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Frequently asked questions

If you’re considering becoming a foster carer, you’ve probably got lots of questions about many different things. So we’ve put together a list of our most frequently asked questions to help. But if you can’t find what you want to know, contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any queries you might have.

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Can’t find the answer you’re looking for?

I have 3 boisterous dogs, would this be a problem?

Whilst some children will enjoy having pets in the home, others may be frightened or may tease an animal. Swiis also has a policy regarding pets and the subsequent hygiene issues and will make recommendations dependent on how many animals you have and how they are housed. Any animals in the household will be considered during your assessment to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the foster child.

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How long does the process take to become a foster carer?

The process of becoming a foster carer means applicants have to go through a number of stages. A general guideline is that once you have completed the Skills to Foster preparation training, it usually takes about six months to complete the family assessment and present it to the fostering panel for consideration.

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What’s involved in an initial home visit?

We like to visit you and your partner (if you are in a relationship), at home and talk with you about what you can offer a child. We need to know that your home is suitable and that you have skills and qualities that will enable you to support the child. This is your opportunity to ask questions of us and explore any concerns you may have.

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What kinds of checks are carried out on me and my home?

  • Disclosure and Barring Service Check
  • Local Authority checks
  • NSPCC checks
  • Ex-partners (except in exceptional circumstances)
  • Children, including those from previous relationships
  • Reference from current employer/fostering organisation/voluntary work
  • School/Health visitor reports for your own children (if appropriate)
  • Medical reports
  • At least 2 personal references
  • References from all previous employment involving children and vulnerable adults
  • General risk assessment of your home
  • Recommendations for improving safety
  • Overseas checks (if appropriate)
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My partner was cautioned in relation to an offence when he was 16 years old; do I need to inform you of this?

We must carry out a number of checks on potential foster carers. This includes whether anyone in your household has any criminal convictions or cautions. When carrying out checks we are made aware of all past criminal records, these include offences as a juvenile or under 18 years. Please note that not all criminal convictions will prevent you from becoming a foster carer, however, there are certain offences that will, for example, offences against children. We check police records as standard early on in the application process but we advise you to discuss any convictions you may have with us as soon as possible so that we can decide whether this might affect your application. Obviously this information would remain confidential.

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Do you need to contact my ex-partner?

If you have been married previously or have had a significant relationship with another person, it is likely that we will need to contact them to gather or confirm information. This is part of the 'family assessment' we are required to carry out on all prospective foster carers.

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When will I have to give up work?

Not until you are approved as a foster carer and we have found a placement for you.

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Will children I foster stay in contact with their 'birth' families?

Most fostered children will stay in contact with their 'birth' families. This could be through visits or in writing. Your supervising social worker will talk to you about this. We have a legal duty to promote positive contact with 'birth' families.
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What happens if we don't get on with the child?

Your training and the Swiis team will help you to cope with a lot of difficult behaviours. We will also try to "match" a child with you and your family as closely as we can. Sometimes placements do break down despite everyone's best efforts in which case you would be expected to work with the team involved with the child to make the moving on period as painless as possible for the child.

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Will I receive any financial support?

What fee/allowance will I receive and on what basis is it decided?

Whilst the exact amount of fostering payments offered to foster carers varies depending on the type of placement, age of the child and the child’s individual needs, whatever the circumstances, the Swiis payments to our carers are amongst the most rewarding in the industry.

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Will I be taxed on this income?

Foster carers are classed as self-employed and receive favourable treatment when it comes to paying tax on income from fostering. For further information about working out your taxable income and eligibility for claiming working tax credit, visit :
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/individuals/foster-carers.htm

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What training would I receive?

We have a full range of training courses available to carers to help them care safely and confidently for foster children and young people. They range from one day workshops on subjects such as child protection, safer caring, health, education, managing behaviour to the SVQ Level 3 Health and Social Care (children and young people) qualification. All carers are expected to participate in training and will be encouraged to do so by their supervising social workers. Training is also a great way of meeting other carers and getting support. 

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As a foster carer, what kind of support will I get?

We offer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One of your main sources of support will be your supervising social worker who will be in regular contact with you to offer advice, support and ensure that children are receiving a good quality of care whilst they are being looked after by the local authority.

Other professionals involved in caring for the child will also have a role in supporting you around matters such as health and education. We also run support groups for foster carers and also for your children which many people find enjoyable and helpful. As a Swiis carer you will receive free membership to the Fostering Network, a specialist support organisation to help foster carers. 

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My son/daughter who lives with us smokes; will this affect our application?

If anyone in your house smokes, you will not be considered to care for children under six years. This also includes people who smoke on occasions. 

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Our son/daughter is at university/college; can we use their bedroom for a fostered child?

We would not expect your son/daughter to give up their room to allow you to foster, as they are likely to return for at least part of the time. In circumstances where it is unlikely that your own child will return home, we would need to discuss the situation with you and your son/daughter.

