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Frequently Asked Questions

We find that lots of people who are interested in fostering, and who would make wonderful carers, have all kinds of doubts about whether they would be found suitable and accepted.   We hope that if you have questions, some of them will be covered here:

Can I foster:

If I rent my home?

If I have pets?

If I might be too young, or too old?

If my home is not very big?

If I have children of my own?

If I’ve never had children?

If I have a baby, or hope to have a baby?

If I work?

If I am a single person?

If I am gay or transgendered?

If I’m a man?

If I smoke?

If I have a criminal conviction?

If I can’t drive?

If I have had depression, or take antidepressants?

And some questions about fostering:

What is Hythe House Support?

Why do children need fostering?

Is fostering like adoption?

How much training will I have to do?

How involved will my partner have to be?

What support will I get from you?

What checks will you carry out on me during assessment?

Am I allowed to discipline the child?

Will I know anything about the child before they come to stay?

Can I specify the age of the child I look after?

Will I foster children with disabilities?

What happens if things go wrong with the placement or I can’t cope?

Can I have a break from fostering to spend time with my own family?

How long will a child stay with me?

How many children can I foster?

What happens when a child leaves?

How much will I be paid?

Will I have to pay tax and National Insurance?

Will I be paid when I don’t have a child in placement?

Can I take a child on trips and holidays?

Where will the child go to school?

If I already foster, can I transfer to Hythe House Support?

What if I have any other questions?

 

If I rent my home?
It doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home, but in either case you need to have secure tenure, and you may have to ask your landlord’s permission.  The most important thing is that your home is a safe and comfortable place, and that you have a spare bedroom for a foster child.

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If I have pets?
Unless it is a dog of a breed classified under the Dangerous Dogs act, no pet should be a problem as long as it is well behaved, and kept and cared for safely.  We have foster carers with dogs (although we do specify no more than 2), cats, reptiles, caged birds, tortoises…. Pets are always considered when making a placement of a child or young person for suitability.  In many cases, pets are a really positive part of a child’s life.

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If I might be too young, or too old?
To foster with Hythe House Support you must be at least 21 years of age, but whatever your age, we are looking for a mature approach and life experience.  We do not stipulate an upper age limit.  Many of our carers are over 50, and their experience of being parents and/or grandparents is invaluable.  Many carers have thought about fostering for several years before they decide to go ahead and apply. 

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If my home is not very big?
Foster carers live in flats and houses, large and small.  As long as your home is suitable and safe, and you have a spare room available, size is not important.  Each fostered child will require their own bedroom, unless they are very young siblings of the same sex.  Some foster carers have space for one child, other carers foster more than one.

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If I have children of my own?
If you have a child of your own, we take careful consideration of this in the matching process, so that the foster child will fit in well with all members of your family.  This may mean matching children from a particular age group, or gender.

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If I’ve never had children?
Some carers have never had children of their own, and this is not essential.  You may have had experience of other people’s children, or worked with children or young people, and this would be valuable experience.  In any case, full training is provided whether you’ve had children or not.

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If I have a baby, or hope to have a baby?
If you are planning a baby, or have a very young family, this may not be the best time to begin fostering.  But every situation is looked at individually, and every fostering family’s situation is different.

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If I work?
Fostering is a paid job, and you need to have sufficient time and energy to commit to any child who is placed with you.  This does not mean that you cannot work at all, in certain circumstances, but you (or your partner if you have one) need to be available for the child’s needs, for meetings and for training.   In practice this usually means that the primary carer does not work outside the home, or full time.

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If I am a single person?
Some carers are married, or live with a partner, others are single.  It doesn’t matter – carers in every situation have lots to offer.

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If I am gay or transgendered?
If you are gay or transgendered, whether you are single, co-habiting or married, you will be very welcome as a foster carer.

If I’m a man?
Men are underrepresented as foster carers, and we would very much like to hear from you if you are a man interested in fostering.

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If I smoke?
If you or your partner smoke, we would not register you to care for children under the age of five years, but it would not prevent you from fostering.  Some of the young people in foster care will also smoke, although naturally we would encourage both carers and young people not to smoke for the good of their health, and would expect smoking not to take place inside the house.

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If I have a criminal conviction?
It depends what the conviction is for, and how long ago it was.  Some convictions will obviously bar you from fostering, such as violent or sexual offences.  It is important that you declare any convictions to us so that we can explore how they would impact on your application.

