If I decide to apply, what is the process?
Once you have made contact with Ryancare a Duty Supervising Social worker will arrange a visit to see you in your home. The purpose of this initial visit is to give you more information about what fostering involves and to assist us at this early stage if there is anything that may affect your application, for example; insufficient bedroom space or recent changes in your family circumstances.
These visits are a two way process and you or we may decide not to pursue the application any further. However, if we all want to proceed, then you will be asked to attend a series of training sessions and then have an in depth assessment about yourselves, your family and your backgrounds. All of this information will help us to decide what age of children, how many and what gender you should foster. The process is again very much two way and is an opportunity for you to ask more questions, get to understand the demanding and rewarding elements of being a foster carer for an established agency, as well as getting to know other foster carers in the same situation.
The assessment process can vary between 4-6 months.
We use qualified Social Workers who are independent of Ryancare to complete your assessment. You would attend the Skills to Foster training which will enable you to learn about the type of children and young people that are referred to Ryancare.
Once your assessment-the ‘Form F’-is completed, it will be presented to our Fostering Panel. we have a robust matching process and when the right child/young person has been identified whose needs you are able to meet then you are on your way!
How much will I know about the child/young person before they are placed with me?
We discuss every placement with our carers and it is your decision as to whether to take a young person. We will provide you with as much information about the young person and their background as possible, including any difficult behaviour and how to manage it. You do need to be aware that sometimes we have very little information, especially in an emergency. We would always, however, seek to find out quickly as much as possible.
Can I choose how long I want children and young people to stay with me?
Before you are approved as a carer with us, we will have discussed the different types of placements that are needed for our young people. You can decide which types of placement would suit you best. If you would prefer emergency or short-term placements, you do need to be aware that this isn’t always possible to know at the beginning of a placement exactly when a child will move on.
Can I choose which age group or gender I would prefer to foster?
Yes, you can. However, you need to bear in mind that the majority of our children referred to Ryancare are in the 11+ age group. If you are relying on income from fostering, you are far more likely to have continuous placements if you are willing to take teenagers as well as children.
We do also require carers with sufficient space to take sibling groups. These children are often younger. We also look for foster carers who can look after children with a disability, or a parent and baby/child.
What sort of support will I receive from Ryancare?
You will have your own Supervising Social Worker and support and advice will be available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We provide 10 days paid “respite” for carers each year. We also pay holiday, festival and birthday allowances for each young person placed.
You will never be expected to cope on your own. In fact, we want and need you to tell us if you are having any problems at all so that we can help and support you and the young person.
Our carers have also found that regular Support Group meetings and attending training have helped them to form a great network with other carers who are very supportive.
What sort of help would I get with a child who has special needs or a disability?
If a child has on-going medical needs, this will be explained to you before the placement is made and you will receive all the assistance necessary. Our role is to support you and this may include providing specialist equipment or
Who is responsible for taking the children to school and to the doctors etc?
We would normally expect carers to undertake these tasks. Occasionally, if you have a particular problem, your Supervising Social Worker would endeavour to make alternative arrangements. Although, we would expect you to have your own support network in place to help you.
Do I get time off?
Ryancare recognises the importance of looking after you so foster carers are entitled to paid respite of 10 nights per year.
Are we allowed to smack foster children?
No form of corporal punishment is acceptable under the regulations governing fostering; this would include any form of smacking, slapping or shaking. We provide training to all our carers on alternative or effective ways to cope with any difficult behaviour.
What services are available within Ryancare to enable me to carry out my role as foster carer?
You are part of a professional team that aims to meet the children’s needs. This team consists of you, Supervising Social Workers, and Qualified and Experienced Managers. As a foster carer you will receive regular visits from your Supervising Social Worker in order for them to supervise and support you. You will be invited to regular support meetings with other carers and will also be expected to attend training sessions in order to familiarise yourself with additional information. You may need to advocate for children on occasions at meetings and at some point, you may need go to a court and give information.
You will be required to keep daily records about each child in your care and compile monthly reports as well. This is necessary as some children have had many homes in their childhood and these records are extremely useful for them to have later in their lives.
As a foster carer there may be some things that I don’t know, what training do I get if I need it?
Once you have completed our assessment process and are approved as a foster family you will be expected to attend a variety of training, such as child protection, equal opportunities and working with children. Any additional training can be discussed with your Supervising Social Worker and you will also be offered a route to gain a National Vocational Qualification, (NVQ), at level 3, after fostering for 2 years.
We hold a skill’s to foster course that takes place over two or three days. During this course we will give you information about the assessment process and about fostering. Most work is in the form of exercises and role-play. Course attendees almost overwhelmingly report that they have found the course extremely enjoyable and informative.
Lunch and refreshments are provided.
Will I be paid?
