Empty Nest Fostering

Empty nest? Could fostering be the right choice for you?

It’s that dreaded time for teenagers and parents alike – A Level results are out. Whether youngsters do as well as expected, or have to go through clearing, university life is just around the corner for around one third of the UK’s 18 year olds – and an ‘empty nest’ for worried parents.

For some parents, an empty nest is a welcome relief from the hectic schedule of looking after teenagers. No more loud music, no people creeping in the front door hours past bedtime, and no more sulky teenagers. However, for some, the quiet life just doesn’t cut it. That need to love, care, nurture and mentor someone just isn’t being met – could fostering with Alliance Foster Care provide the solution?

Parents can go through a lot raising their children including – but not limited to – sleepless nights, stress, worry, tears of happiness and frustration, and at Alliance Foster Care we think this gives them a fantastic set of skills which can be utilised through fostering. Providing a safe and secure home for a child or young person is only part of becoming a foster carer, having the patience, commitment, perseverance and determination to succeed are just as important. Fostering can provide a refreshingly different challenge from traditional parenthood – one that many find extremely rewarding. For many, the ‘empty nest’ stage of their life is the perfect time to look into fostering. The impact of birth children is lessened as they begin their exciting new life at university; there are less financial pressures with one less mouth to feed, along with extra space in the home. When children return from university in holidays or visit as adults they provide an excellent role model for young people in your care and a welcome distraction.

The journey to becoming a foster carer usually takes around 4-6 months to complete. During this time a social worker will complete an assessment on you and your family – which includes contacting birth children, completing a series of background checks and references, and also involves attending a 3-day training course arranged locally. Once approved as foster carers, you will be supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by our qualified Social Workers, attend regular training courses, and receive a generous weekly allowance to assist with household living costs. You will also be invited to various children’s events, charity events and support groups so that you always feel part of the Alliance family.

If you would like to know more about fostering, please call us on 0808 1680 180 or register your interest on admin@alliancefostercare.co.uk and we’ll be in touch!

Do I Need a Spare Room?

One of the most common questions asked when people are considering becoming foster carers is, ‘Do I need a spare room?’. The answer to that is, ‘Yes’!

There are clear National Minimum Standards* of children having their own room.

Most children in need of a foster home are at an age where they need their own space, to play or be creative without distraction. Their own room can provide a sense of security and allows children to have a dedicated place to be calm, where they can get rid of their frustrations and just be themselves. This is especially important for vulnerable children who may have experienced trauma and are having to adapt to life in a new home, with different people and routines.

Their own room can also be instrumental in helping foster children adjust to new routines, such as a consistent bedtime routine. Children that come into foster care have often never experienced clear boundaries or set routines, and it can take time to help them establish these.

The benefits of a spare room don’t stop at the foster child, there are also benefits for the foster carer and their family. If you have children of your own, a spare room will help foster children and your own children to adjust to the fostering lifestyle with minimising disruption.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what’s involved in becoming a foster carer, click here.

*For further information about Fostering Services, you can view the National Minimum Standards Regulations 2011. See section 10.6 in relation to spare rooms.

Child Safety Warning: Snapchat Maps Update That Reveals Users’ Locations

Police forces have raised child safety concerns about a new Snapchat feature that reveals users’ locations amid fears it could expose children to potential predators.

Parents have been warned to turn off the “Snap Map” feature on their children’s phones after Snapchat, which is a wildly popular messaging service among teenagers, introduced the location-sharing mode this week.

On the latest version of the app, “Snap Map” can be launched by pinching the Snapchat camera home screen. From here, users can choose to share their location with all friends, some of them or none of them with “ghost mode”, which hides their location but still pinpoints the location of other users, marking them with their Bitmoji character.

While the feature has been designed to help friends meet up or attend events together it has raised fears that it could be abused. Parents are being urged to make sure their children select “ghost mode”, and not the other two options.

The digital world is changing all the time and it’s vital to stay updated with how to keep your children safe online. For more tips on internet safety, click here

10 tips to keep the kids safe online when, they chat, share and play

The internet has endless entertainment and opportunity to offer, but it does have a nasty side too. With cybercrime on the rise, it’s important to make sure our families are well versed in online etiquette, from protecting their identities to steering clear of bullies.

Here are the 10 most essential topics to discuss with your foster children to keep them safe as they learn and grow online.

