In foster care, there is often a sensitivity around the subject of the fees and allowances foster carers receive when caring for a child. These allowances are paid by all fostering providers, whether they be a local authority or independent agency. Yet, despite the universal approach of remuneration, ‘being paid’ as a foster carer can still be a sensitive subject amongst those who do not foster.
“Talking about fostering fees can be seen as a taboo, nominally because (fostering) is viewed as a role that should be vocational and unpaid.” – Nat, TACT Foster Carer.
Characteristics of foster carers
Let us start by looking at some of the key attributes and characteristics of people who become approved foster carers.
People who foster have a caring disposition that they want to use to make a significant difference to young people’s lives. That instinct to care can come from parenting their own children, working in the care sector – or simply that they have an in-built urge to help another human being. But how do we, as a fostering charity, ensure that our foster carers have the right motivations from the outset – and are not simply ‘doing it for the money’?
When people apply to be foster carers, they go through a highly thorough assessment process that, by default, checks they have the right temperament, disposition, and motivations to foster. Their family history, current and past relationships, childhood, and relationship with their parents are just some of the areas covered in the assessment. Whilst the main objective is to ensure that the applicant can provide a safe environment for vulnerable children, the social worker conducting the assessment is also looking for their motivations to foster – and is forming a picture of an applicant’s personality and the reasons why they want to become a foster carer.
Vulnerable children require care, patience, empathy, and nurture – and these are the key attributes that social workers are looking for when assessing a fostering applicant.
“Fostering is something I have always wanted to do from being around 12 years old and money, to be completely honest, didn’t even come into my thoughts as when we set out on our journey of fostering, both of us worked full time. But when I decided to stop working – yes, I did need to look at finances.” – Carol, TACT Foster Carer.
Becoming a highly skilled carer
To counterbalance the caring and nurturing characteristics required, foster carers are highly trained individuals that are effectively ‘on call’ within their own homes 24/7. Their training begins during the assessment process, and is ongoing to extend knowledge and skill, enabling them to care for children from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of abilities and needs.
Some of the courses that foster carers are required to take are safeguarding and child protection, paediatric first aid, safer caring and child development. There are also more in-depth courses such as Understanding ADHD, Introduction to Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Secure Base Model. These courses help foster carers to apply their knowledge and establish relevant strategies to positively impact children’s lives.
As well as gaining specific skills to provide young people with the specialised care they need, foster carers are also required to keep detailed records with regards to the progress of a young person, problematic areas that may need more focus and any good outcomes. The children themselves are also encouraged to provide comments and feedback. This documentation is used to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the fostering arrangement and care plan.
Also within a foster carer’s remit is communication with different professionals and responsible adults who have a connection with a young person. These include birth parents, social workers, health, and education professionals. A foster carer’s role and contribution to a wider team, who are focussed on healing trauma by putting strategies in place, is vital.
Fostering Allowance – a sensitive subject?
Furthermore, we can look at the fostering allowance itself, which when quoted by fostering organisations on their websites or in printed media, can often result in a degree of sensitivity or confusion. So why is this? So far we’ve looked at these key factors regarding motivations to foster, skill and worth:
- That as a foster carer, a need or instinct to care is very much the primary motivator to foster – although financial security and stability is an essential element to evaluate whether fostering is an affordably viable option.
- The skillset set of a foster carer, and how essential they are within a team of wider professionals, further highlights, reinforces and justifies their ‘worth’ of remuneration.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the fostering allowance quoted by local authorities and independent agencies is actually made up of two elements:
1. A maintenance allowance for each young person in care – which covers the costs of food, clothing, transport and any personal items for them. This also includes holiday, birthday and religious festival allowances.
2. A foster carer’s fee – a payment to foster carers to reflect their skillset, knowledge, their standing within a team of professionals, their availability 24/7, as well as their empathy, care and passion to make a difference.
Once we break the fostering allowance down, we can see that the total weekly payment actually includes payments that go directly to the young person. Read more about how fostering allowances work.
“Financial security is paramount to creating a stable environment for children. You wouldn’t approach a job role without thinking about the financial impact to you and your family, the same applies for fostering. It is important to acknowledge that beyond the nurturing support you will offer every child that comes into your care, you have to know that it is an affordable decision.” – Nat, TACT Foster Carer.
Foster carers help young people to change their own lives by implementing relevant strategies supported by a want to care, nurture, and encourage. But just like anyone else working in the care sector, or any other sector, they also need to make a living and provide a financially stable environment for their family and the young people they provide care for. They are highly trained individuals and vital members of a wider team of professionals, all with a young person’s welfare, wellbeing, and development at the heart of everything they do.
Read some of our inspiring foster carer stories. What better way to understand the true motivations to foster than from our amazing team of foster carers.