Fostering

Fostering

There are different types of foster care for the individual needs of local children and young people.

Enquire about fostering

Here you can find information on how you enquire about fostering.

Two brothers read a story book with a giant teddy bear



We are a friendly team ready to answer any questions you have.

What is fostering?
Fostering is looking after someone else’s children temporarily when it’s not possible for them to live with their own family. This could happen for several reasons:
  • neglect or abuse by parents or other family members
  • adolescents in need of structure, boundaries and support
  • parent’s serious illness, including mental health issues, where support is needed
  • practical problems (i.e. unsupported single parents or poverty)
  • problems with relationships - parents and children need a break
  • moving into a family environment from residential children’s homes
  • supporting short breaks for children with disabilities and their families
The role of a foster carer
You’re responsible for the child’s everyday care needs and welfare. You work with the local authority and the parents on any important decisions that have to be made about the child, involving the child where appropriate.

The aim is to help children return to their families or, if this is not possible, help them to move to an adoptive or permanent foster family.

Fostering placements can last from one night to an entire childhood but, on average, placements last about nine months. The number of children in need of fostering in the UK far outweighs the number of carers willing to take them in, with a shortage of nearly 9,000 foster carers in the UK.
Time-limited foster care
Time-limited fostering ranges from a few nights to up to three years, helping children from birth to adulthood. Foster carers can offer emergency beds to help a family or foster family during a crisis but their main function is to provide intermediate placements, helping children to return home or move in with a new permanent family.

New emergency foster care scheme - recruiting now!

Northumberland County Council has introduced an exciting new 24/7 emergency foster care scheme to support children aged 0 to 18 years old in placements up to 12 weeks. This scheme pays a guaranteed fee and allowance every week of £360, plus additional allowances (NB: No tax is deducted from these fees or allowances).

If you can say yes to the following - please contact Caroline for an informal phone interview on 01670 62 62 62:
  • Significant experience working with children and young people? 
  • Looking for a new challenge?
  • Have a spare bedroom?
  • Aged 25 or over?
  • Access to a car?
  • Can work as part of the team around the child, as well as independently?
  • Will actively support and encourage young people in their health and social development?
Long-term or permanent fostering
Sometimes children aren’t able to return to live with their own families and need a long-term or permanent foster family. Most of these children are already in short-term care, generally aged between seven and 12 years old. 

We urgently need more long-term foster carers, so children can move in and stay until they are ready to fly the nest. Long-term fostering allows a child to grow up in a safe and supported family environment while retaining the connection with their birth family.
Emergency foster care scheme
Northumberland County Council has introduced an exciting new 24/7 emergency foster care scheme to support children aged 0 to 18 years old in placements up to 12 weeks. This scheme pays a guaranteed fee and allowance every week of £360, plus additional allowances (NB: No tax is deducted from these fees or allowances).

If you can say yes to the following - please contact Caroline for an informal phone interview on 01670 62 62 62:
  • Significant experience working with children and young people? 
  • Looking for a new challenge?
  • Have a spare bedroom?
  • Aged 25 or over?
  • Access to a car?
  • Can work as part of the team around the child, as well as independently?
  • Will actively support and encourage young people in their health and social development?
Short breaks & respite care
Respite care can be offered for any family that needs extra support. This is usually for weekend or holiday placements for children and young people but can occasionally be required for weekdays.

Our short-break care service offers support to families who have disabled children. By planning ahead and giving their children regular short breaks with the same foster carer, the families are more able to care for their children long-term.

Short breaks are usually two or three days. Some occur weekly, others monthly and some just in the school holidays.

This form of foster care is great for people who are not in a position to offer full-time support, as well as those who wish to work full-time as a foster carer with lots of different children.
Different age groups & siblings
We have lots of children of all ages in need of foster care support and all present different rewards and challenges to the foster carer. Caring for very young children is about establishing daily routines and supporting child development.

The greatest need across the UK is foster care for teenagers. Our young people ask you to put yourself in their shoes and recall your own experiences of growing up, forget teenage stereotypes and provide a supportive home-life environment. As a carer for teenagers, you’ll receive tailored support and training to help you and our young people succeed.