There is an allowance for each child that is fostered by you and a fee paid to you as well. The fee is taxable and we have a financial advisor to help you with this advice if necessary. The level of payment depends on your experience and the degree of training courses you have successfully attended
Your weekly allowance for each child fostered is intended to cover the living costs such as food, clothes, pocket money, basic travel, household bills, savings etc.
Will I be taxed on this income?
Our carer’s work on a ‘self employed’ basis. Foster carer’s receive very favourable tax treatment on income derived solely from fostering.
Under a new tax relief rules introduced in 2003, foster carers whose gross receipts from foster care do not exceed an individual limit will be exempt from tax on their income from foster care.
Individual and more general advice on taxation is available from a number of sources including the Inland Revenue Helpsheets
Am I allowed to work elsewhere whilst fostering?
Some children that you will foster will need a high level of support and commitment from you. There is an expectation that the main carer does not have any other paid employment outside of Ryancare. At Ryancare, we think that the high quality care, which we consider every one of our children and young people need, can only be achieved by having one carer at home full time. Our carers are part of a professional and dedicated team and we offer them a remuneration and holiday package that reflects their commitment.
What sort of checks are carried out on my home?
We undertake an assessment process that provides you with the information about fostering and lets us get to know you. We carry out a criminal records check as well as checks with the local Social Services Department, the Health Service, the education department and a register which lists those prevented from working with children. We would also need to carry out a standard safety check on your home.
If I am going to be the main foster carer, do you need to carry out checks on my partner?
We regard all couples living together as partners in the fostering process so we require that you both have the necessary checks and training and that both take part in the assessment process.
We will need to carry out checks on anyone in the household over the age of 18. Even if you are the main carer, anyone sharing your home will have some involvement in and influence on the fostering task.
What information will be kept about my family and me?
After completing your assessment this information is then held in confidential files at our offices. Part of this information is called a Form F and this may be shared with Local Authorities when they are seeking to place a child with Ryancare. It is very clear that all staff that work within Ryancare maintain a high level of confidentiality.
What types of children come to Ryancare?
Ryancare specialises in caring for children with a wide range of emotional and behavioural needs. Some children may have suffered severe traumas such as abuse or neglect. Some may have had a number of placements that will leave them mistrustful and wary of making new relationships. All of these children need considerable and sustained reassurance and care in order for them to come to terms with their circumstances.
We also have carers who foster children with a range of physical disabilities and foster carers who take mother and baby placements, which again is one of our specialist services.
Ryancare believe that as a small group of people, opportunities should be available for everyone to get together on occasions. As such we hold a variety of training lunches for carers as well as other fun, social events throughout the year.
What about transport?
As foster carers you will be expected to make the necessary arrangements to get children to and from school or to attend any activities, as you would for any birth child. It is expected that the main carer would certainly drive and you will need to have transport of sufficient size to accommodate extra children if this is an issue and make sure each child has a seatbelt.
How old do I have to be to foster?
The minimum age is 25 years, although you may be a slightly younger person who has had a lot of experience working with or caring for children and young people. We also expect that people have had a stable relationship with their partner/husband/wife for a minimum of three years.
What if I haven’t had children of my own?
There are many carers who have not had children of their own. However, you may have experience of caring for other peoples children, be in a profession where you have had contact with children or maybe the type of person or couple who have a natural aptitude in working with and understanding the needs of children and young people.
As part of the assessment you must be able to demonstrate a good understanding of how the needs of children who are fostered may differ from those within their birth families.
Would previous convictions prevent someone from fostering?
A previous criminal conviction would not necessarily disqualify you from fostering; it would depend upon the nature of the conviction and when it occurred. It is standard for us to check police records at an early stage of the application process so we would need you to discuss any convictions with us as soon as possible so that we could decide whether or how it might affect your application. This information would remain confidential at all times.
Do I have to have my own home?
Ideally, foster carers should own their own homes. However consideration will be given to applicants who live in rented accommodation if they can provide security of tenure. The only major stipulation is that you have a bedroom for a foster child to call their own and that it is preferably on the same floor as the foster carers. There should also be sufficient room for children to play and do their homework, as well as space in the garden areas.
What is the difference between an independent fostering agency and Local Authority fostering?
The Local Authorities are ultimately responsible for the well being of all children in public care. They need to find the best way of looking after these children to make sure that they receive the best possible standard of care.
Independent fostering agencies such as Ryancare provide a specialist fostering service to Local Authorities and we work in partnership with them. We have our own foster carers, social workers, therapists and staff who work hard to ensure that the needs of the carers and children are met to high standards and without delay.
Who can apply to be a foster carer?
Anyone can be a good foster carer. It does not matter if you are married or single, gay or lesbian, young or old.
Initial discussions will include questions about your home environment, motivation and commitment
What happens now?
Having read this information, we hope that you will want to pursue your interest in becoming foster carers with us. Please give us a ring or complete the initial contact form.Please do not hesitate to contact any member of staff at Ryancare and we will answer your questions.