1. INTRODUCTION *
Phoenix Community Care runs a fostering service as part of its overall provision for young people and young adults offering high quality support, accommodation and education (where this is an assessed need & agreement is made regarding additional costs).
PCC was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit organisation. Initially our focus was to provide a service for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum (which we identified as an often overlooked and misunderstood area needing specialist support and care).
Responding to the request of a Local Authority, for whom we are the main provider of semi-independent accommodation and support for older young people, we set up a fostering agency specifically for unaccompanied minors who could thereby benefit from our considerable experience and expertise. This has resulted in us being able to offer an inclusive service to these young people, i.e.
- Accommodation suitable to their needs and age
- Placements that have considerable understanding of their experiences and can therefore offer sensitively appropriate support and practical advice.
- An ESOL (English Speakers of other Languages) school which can be offered as and when appropriate.
- A seamless service for young people moving from fostering to supported lodgings. Our Fostering Agency has now developed beyond this brief to include placing mainstream children and young people with our growing number of foster carers.
PCC takes very seriously its responsibility in providing children and young people with the very best possible care when being placed with one of our foster carers. Our emphasis is on quality, commitment and kindness. This is reflected in our:
- Stringent selection of which applicants we take through assessment.
- A comprehensive preparation course which addresses ‘Foster care standards’ and the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015’ (incorporating ‘Every Child matters’).
- A high quality assessment of carers.
- High quality on-going support, supervision, training and development of approved carers.
- 24 hour support, 7 days per week support for carers
We consider that foster carers generally, and our carers in particular, are very special people who have chosen to enhance the wellbeing, emotional stability and life chances of children and young people they care for. We consider that they are a highly valued resource who, in order to do their job to the best of their ability, require excellent management, support, training and development. Our Agency takes seriously the responsibility to provide this. Alongside this we ensure that we approve carers who wish to, and understand how to, work in partnership with parents / birth families as well as placing Local Authorities.
We place great importance on safeguarding any child placed through our agency. To this end we ensure that our carers are fully aware of and trained in ‘Safer Caring’ and understand their responsibility and role in this area. Our supervision of carers reflects this priority and monitoring their practice in this area is of paramount importance to us.
We support the principle of ‘placement choice’ and the placing of children within their own ethnic, cultural and religious birth family experience whenever possible. To this end we work to ever expand and value the diversity of our foster carers.
2. AIMS & OBJECTIVES *
- To ensure that any child or young person placed with one of our foster carers is cared for kindly, respectfully and safely by highly skilled and informed carers so that the best possible outcomes can be achieved in order to empower and equip the child / young person of fulfilling his / her life’s opportunities.
- To recruit high quality foster carers from a broad range of ethnicities, culture and religions who will undergo a thorough assessment to ensure their suitability to professionally care for and nurture a child / young person.
- To provide excellent on-going support, training and development to our foster carers.
- To provide a safe and caring environment for any child placed with us complying with legal and regulatory requirements and placing the greatest importance on the safety and protection of children and young people.
- Alongside providing a general high quality mainstream service to all children and young people, to provide a specialist service to unaccompanied minors.
- To provide a service to looked after children, foster carers and Local Authorities which values, respects and reflects the rich diversity of ethnicities, cultures, religions, sexual orientation and abilities.
- To provide a range of fostering placements to meet the need of young people and children to include planned and emergency placements on a short or long term basis. We would look to provide placements that enable young babies and parents as well as sibling groups to remain together where appropriate.
- To recruit a modest number of foster carers so that we can manage, supervise and monitor their work in order to ensure that the service they provide to the children and young people is of the highest quality.
- To provide an honest and attractive recruitment strategy to encourage and foster the interest of a wide range of carers in terms of ethnicity, culture, sexuality and religions in our society.
- To provide high quality assessments of carers within 8 months maximum of their formal application.
- To establish Training and Development profiles on all our carers reflecting their on-going achievement of skills and awareness.
- PCC expects all its foster carers to complete the TS & D training within a year following their approval.
- To provide supervision and support to carers to ensure their best possible practice to support any child / young person to achieve health, educational, emotional, social and economic well being. This will include a review after the first 12 months of fostering and will continue each year thereafter.
- To support and develop foster carers to work well and respectfully in partnership with parents and Local Authorities.
- To consult with children, young people, foster carers and Local Authorities to ascertain their experience of the service the agency provides.
3. STATUS AND CONSTITUTION *
PCC Foster Care Agency works under the umbrella of Phoenix Community Care. The management structure of the PCC Foster Care Agency is shown below.