Siblings
Staying together is usually very important to brothers and sisters. They often need the security and comfort of each other as much as they need you. We need people with multiple or large spare bedrooms to accommodate siblings.

Our young children in care council, Young Voices Making Choices, have developed some messages about why keeping brothers and sisters together is often so important. If you have the physical space in your home, please consider fostering siblings.
Parent & child placements
Some foster carers offer support to a mother or father who is experiencing difficulties. In most cases, this involves offering a home to a mum and their baby. As a foster carer you will:
  • help the parent learn and develop parenting skills and responsibilities
  • observe and record how the parent looks after the child
  • provide parental care, if required, for the child 
New start foster care
We have a small team of carers that work as part of a tight-knit project team, generally with children aged 10 plus.

These children need individual care, where there are no other children under the age of 16 in the household, and you must be able to use your own car.

This scheme has a limited number of vacancies. Details will be posted on the website when we are recruiting.
Adoption & fostering supporters
Northumberland's adoption and fostering teams work in partnership with many outstanding people and organisations who pledge their support to the services for local children and their families. Below are some of those who have helped support our goals.

The Duchess of Northumberland
The Duchess of Northumberland supports Northumberland Fostering and Adoption
Her Grace, The Duchess of Northumberland, made history by becoming the first woman to be given a centuries-old role as the county's official representative of the Crown.

The Duchess, appointed by the Queen as the new Lord-Lieutenant of Northumberland, fulfils a ceremonial post which dates back to the reign of King Henry VIII.

Her Grace is heavily involved with the voluntary sector, fostering and encouraging voluntary and welfare organisations.

The Duchess has supported foster families and supports the county's work to help improve the lives of some of the county's most vulnerable children and young people.



Glenn McCrory
Glenn McCrory supports Northumberland Fostering and Adoption
Glenn McCrory was the North East's first ever world boxing champion.

Now a commentator and presenter for Sky Sports TV, he set up the Glenn McCrory Foundation, aimed at raising the aspirations of young people from deprived areas in the North East.

As deputy lieutenant of Northumberland, Glenn has pledged his support to looked-after children and young people.

He has helped the fostering and adoption teams raise awareness of the need for more foster families and adoptive parents within the county.




Sharon Barbour
Sharon Barbour supports Northumberland Adoption and Fostering 
Sharon Barbour is a BBC TV Look North presenter and reporter.

Following her Look North foster care fortnight feature on the need for more foster carers for teenagers across the region, Sharon has pledged her support to looked-after children in Northumberland.

She said: "Foster carers and adoptive families make such a difference in children and young people's lives.

"I hope that we have helped to raise awareness and that more people come forward to offer such valuable roles for North East children and young people."

How to become a foster carer

Find out how the foster care application process works.

Screening
After your initial enquiry we’ll do a basic check on the social service computer systems and one of our supervising social workers will contact you and arrange a home visit. Your social worker will:
  • ask lots of questions and help you to decide if fostering is right for you and your family
  • highlight both the positives and negatives about fostering to give you a full picture of this complex role
  • answer any questions you may have about fostering
  • help you formally apply and progress to the next stage
‘Skills to foster’ pre-approval training course
Before starting your formal assessment, you’ll complete a three-day ‘skills to foster’ training course. Relaxed, informal and friendly, the course aims to:
  • provide lots more information about the knowledge and skills you’ll need
  • allow you to reflect on your values and attitudes towards foster care
  • clarify what fostering involves and the impact it will have on you and those close to you
'Skills to foster' course dates 2017
The service runs four courses across the year.  
 