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If I can’t drive?
Some carers do not have a car, and it is by no means essential although undeniably useful to have access to personal transport, as you will be taking a child to school, attending meetings regarding the child, or taking them to contact meetings with their family.

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If I have had depression, or take antidepressants?
This would not prevent you from fostering.  Part of the application process is a medical examination to ascertain that you are fit and healthy enough to care for a child.  Having a medical condition of any kind is something that needs to be disclosed, but need not be a problem.

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And some questions about fostering:

What is Hythe House Support?
We are a family run fostering agency in Sittingbourne, Kent.  We have been operating since 2003, and before that, the managing director, her husband and three sons were a fostering family themselves, having taken care of dozens of children and young people over the course of more than 20 years.  Because we are a small agency, all of our staff know all of our foster carers and all of the children placed with them really well.  Therefore the support and advice we can offer to carers is extremely personal and relevant.

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Why do children need fostering?
Children come into care for lots of reasons: sometimes a parent may be ill or in hospital and unable to care for their child for a period of time; there may have been a family breakdown or homelessness; a parent may have a problem with alcohol or drugs, or a child may have been subject to abuse or neglect; or a child may be at risk of some other harm in their family circumstances.

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Is fostering like adoption?
Adoption is a legal process by which a child who is not yours by birth becomes a permanent part of your family.  Fostering is a temporary situation, and may be quite short term in nature, although sometimes a placement lasts for many years until the young person leaves home as an adult.

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How much training will I have to do?
Training is very important in fostering with Hythe House Support.  You will take an initial three day course called ‘Skills to Foster’ which is an introduction to all the main issues involved in fostering.  If you are approved as a foster carer, we ask you to undertake the TSDS (Training Support and Development Standards) workbook for foster carers.  We hold regular courses on all kinds of things that will be helpful to you – first aid, safe caring, drug awareness, behaviour management, counselling skills – some of these courses are mandatory, but all are useful and it’s important that all carers attend training, as it really does help you in the fostering task.  Training is held in an informal and enjoyable way; it’s not like going back to school; so even if you didn’t enjoy education as a young person yourself, you are likely to enjoy this training.

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How involved will my partner have to be?
If you are registered as foster carers as a couple, your partner will need to be fully involved.  Although one partner may be the primary foster carer, and perhaps the other partner may still work, both partners are expected to attend training and support group meetings.  Fostering involves everyone in the household, and everyone needs to feel committed to the decision to foster and be involved in fostering as a family.

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What support will I get from you?
Although the process of applying to become a foster carer and the day to day job of caring for a child may feel rather daunting before you embark on your new career, you will be helped and supported every step of the way.  There is a professional team of social workers and an experienced team of foster carers at Hythe House who can help you through any difficulties you may come across.  You will be allocated a supervising social worker who will meet with you every month to check how your placement is going and if you have any problems.  There are support group meetings held every month where carers get together and can offer a listening ear and advice in an informal setting.  You will receive excellent ongoing training and we operate a 24 hour telephone support line should you need help or advice out of hours. 
Many of our children and young people have suffered loss, or very unsettled, neglectful or abusive childhoods.  Children requiring additional therapeutic support are able to receive regular counselling and therapy through our in-house therapists.  Counselling support is also available to our foster carers should you need it.

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What checks will you carry out on me during assessment?
Because you will be caring for children, there are many safety considerations and you will be subject to a number of checks.  We will carry out a home check to make sure that your home is safe and suitable.  Everyone in your household over the age of 18 will need to have a DBS check (formerly called a CRB or police check), and you will also have to provide details of references, who we will visit.  Your doctor will need to certify that you are fit to foster.  An indepth report, called a Form F, will be compiled about you, your family history and everyone in your household.  This process is carried out by an independent social worker.  Finally, your application will be considered by an independent panel before you can be registered as a foster carer.

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Am I allowed to discipline the child?
Corporal punishment is not an acceptable form of discipline in any circumstances – this includes smacking, slapping and shaking.  There are many other effective and acceptable ways of disciplining children and you will receive training and on-going advice about this.

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Will I know anything about the child before they come to stay?
Ideally, both your family and the child will know quite a lot about each other before a placement starts and you may even have met.  You will always receive all the information that we receive about the young person, as this is important to allow you to decide if the placement would fit your family. Sometimes though, a placement has to happen at short notice and it is more difficult to provide as much advance information.   You will only be offered a placement if there is a good match between your family and the child, and you will have the opportunity to decline a placement if you feel it is not right for your family circumstances.