As of June 2016 PCC Foster care has five permanent members of staff: Pauline Hawkes, Rochelle Williams and Al Coates. In addition we make use of suitable qualified and experienced sessional workers, as the need arises for specific pieces of work.
Pauline Hawkes – Registered Fostering Manager
- NVQ Level 3 | Caring for Children & Young People
- NVQ Level 4 | Register Manager
Pauline has 15 years previous experience as an ‘Enhanced Foster Carer’ for Haringey Social Services. Pauline also served Haringey as a lead member of their foster carers association for a further five years.
Adrian Hawkes – Registered Individual
- Dip In Theology. A.N.E.A (Teachers diploma for Teaching Adult’s Speech)
- D.32.D33. Assessors Award.
Fostered for a local borough along with my wife for 15+ years – some 30 children. Was classed as Enhanced Foster carers as dealt with difficult cases. Chaired the Foster Care association for the borough for many years, usually the person to assist FC’s with accusations against them on behalf of the Boroughs management. Chair of Governors for many years for large local Primary school, that at the time was in special measures, however we succeeded in turning it around.
Tashia Brown – Supervising Social Worker (pending)
- BA (Hons) Social Work 2016 (pending)
- Adv Diploma Humanistic Integrative Counselling
- Diploma Humanistic Integrative Counselling
Tashia has recently completed her studies in BA Social Work. She had placements mental health team for adults and in a Local Authority Children Specialist Referral and Assessment team. This has given her experience of working with domestic violence and sexual exploitation.
Prior to studying as a Social Worker Tashia qualified as a councilor and volunteered within mental health and bereavement services.
Rochelle Williams – Fostering Key Worker
- BSc (Hons) Sociology 2010
Rochelle is part of the fostering team at PCC and has the position of Link Worker. Rochelle has worked in various youth centers and was a part of the Connexions Young People’s Partnership Board for five years. She was also a part of City Year Youth Advisory Board which was set up in the UK on 2010. Rochelle has experience working as a mentor and has begun the process of qualifying as a Social Worker.
Al Coates – Fostering Social Worker / Reviewing Officer
- BA (Hons) Social Work 2013
Al and his partner worked as foster carers for three years for a local authority in the Northumberland. He has experience supporting adopters and foster carers who care for children with challenging behavior. As a student he undertook social work placements in Children’s Social Care, Residential Adult Mental Health and supporting parents of children in the care system. Al is a member of the Department for Education’s Expert Advisory Group for Adoption Support.
4. RECRUITMENT OF FOSTER CARERS *
The Agency’s foster carers are recruited mainly through advertising in local media, direct enquiry through our website and referral by our existing foster carers. The agency’s policy in recruitment of foster carers will target a range of applicants who can best meet the diverse needs of children referred to the agency by local authorities. Analysis of referrals from contracting authorities and commissioners will inform the agency’s priorities in recruitment direction. However, recruitment and consideration of all applicants to foster for the agency is carried out in accordance with the agency’s equal opportunities policy.
All applicants are assessed according to standard agency assessment procedures, using a competency approach originally based on that provided by the ‘Fostering Network’ but subsequently adapted and improved. The assessment process provides a basis for the collection, collation, analysis, presentation of data and the demonstration of competences required to foster. The assessment format and the resources provided through the Fostering Network e.g. ‘The Skills to Foster training program’ and associated published resources are used in the selection during the assessment by both the applicants and assessors to demonstrate these competencies.
Applicants who register an interest are visited by a social worker. The purpose of this visit is to provide an opportunity to share information about the fostering task and the agency and to act as an initial assessment. If it is mutually agreed at this point the applicant will be invited to complete an application form and the formal process of assessment will begin on receipt of this form.
Assessments are made of the qualities, competences and aptitudes for fostering of applicants in relation to those qualities identified in the ‘Minimum National Standards for Fostering Services’. The assessment process and the timescales involved are based on a ‘contract’ or agreement drawn up between the assessing social worker and the applicant(s) at the outset of the assessment. Feedback about the assessment process is sought from applicants who have been assessed. The whole process is monitored and overseen by one of the agency’s senior social workers and manager.
5. APPROVAL OF FOSTER CARERS *
A rigorous assessment process of applicants to foster is carried out by qualified social workers who are experienced in child care and fostering and who will receive training in competency based assessments. During the assessment references are taken up and referees are interviewed. Checks on applicants are carried out with the Disclosure and Barring Service, the local authority of the area where the applicant lives, employers and other appropriate bodies and agencies. The applicant to foster for the agency undergoes a medical examination to ensure physical and mental fitness for the task and the agency is advised by a qualified medical adviser.