Wed

Thurs

Fri

25/01/17

Choppington

26/01/17

Choppington

27/01/17

Choppington

 

Tues

Thurs

Fri

02/05/17

Cramlington

04/05/17

Cramlington

05/05/17

Cramlington

 

Wed

Thurs

Fri

12/07/17

Cramlington

13/07/17

Cramlington

14/07/17

Cramlington

 

Wed

Thurs

Fri

25/10/17

Cramlington

26/10/17

Cramlington

27/10/17

Cramlington


Venues:

Choppington Social Welfare Centre, Scotland Gate, Choppington, NE62 5SR

Fire Service Headquarters, West Hartford Fire Station, West Hartford Business Park, Cramlington, NE23 3JP

 
Assessment
A supervising social worker will visit you regularly over the assessment period, which takes around four months.

During that time your social worker will write a detailed ‘formal assessment report’ and various documents and checks are needed to confirm you’re suitable to look after young people and identify the right type of fostering for you.

We’ll need to check:
  • local authority records
  • proof of identity - passport, driving licence, proof of residence, etc.
  • medical assessments
  • enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) - previously known as Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks
  • work and personal references and referee interviews
  • two personal referees who aren’t related to you
Approval
You’ll receive a copy of the assessment report to review and agree with your social worker before they present it to the fostering panel. You’ll be invited to attend this session where the panel, made up of independent experts, consider the report before making a recommendation for you to be approved as a foster carer. 

Don’t be daunted by this part of the process. Your social worker will support you throughout this formal meeting and any concerns will have already been ironed out by this stage. Your application is then formally approved by the children's services director and you will be sent a foster carer agreement to sign.

Now you can look forward to your induction session, first child placement, meeting up with other foster carers on training courses and a whole lot more.
Experienced foster carers who want to transfer to Northumberland
If you currently foster for another agency or council and would like to transfer to Northumberland, we would like to hear from you. We are keen to recruit experienced foster carers. The process is quicker than a standard application.
 

Support for foster carers

Whether you are new to fostering or experienced, the Northumberland team is here to support you every step of the way.

A dedicated fostering team
As a foster carer you’ll have your own dedicated supervising social worker. They help with child placement, development and training and general day-to-day support. Any child that is staying with you also has their own social worker, so you’ll have a network of professionals to support you.
 
 Beyond this, you will have access to:
  • 24-hour emergency telephone support
  • School360.co.uk - your secure professional email and website
  • free training and development
  • a buddy mentor scheme
  • a fee paid every week and generous fostering allowances
  • local support groups and a network of foster families
  • exclusive access to the Max Card scheme – discounts for activities and venues 
School links & educational support
Education is a key part of a foster carer’s supporting role. Our virtual school provides additional support for looked-after children and young people, which includes:
  • ensuring that looked-after children are prioritised and fast tracked wherever possible through school services within the council, e.g. school admissions
  • promoting the education of looked-after children
  • supporting schools and social care staff in the education of looked-after children
Children’s support team
Some foster carers may also receive extra support from the children’s support team. This team works with families in the community and operates seven days a week from 8am until 10pm.

A children’s support worker can offer help in stressful family situations. They sit down and discuss what’s going on, identify the difficulties and work with you for up to 12 weeks until the situation is resolved. 
Health & wellbeing for looked-after children
The health of children in care can be a significant issue because of past experiences of abuse, neglect or poverty.

The Northumberland health team helps foster carers make sure that their health needs are looked after through health assessments, action plans and support from medical professionals.
Emergency duty team
24-hour support is available for emergencies if a young person is in danger of harm or you’re dealing with an urgent situation out of normal working hours.

The team offers advice, guidance and support on the telephone and, in critical circumstances, can visit you depending on their resources.
Training & support
All foster carers receive comprehensive training, free of charge, as part of the application process. Your social worker will also agree a personal development plan, identifying your specific training needs.
 
There are various standard training modules that all carers must complete, which include:
  • induction
  • first aid
  • equality and diversity
  • health and safety
  • health and well-being
  • recording
  • safe handling of medicines
  • safeguarding
  • safe caring
Further qualifications
Northumberland foster carer courses are often validated and can be included on your CV for other work with children and young people. The service links with training partner AC Education and we encourage national qualifications like the diploma in child care, which is equivalent to NVQ level three.
Local support groups & a network of foster families
Foster carer group meetings take place regularly across Northumberland. They are a great place for staying up to date on changes to policy, learning from other families and getting specialist advice from experts on fire, home safety and education.