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Can my own children share a bedroom so that our family can foster?

We would not consider it appropriate for your own children to move and share a bedroom so that you can foster. If they are currently sharing this would need to be discussed with you further.

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Are carers needed for brothers and sisters together?

We often have requests for placements for sibling groups to enable brothers and sisters to live together. We would be interested in hearing from you if you are in a position to offer a placement to brothers and sisters staying together.

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What ages are the children in foster care?

Most of our placements are of children over 12 years of age. Often children and young people in care are less mature and delayed in their development compared to others of the same age because of their previous life experiences, some of which may have been abusive.

Recently we have had an increasing number of referrals asking us for foster carers for younger, primary school, children. We also have just started our Permanency Service for children who need longer term care but cannot be adopted  - these children can be of any age but are normally aged under 12.

The short answer is we need all kinds of carers and if you are interested please get in touch.

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What is permanent fostering?

We also have a specialist Permanence Service designed to meet the needs of children and young people who need a permanent family to care for them and continue to support them into adulthood. Most of the children referred to this service are of Primary School age. We are keen to recruit foster carers who can offer children who need to live permanently in care but cannot be adopted. 

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Do I have to own my own home?

No. You can live in a privately owned or rented property. The property can be either a house or a flat although younger children benefit from having a garden to play in.  We do however expect the fostered child to have their own bedroom.

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I am single and have never had children of my own; can I still foster?

We have a wide range of foster carers who all have different family and personal circumstances. Many carers are single (male and female) and some have not had children of their own. There are many one parent families who successfully bring up children on their own.

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We are a same sex couple; can we be considered as foster carers?

Yes, the application process is exactly the same. Partnership status is one of the many areas we look at as part of the assessment of potential foster carers. We are also members of New Family Social, a UK charity led by LGBT foster carers and adoptive parents. You will be able to receive additional support through our membership. 

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How long do my partner and I need to be together before we can apply to foster?

We need to be sure that you are able to provide a stable home environment and so we expect that you will have lived together for at least two years before you become foster carers with Swiis.

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Am I too young/old to foster?

You will need to be over 21 years old before you can apply to foster with Swiis. There is no upper age limit in relation to fostering. We will carry out regular checks (including medical) to determine your ability to care for a child. 

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Do you need carers from minority ethnic groups?

Yes there are not enough carers from BME backgrounds in Scotland. The more we have the closer we will be able to match children's needs and backgrounds. 

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I was made bankrupt last year; can I still apply to foster?

With all bankruptcies there is a period defined when you are not able to set up another business. All foster carers are now classed as self-employed and as such we would not be in a position to consider you as a foster carer until the stipulated time has lapsed.

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Can I still work and be a foster carer?

As a foster carer either as a couple or a single carer, someone must be available for the child or young person at all times.  We therefore accept that the main carer can work as long as they have total flexibility with the hours they work and can be available as and when needed. We are happy to discuss individual circumstances and try to be as flexible as possible though our priority is always to deliver high quality foster care.

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Can you foster if you have a long-term health condition?

Your health will be considered when applying to foster and any long-term conditions taken into account. The most important factor is whether you are physically and psychologically fit enough to cope with the demands of caring for a child – this may vary depending on the age of the children that you are approved for.

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We hope to move house/build an extension/convert the loft in the next few months; can we apply to become foster carers?

As part of the assessment we will need to visit your home to see if it suitable for fostering. We would not be able to proceed with your application until all major building work has been carried out or you are settled into your new home. 

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Can I foster if I smoke?

We do not place children under 6 with people who smoke. Any new applicants who currently smoke are encouraged to quit smoking in line with healthy life styles. If you are in the process of quitting, you will need to consult your GP and provide evidence that you have given up smoking for at least a year prior to your application if you want to be considered to foster younger children.

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Do I need a driving license?

Whilst we don’t insist that all carers are able to drive, the reality is that it is extremely difficult to do the job if you don’t have access to a car. There are meetings to attend and children often need to be transported to school, to contact meetings etc. Not being able to drive would be a considerable disadvantage if you want to become a foster carer, unless you can demonstrate that you could meet the transport needs of a placement in some other way.

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How will fostering affect my own children?

There are advantages and disadvantages for children of families who foster. We would expect you to discuss these at length with them and they will also be able to talk to a Swiis social worker as part of the assessment process. Some children find it difficult to share their parents with other young people. In some circumstances we may not accept families with children under the age of ten years as the child whom you foster often needs your sole attention. Swiis recognises the important part that your own child will play in helping the foster child and we also offer them training and a Children Who Foster support group where they spend time with experienced staff and other young people in the same position.  This group also arranges various trips and activities.

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I have other questions

These are just some of the most commonly asked questions but we are sure that you will have lots more. Getting in touch is easy either pick up the phone or fill in your question on our website and we will get in touch with you. We look forward to hearing from you.

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If you need any further information on becoming a foster carer, contact your local office and talk to one of our advisers.

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