster carers association run by foster carers who host weekly coffee mornings if you want a more informal chat or just some reassurance from the experienced carers.