Unlike most fostering agencies, we offer group meetings that are close to you in a variety of locations across the county. You’ll be invited to a group near you when you’re approved as a foster carer.
Financial support
As a full-time foster carer you get a fee each week, 52 weeks a year, regardless of whether you have a child staying with you. When you are caring for a child, you will also receive a fostering allowance on top of your fee.
 
Fees
Fees are paid in recognition of your contribution and experience as a foster carer. There are two fundamental levels:
  • band one: above £105 per week
  • band two: above £183 per week
The fee band depends on the resources you’re offering as a foster carer and the level of fostering agreement signed. Most new foster carers start on band one, unless you have significant skills and experience with children and young people.

Fostering allowances
All Northumberland carers receive a generous fostering allowance when they have a child placed with them which should be spent on the needs of the child, e.g. clothing, food, activities and pocket money. The amount is dependent on the child’s age.
 
Age range Fostering allowance
0-4 £126.98 per week
5-10 £144.69 per week
11-15 £180.04 per week
16+ £219.03 per week

Further financial support is available depending on the individual needs of the child. Enhanced fostering allowances are also available for funding holidays, birthdays and Christmas, or similar religious events for looked-after children.
 
Tax, holiday and pay queries
Mainstream foster carers can choose to take up to four weeks' paid holiday. However, our carers tend to take a foster child on holiday with them if suitable. Different pro rata allowance rates apply for short break and respite placements.

Northumberland foster carers work on a self-employed basis. For specific information about the tax and benefits that apply to you, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or tax office.
Foster carer charter
The national foster carer charter sets out:
  • the foster care service roles and commitment
  • what foster carers can expect from the foster care service
  • what the foster care service expects from foster carers
Click here to read the charter

 

Fostering - assessment & post-assessment

Expand the links to view all the questions in the different sections.

Questions about the assessment process
Why do I need to be assessed?
The purpose of the assessment is to check you are safe people to be looking after our children and young people BUT it also aims to guide you into deciding the right route into foster care for your skills, experience and family situation.

Why is the assessment that long?
On average the assessment takes up to four months during which a social worker will visit you about eight times. The assessment takes this time to complete to enable the social worker to write a detailed report on your suitability. Working through the assessment also helps prospective foster carers prepare for the role.

What questions will I be asked, for example, what information do you want on me and my extended family?
The assessment will cover a wide range of areas such as your home, approach to education, family attitudes, health, employment, religion and culture, social life and life experiences. It also covers potentially sensitive areas of your life, where we can suggest further discussion and areas for further development through training.

Is there an exam included in the assessment process?
No there is not an exam. Prospective foster carers will need to be active participants in the three-day skills to foster training which is completed prior to assessment. During assessment, prospective carers’ skills and qualities are assessed to show how they are suitable for the role and have an understanding of the needs of young people in care. The assessment is also a chance for any areas for development to be identified.

I’ve had depression – can I still foster?
Yes. Past mental health problems, or any other health problems, will not exclude you from becoming a foster carer. As fostering can be stressful at times, like a lot of jobs, it is important we all consider the emotional impact fostering may have on your mental health. We have a responsibility to ensure we are looking after you and your family, and fostering is right for you at this time. A medical is requested from your GP for our looked-after children’s doctor to review as part of the assessment. 

Why do you need to contact my past partners?
We consider past partners where you have lived together for more than two years, been married or parented children together. Contacting ex-partners during an assessment is standard practice within Northumberland. The independent review mechanism, which investigates practice into how adoption and fostering assessments are conducted in England, advises it is good practice to contact all ex-partners. It's also useful to obtain references from both families when 'it was apparent there had been acrimonious separations' (British Adoption and Fostering: IRM Annual Report 2010/2011).

We appreciate people can be apprehensive about this, particularly when the relationship didn't end amicably. However, the family placement social worker is trained to assess responses accurately and judge this against other positive information available.