  1. Encourage them to share safe selfies
    Children, like adults, sometimes share inappropriate photos without thinking about the long-term impact. An image sent to one person can be posted online and seen by thousands, and it can stay on the internet forever. So advise them to only share what they’re happy for the world to see.
  1. Keep their personal information offline
    Protect your family from potential risks like identity theft. Set social media accounts to private, and remove phone numbers and other personal information from public sites.
  1. Make sure they’re old enough for the networks they use
    It may sound obvious, but many children lie about their age and set up social media accounts before they should be. Check the age limits and help them understand why some content is not suitable for younger people.
  1. Switch off location sharing in apps
    Some smartphones share their location with games and apps, which is a risk to the privacy of the people using them. You can turn off location sharing in the settings menu – ask Google if you need instructions for how to find them on your specific model of smartphone.
  1. Advise them to only chat and play with real friends
    Let your foster children know that some people hide behind fake profiles, so try to only play games and chat with people you know. If you’re unsure who you’re talking to or playing with, don’t tell them who you are or give them any personal information.
  1. Explain the difference between friends and followers
    Whereas friends are people you know and trust, followers are usually strangers who may have a shared interest but may not have the best intentions. Some kids have hundreds of followers, so advise them to block suspicious people and tighten their security settings.
  1. Tell them to think before sharing embarrassing posts
    As with inappropriate images, some posts include controversial opinions or silly actions that seem like a good idea at the time, but probably won’t after a few years. Help your foster children understand how to think critically about what should and should not be shared.
  1. Deal with Cyberbullying
    Stay calm and don’t judge if you ever suspect your foster child is being bullied on- or offline. Talk to them, listen and reassure that you can help. Encourage them to save any evidence and not to retaliate.
  1. Prepare them for social media in moderation
    Set some restrictions on how much time your foster children can spend online each day, and try to keep to the rules yourself too. It’s unhealthy for anyone, especially a developing child, to spend too much time focusing on a screen and living their life online. Moderation is key.
  1. Show them how to be a good digital citizen
    As well as being wary of the risks online, make sure your foster children understand that their actions can hurt others too.
    They should be mindful not to attack or ridicule opinions they don’t agree with, and they should understand the consequences of peer pressure and offensive content. Only when we all consider each other can the internet be as enjoyable and safe as it should be.

Are your foster kids at risk? New smartphone apps to watch out for

New apps come out almost every day, but how do you know which ones are suitable for children? Whereas some have age limits or are generally no-go zones, others are safe in themselves but get abused by trolls. It can be hard to tell.

Luckily, the West Midlands Police and Ofsted keep a list of over 100 apps to be aware of. You’ll find it in full at the end of the article, but first, let’s take a look at a few trending now.

New apps to be aware of

Lovoo
This dating app uses the location of your child’s smartphone – and therefore your child – to search for nearby people to engage in private chats with. It also has a paid VIP option that lets users look at your profile anonymously so you don’t know if they’ve seen your photos and details. Definitely not for children.

Woozworld
Although it’s generally an innocent gaming app – letting your child fashion a character and do quests in a virtual world – Woozworld’s chat features could be abused by dishonest people. There’s no accountability as you only need a parent’s email address to sign up, and there’s no way of telling who strangers really are.

That being said, the game itself is fine for children. If you’re happy for them to play, advise them to only chat with people they know and to never give out any personal information. If strangers start talking to them, they should speak to you immediately.

Monkey
An app that lets you Facetime with randomly selected strangers, Monkey is by its nature risky business. There’s no telling what someone will be doing when their live video feed starts playing on your screen, so there’s no way of preventing inappropriate images.

In addition, because users can follow each other on SnapChat after connecting on Monkey, what starts as a random encounter could escalate with sustained contact. Another app that’s not for children.

A great app for parents: Gallery Guardian

Many children take inappropriate photos of themselves without thinking about the consequences. But with Gallery Guardian, an app that detects nudity in images, you’ll know if it ever happens.

If your child takes or is sent an explicit photo, or downloads one from the internet, an alert is sent to your smartphone so you can deal with the problem. The app has a 96% success rate so it’s well worth getting.

More apps that could cause problems

Don’t panic if you find a child using these apps, it could be perfectly harmless. Just make sure you look them up on Google to find out exactly what they involve. Search for: “Is [app name] suitable for my children?” Then talk to whoever’s using them so they understand the risks and the right way to behave.