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Can I specify the age of the child I look after?
There may be an age group that suits your family setup, for example if you have children of your own.  Some carers specialise in caring for teenagers, or for mothers with babies.  Most of the young people fostered by Hythe House Support are between 10 – 18 years.  Younger children tend to be fostered through the local authority rather than independent fostering agencies, although there are exceptions to this.  Sometimes we are trying to keep a family of brothers and sisters together, and so we also need foster carers who can take more than one child , and of different ages.

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Will I foster children with disabilities?
We will discuss with you whether you feel you could foster a child with a physical, emotional or learning disability, and whether your home is suitable and safe for a child with a disability.  Some carers specialise in caring for children with special needs, others feel this is not their area of ability.  Many children will have had disrupted education and will need additional support in this area.

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What happens if things go wrong with the placement or I can’t cope?
We offer our carers and fostered children support that is second to none to help make a placement a success.  But you will need to be realistic; many of the children we care for have suffered trauma, loss, neglect or abuse.  This can manifest in difficult or challenging behaviours and fostering can be a stressful job on occasion.  You need to be resilient and have what we call ‘stickability’ – the desire to support a young person even during difficult times.  Sadly, sometimes a placement does not work out, despite everyone’s best efforts.  In such a case, the young person will need to be moved to an alternative placement, in a planned and constructive way.

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Can I have a break from fostering to spend time with my own family?
Having a break from any job is important.  We offer up to 28 days’ paid respite, or holiday, which accrues while you have a child in placement.  This means that you can have a break, spend time with your family alone, or go on a family holiday.  When you book some respite time, the fostered child goes to stay with another foster carer in the Hythe House family who specialises in this area.  The children very much enjoy the break too, and are taken on trips and activities. 

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How long will a child stay with me?
A child may stay for a matter of weeks, or for several years.  You may be helping a family cope in an emergency, or helping a young person prepare for independent living, which can be very satisfying.

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How many children can I foster?
When you are registered as a carer, your registration will specify how many children you can foster.  This depends on how many bedrooms you have available in your home.

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What happens when a child leaves?
Sometimes a child returns to their birth family after quite a short period, perhaps if a parent has been in hospital and is now well.  Sometimes the child might move to another fostering placement, or to another locality.  Even if it is a positive move, this can be an unsettling time for the child and sensitivity is needed.  It can also be sad for the foster family, who may be very attached to the child and will miss him or her.  We recognise that everyone may need additional support at such times.

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How much will I be paid?
You will be paid an allowance starting at £21,000 for each child in placement, rising to £24,000+ with experience.  This is paid monthly into your bank account.

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Will I have to pay tax and National Insurance?
Usually no tax or NI is payable, unless you foster more than three children, although depending on your individual circumstances you may need to take specialist advice on this, which we can arrange.

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Will I be paid when I don’t have a child in placement?
No, the allowance is only paid when you have a child in placement.  Therefore you need to plan your family finances to take account of the possibility that there may be periods when you do not have a placement.

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Can I take a child on trips and holidays?
You are encouraged to take your fostered child on trips and on holidays, unless there is a legal reason why they cannot leave the country or the local area.  These are wonderful experiences for young people to share with your family and provide happy memories for young people who may have had few experiences of this kind.

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Where will the child go to school?
Your fostered child may continue to attend their usual school, or they may have moved into the area from elsewhere and may need to be supported in starting at a new school.  Some children will go to local mainstream schools, others may need to attend a special school, especially if they have missed a lot of education or have been excluded from their last school.  Hythe House Support owns and operates its own special secondary school, based on the Isle of Sheppey.  This school takes only a few pupils at a time, and can provide personalised and specialist support.  A minibus picks up and drops children back at home every day.

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If I already foster, can I transfer to Hythe House Support?
Yes you can.  There is a protocol which needs to be followed and care is required so that the needs of the fostered child(ren) remain paramount.  If you are considering changing agency, or moving from local authority fostering, you can contact us, in confidence, for advice.

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What if I have any other questions?
Contact us!  There is a lot to consider in fostering, and if you have any queries, drop us an email at enquiries@hythehousesupport.co.uk, or give us a call during office hours on 01795 438634.  We’ll be very happy to help.

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