Contacting an ex-partner is more relevant when you have parented together. This information is essential to developing our understanding of you as a parent. Unless there are issues relating to domestic violence, or those that would put the applicant or children at risk in any way, contact would need to be made with an ex-partner. Depending on individual circumstances, we may also choose to contact past partners where there has not been any shared parenting. If you have any concerns or queries about this, please talk to the team.

What references will be taken up? 
Personal references, and where applicable work references, will be taken up to further highlight your skills and qualities for the role of fostering. These are an important part of the assessment process. Click here for more information about checks and references.
Post assessment & support available for foster carers
How soon will a child be placed with me once I am approved as a foster carer?
It is likely a child will be placed with you straight after being approved, depending on how wide an age range you are able to care for. Your worker will discuss any placements with you first, before they come to stay.

Do I have say on which children are placed with me?
Yes, all carers can say if they do not feel they are the appropriate people to look after a proposed child. However, it is important for carers to consider there are children and young people from a range of backgrounds who need placements. Your support worker will work our placements officer to identify suitable matches. The range of placements you are approved for and open to work with will change as you develop and build your confidence as a foster carer. It will also change as your own circumstances change, such as your own children getting older, or your own family commitments changing.

What support will I get once I am a foster carer and what out of hours support is available?
The following link provides information on support you receive as a Northumberland foster carer: What if my own children don’t like the children who are placed?
It is important to be aware of how fostering may affect your own children. While many children enjoy their parents fostering, it can be a challenge getting used to having other children in the house who perhaps have very different backgrounds and experiences to their own. Please see the following link to the Children who Foster book, which can be used as a resource to prepare your own children for having foster children in their home.

Is there a network where I can speak with other foster carers?
Yes, there is a wide network of other foster families. All new foster carers are linked to a current foster carer – our buddy mentor scheme – so you can gain knowledge and support from a more experienced carer in your area. You also attend a regular fostering support group in your local area. There is also a secure website for our foster carers, with a Northumberland email account and access to a library of useful information.

Support for children & young people in foster care

Information for children and young people about what to expect from foster care in Northumberland and the support you will receive from us.

What to expect if you are fostered
Foster carers are people who want to help look after you while you’re unable to stay with your family. They will do all they can to help you feel safe and cared for, and help you stay in touch with your family and friends.

The foster care team within social services prepare, train and supervise our foster carers so they can look after you properly. They and your social worker are part of the council’s children’s services team and will work with you and your family to give you the best care they can. While most young people’s experiences are positive, it’s important to know your rights.

You have the right…
  • to feel safe and comfortable
  • not to be spoken to in a nasty or hurtful way
  • not to be made to feel bad about yourself
  • not to be hurt in any way
  • to be talked to and listened to about plans or decisions made about you
  • to be offered the right sort of school and play activities
  • to be helped to keep in touch with all important people in your life, providing it’s safe
  • to make a complaint if you feel you’re being treated unfairly
  • to advice from an independent advocate for advice and support. They will talk to people on your behalf if you want them to. 
Having your say
Our participation and advocacy team concentrates on opportunities for looked-after children to be heard and involved in influencing the services provided by the council.

You can also download the Mind Of My Own app, which can be used on standard PCs as well as most smartphones and tablets. The award-winning app helps you express your views more clearly, get more involved in meetings and make better decisions with your social care team.
Preparing to leave care
As you approach 14, a 14+ social worker is allocated to support your development as you move towards adult independence. Based on your needs, the social worker will create a ‘pathway plan’, which is designed to help you find further education, employment, training or housing if that’s what you’d like.

The 14+ team works closely with the VMC group who meet regularly. There is also the opportunity to become involved with other groups via participation officers, such as the children in care council. 

Please note: This team was previously known as the 16+ team.  

Information to download: Please click here for further information about adolescent services.


What if I don’t want to leave my foster care?
Northumberland County Council's ‘staying put’ scheme is there so you can continue to live with your foster carers until you’re at least 21. This means you can continue in further education and training while being supported in a family setting.
Foster care frequently asked questions
What happens when I go to live with my carer?
Going to live with strangers can be scary. All families are different, so you will feel strange at first. Foster carers understand this and will do their best to make you feel welcome and comfortable.