At the completion of the assessment the social worker compiles a report using our assessment report format (as described above) and makes a clear recommendation with regard to the general suitability of an applicant to foster for the agency and the numbers of children and type of placement appropriate to the child care experience which match the skills and circumstances of the applicant. The report and other relevant documents are then considered by the agency’s fostering panel, which is described further below. Both assessing social worker and the applicant(s) attend the panel when the application is being considered.
Some applicants, for a number of reasons, may be ‘counselled out’ as unsuitable to foster before the assessment is considered by the agency fostering panel.
The fostering panel comprises both agency representatives and other persons having experience, knowledge and skills in child care and fostering who are independent of the agency. The panel is chaired by an independent professional person with experience in family placements. It acts according to the relevant regulations, the agency’s panel protocol, confidentiality bond and operational procedures to ensure fairness, consistency, and rigor in its decision-making. The agency seeks to ensure that membership of the panel generally reflects the communities from which the children placed through the agency are drawn.
After consideration, the panel recommends to the agency decision maker whether or not an applicant is suitable and any conditions which should be attached to the approval if given.
6. TRAINING OF FOSTER CARERS *
Pre Approval training
All prospective foster carers are to attend the ‘Skills to Foster Training’.
- Child development
- Loss and Separation
- Feelings of Birth Parent
- Role of a foster carer
All foster carers are expected to undertake the Training, Support and Development
Standards for Foster Care as developed by the Children’s Workforce Development Council now known as TS&D (Training Skills & Development). The agency makes arrangements for foster carers to undergo training in the development of new skills and knowledge and provides courses and seminars to update foster carers where important changes to legislation are introduced (or where there are significant developments in the fostering field or role). In particular, all of our foster carers are required to complete a series of ‘core training’.
All agency training for foster carers fits within a framework of equal opportunities, and anti-discriminatory practice as required by the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services. The agency provides practical and other assistance to facilitate attendance on training courses by carers, and also organises the times, venues, etc. to maximise attendance by its carers.
7. SUPPORT FOR FOSTER CARERS *
Following approval, each foster carer signs a formal agreement with PCC Foster Care. This agreement outlines the expectations for each party, and the main features of the relationship. Carers are given written policies, procedures and advice relating to their role as a foster carer. The Carers’ Handbook gives detailed advice and direction on a number of important aspects of caring, such as payments and allowances, child care reviews, child protection procedures, restraint policy, missing children, etc.
Each foster carer is also directly supported by a named supervising social worker employed by the agency. The social worker advises and offers support to the foster carer and monitors the standards of care given to the child or young person. The social worker visits the carers at least once every month to offer support and monitor how a placement is progressing. The social worker reports any concerns or difficulties in the home or with the placement to his/her manager or liaises with the placing authority about any issues needing attention or discussion. Additionally, PCC Foster Care staff will contact foster carers by telephone at least weekly to ascertain whether there are problems or a need for assistance of any kind.
Supervisory visits are a forum whereby the carers can raise any issues of concern arising from the fostering task. Often it is the main carer who is seen on these visits. However, research informs us that a significant factor leading to placement breakdowns and carers deciding to give up fostering is the effect fostering has on the children who foster. Social workers will ensure that all the members of the household are seen at least every three months
Social workers will make a least one unannounced visit to the foster home every year. The Code of Practice recommends that regular joint visits are made to the children / young people in placement by the supervising social worker and the child’s social worker. It is expected that a joint visit will be made at the following intervals:
- Within four weeks of placement
- Within three months
- Every six months.
Social workers will maintain regular contact with carers who do not have children / young people placed. Home visits will be made monthly. Social workers will also visit each child / young person in placement every eight weeks to seek their views on all aspects of the care they are receiving.
In addition to the supervising social worker allocated to each carer, the agency offers 24-hour telephone contact, support and assistance to carers with urgent need of advice and / or support.
A support group for foster carers is established and facilitated by the agency.
8. FOSTER CARER REVIEWS *
All foster carers are reviewed as necessary but at least annually. The first review of the carer and each 4th review shall be submitted to the fostering panel for their recommendation. When undertaking a review the agency shall make such enquiries and obtain such information as is considered necessary in order to review whether the carer continues to be suitable to act as a foster carer and that the household continues to be suitable.
Please see PCC’s Policies and Procedures.