Content sharing apps

4Chan
DeviantArt
Dubsmash
Foursquare
House Party
KamStar
Keek
Live.ly
Live.me
Medium
Musical.ly
MyMFB
Peach
Periscope
Pheed
Reddit
Renren
Secret Piano
Slingshot
Vimeo
VK
Weibo
Wishbone
Yellow Friends
YouNow

Dating apps

Badoo
Blendr
Down
Fuzz
Gaydar
Grindr
Guy Spy
HookedUp
Hornet
Hot or Not
Huggle
MeetMe
Meetup
MyLOL
Skout
Snog
Swipe Flirts
Teenber
Tinder
Twoo
W-match
Waplog
Zoosk

Gaming apps

Bin Weevils
Boom Beach
Clash of Clans
Club Penguin
Double Dog
Habbo Hotel
Minecraft
Miniclip
Moshi Monsters
MovieStarPlanet
Roblox
Runescape
Second Life
Steam
Twitch
World of Warcraft
Woozworld
Zgirls

Messaging apps

Ask.fm
Battlenet
BBM
Burn Note
Cake
Chat Avenue
Chatroulette
Curse
Cyber Dust
Dischord
Disqus
FMYLife
GroupMe
ICQ
InstaMessage
Kik Messenger
KK Friends
Line
Live Chat
Meow Chat
Mumble
Omegle
ooVoo
SayHi
Send safe
Secret
Shoutout
Signal
Snapchat
Streamago
Tango
TeamSpeak
Telegram
TigerText
Ventrillo
Viber
Voxer
WeChat
Whisper
Wickr
Yik Yak
Zello PTT
Zobe

Foster Care Fortnight

Foster Care Fortnight 2017 is taking place from Monday 8 to Sunday 21 May.

What is Foster Care Fortnight?

Foster Care Fortnight is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, delivered by leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network. The campaign showcases the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers – Alliance Foster Care are fully supporting this campaign.

There is a need to raise the awareness of at least 7,180 new foster care families required throughout the UK in the next 12 months. Carers are required to care for a range of children, with the greatest need being for foster carers for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Foster care transforms lives

The overarching theme of Foster Care Fortnight is ‘foster care transforms lives’. Like the Fostering Network, we are passionate about the difference that foster care makes to the lives of fostered children and young people, and Foster Care Fortnight is an excellent opportunity to showcase that difference. But foster care doesn’t just transform the lives of the young people who are fostered, it also has the power to change the lives of foster carers, their families and all those who are involved in fostering. Foster Care Fortnight shares the stories of people who have had their lives transformed by foster care, and by doing so to raise the profile of fostering and the need for more foster carers.

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Find out more about becoming a foster carer here.

Spread the word

One of the aims of Foster Care Fortnight is to raise the profile of fostering and the transformational power of foster care. We often find that existing foster carers are the best advert for fostering, so if you are a foster carer or are part of a fostering family please help spread the word.

Tell others your fostering story. Encourage them to find out more by visiting our website.

If you’re not a foster carer already, perhaps now is the time for you to consider becoming one.

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The hashtags used during Foster Care Fortnight 2017 are #FCF17, #ProudToFoster, #ProudToSupportFostering.

We encourage everyone to download and print off a placard, take a photo of you and/or your family and share them online using the hashtags.

Could you foster?

One of the main aims of Foster Care Fortnight is to encourage more people to consider becoming a foster carer.

Do you have the skills and qualities to be one of the thousands of people we need to come forward to foster?

Do you have the skills and qualities fostering services are looking for?

Will you be attending any local events for Foster Care Fortnight?

If Foster Care Fortnight has made you think more about how you could improve children’s lives by becoming a foster carer, register your initial enquiry here

Fostering Siblings

Often when children and young people are placed into foster care they may have brothers and sisters who may also be unable to live at home.

Fostering multiple children at once can enable brothers and sisters to stay together at a time of immense emotional disruption in their lives.
Some of the only stability they might have in their lives when they enter foster care can come from each other.

However, this can present foster carers with additional challenges in providing the young people in their care with a stable and secure home environment.

Having several young people to cater for can put a carer’s organisation and time management skills to the test.

It can also be a pressure on the space in your home, so having enough room, time, resources and patience to adequately provide for multiple children is essential.

We also make sure that with every foster placement that carers are supported and given all the help, advice and assistance they need to make the placement a success.

Sibling groups, just like individual children, might well exhibit challenging behaviour during a foster placement.

Children struggling to deal with unmanageable feelings and complex emotions can present an individual or a collective challenge to the carer.

However, a stable, supportive and loving environment where adults can see beyond the behaviour and understand the child can often help them make considerable progress.

Helping siblings to stay together and help each other can be one of the most rewarding aspects of foster care.

If you are considering becoming a foster parent and would like to work with Alliance Foster Care, simply contact us on 0808 1680 180

First steps to fostering

Becoming a foster carer is a major life decision and not one that anyone enters into without serious consideration and care.
At first the process of becoming a foster carer might seem complex and daunting, but at Alliance Foster Care we support all prospective carers throughout.