Talk to your carers. Tell them how you feel and what you do and don’t like. Ask them questions, e.g. do I get pocket money? Can I choose what to eat? Can I use the phone?

Foster carers will tell you the rules and routines in their house so you know what to expect. Don’t worry if people make mistakes. It will take a little time to get used to each other and work things out together.

Foster carers receive information about you and your family so they know something about you. They will welcome you bringing your favourite and familiar things with you.

We try and choose a foster family that is as close to your family as possible. We want you to have as much contact with your family and friends as you can. It would be good if you could carry on with the same clubs, youth clubs, etc.

What if I am not happy with my care?
Please try to talk to your foster carer first. Questions and worries can usually be sorted out easily. If this is not possible, talk to your social worker. If you want to complain about any aspect of your contact with your social worker or the children’s services team, speak to your carer who will help arrange this.

How can I find out more?
We have two guides for children who are looked after by our foster carers. One is for children aged under 10 and the other is for children and young people aged 10 and older.

Guide to being looked after - This website gives you information about where you are living, keeping in touch with important people, how you can have your say, meetings, your health and your rights. 
This guide isn’t a replacement for talking to people like your carers or social workers but it might help with some questions that you have.

Family & friends care

Here you will find information for people who look after children that belong to relations or friends.

Caring for children of friends & family
Family and friends carers, also referred to as kinship carers or guardians, are relatives, friends and other people with a prior relationship to somebody else's child, who are caring for them full-time.

Read our guide to family and friends care to find out about the different legal options, the types of support available, details of any financial support available (links to form referred to in the guide) and the kind of social work involvement that will be necessary.  Please note: This policy guide is currently being reviewed.

Short-break care for disabled children

This section provides information for families and carers about the specialist family-based short-break care service.

What is family-based care?
Short-break foster care is one of the Northumberland County Council's services for disabled children and their families.

Family-based care can provide overnight care from a specialised Northumberland foster carer. The carers are selected because of their personal and professional experience and understanding of disabled children.
  
Family-based care offers families planned and structured short breaks aimed at helping the child develop life and self-care skills, as well as building upon social interaction experience outside of the family setting.
Who is the service for?
The service is for children up to 18 years old with complex health care needs (i.e. technology dependent) and children with autism or learning disabilities. The services available to families are currently subject to social worker assessment via the Northumberland County Council disabled children’s team.
Why family-based care?
Young people will have the opportunity to socialise, while benefitting from one-to-one care in a family setting. Northumberland County Council has redeveloped its family-based service offering, enabling carers and young people to link into universal services, residential home group activities and school activity programmes.
What would I need to become a Northumberland short-break carer?
  • a dedicated spare bedroom in your home
  • a warm and accepting approach to families, children and professionals
  • mobility access (if caring for children with mobility needs)
  • an awareness of child development and living with the challenges of disability
  • experience gained from living or working with disabled children
  • self-motivated to provide fun and creative activities for children
  • a team worker with the capacity to communicate with all professionals involved with the child in your care
  • commitment to a personalised training and development programme, including a willingness to carry out any additional training to enhance the service you are giving to children in your care (e.g. health, educational and social care from staff and family members)
Support and training opportunities:
  • a dedicated family placement social worker who provides supervision, support and advice
  • 24-hour telephone support service
  • regular carer support groups
  • essential equipment and resources
  • access to the full training schedule offered
  • NVQ equivalent in child care level three 
The carer application process
A family placement social worker will visit you to offer guidance on the type of care work open to you. You complete a pre-approval training course and then we work with you through your preparation and formal assessment. This includes police checks (DBS), medical and reference checks. The application is taken to an independent panel for official approval, then we can start to set up your placement links.
Contact us
Contact Caroline for further information on how you can become a short-break foster carer:

Useful fostering links & documents

Here you will find useful documents for Northumberland County Council's fostering processes.