Once you’ve first made contact a carer recruitment officer will get in touch and explain more about the fostering role with Alliance Foster Care and assess your eligibility.

The next step will be an initial home visit from a social worker who will come to your home and discuss fostering with you in greater depth.

At this stage it will be important to see whether you have a spare room that is suitable to be used as a child’s bedroom so this is something that should be prepared in advance.

Following the visit, you will need to submit a formal application and then you will be visited over a period of weeks by a fostering assessor and there is a mandatory disclosure and barring check.

The assessment stage includes a three day ‘skills to foster course’. Following this there is a selection panel that candidates attend to find out if they have been selected as carers.

This might seem like a rigorous and lengthy process but it is designed to make sure that carers make informed decisions and won’t be overwhelmed by the challenges of fostering.

Above all, throughout the process you must be able to show that you can offer a secure, stable and supportive home to a young person facing difficulties in their life.

If you feel that you can offer an environment to a young person that reassures, nurtures and offers commitment and stability, then you probably have many of the attributes required of a foster carer.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer and would like to work with Alliance, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 1680 180

‘Tinder for Teens’ App, Yellow, Compromising Children Safety

The NSPCC has warned that new app for teenagers, Yellow, is putting young people at risk of predators.

Yellow is a free mobile phone app similar in function to dating app Tinder that allows children to connect with local people. Like Tinder, users can connect with strangers by swiping right on their profile picture if they see someone they want to connect with, or left if they are not interested. When both users mutually ‘like’ each other, they can chat by adding each other on picture-messaging service Snapchat.

But unlike dating app Tinder – which raised its minimum age to 18 after charities said predators could use it to groom children – Yellow does not have checks in place to verify ages. As such, users can override the age and parental control restrictions to sign up, meaning it is possible that adults can pose as children to access other users Snapchat and Instagram profiles.

The app has raised significant concern amongst parents and the NPSCC as it enables young people to connect with strangers with ease.

What can you do?

  • Make sure children only have people they know and trust as online contacts.
  • Remind children it’s never OK to meet someone they’ve met online in person.
  • Let children know their location and profile photo isn’t private in Yellow.

It is important to be aware of which apps and social networks children in your care are using and monitor their online activity. For help protecting children in your care from online abuse, visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk

What happens during a fostering assessment?

Whether you’re at the very start of your fostering journey and doing research before you make an initial enquiry, or whether you’re preparing to have an assessment soon, we understand that you may feel apprehensive about this step.

As you’d expect, the fostering assessment process involves an in-depth analysis, but it shouldn’t be intimidating or frightening. So, to help you feel more at ease when your own assessment approaches, today we’re going to outline how a foster care assessment works in a little more detail for you.
 
When will your Alliance Foster Care assessment happen?

The foster care assessment is usually the third stage in an individual or couple’s foster care application journey. Following an initial enquiry, which may happen over the telephone or in person, you will receive a fostering pack full of information to help you decide if fostering could be a good fit for you. Next you will be visited by one of our team who till talk to you in more detail about fostering and how it might impact on your lifestyle, as well as answering any questions you may have about the process. If you decide to proceed, the next step is to complete a fostering application form. This will be followed by your fostering assessment.
 
What is the fostering assessment process?

Once we receive your form, we will allocate an assessor who will work with you and your family during the assessment process. They will visit you at your home on a number of occasions and work through your application with you, gathering information about your family life, your background and history and about current and previous relationships.

We will identify any previous experience you have of looking after children or providing care. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks will be carried out to confirm whether you have any previous cautions or convictions. The questions you are asked will be probing, but are designed to find out how fostering might impact on you and your family, so it’s important to answer fully and honestly. Your assessor will always try and make you feel as relaxed as possible. You will also be asked to provide the names of referees as part of this process, and these people will be contacted in relation to your application.

This process will help your assessor put together what is known as a Form F in relation to your application. This will pull the collected information together and you will have the opportunity to review your Form F before it is passed to the Fostering Panel. You will meet with the Panel to discuss your application and find out whether they will be recommending that your application be progressed. This gives you the opportunity to discuss with them your experiences, circumstances and other details outlined in the form.
 
Want to learn more about the assessment?

Hopefully this post has helped you feel a little more relaxed about the fostering process as a whole and about any approaching assessment meetings you may have.  If you’re unsure whether you could be suitable for fostering or you’ve been put off by what seemed like a scary process in the past, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always happy to answer questions to put any concerns you may have at ease.