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11 Reasons To Foster With Your Local Authority

If you’re considering becoming a Foster Carer, you’ve likely realised that you can foster with your local authority or an independent fostering agency (IFA). As you try to determine what’s best for you, your family, and the local child you may ultimately be caring for, we have pulled together all the benefits of fostering with us at West Sussex County Council as a local authority.

Help Keep Children Close to Home   

Children come into our care due to a wide variety of reasons that can be very unsettling for a child. Having to move to an unfamiliar area, can make this trauma worse. We are committed to keeping our children local, enabling them to maintain a sense of familiarity, stability, and belonging.

Therefore, by fostering with your local authority, such as West Sussex County Council, you’re helping to make a child’s fostering experience that bit easier. Keeping children within their local community ensures they remain close to their school and friends, makes it easier for them to maintain positive relationships with their birth family where possible, access familiar resources, and continue with important routines.

Unfortunately, if children aren’t fostered through their local authority, there are instances where they may have to be placed outside of their hometown, removing them from these valuable connections and support networks. Although it is sometimes necessary for a child to relocate, in most cases, this is not the most beneficial solution for the child.

At West Sussex County Council, we always aim to keep children as close to their communities as possible.

Work with a Not-for-Profit

As a local authority, we operate strictly on a not-for-profit basis, with the best interests and needs of the children we care for and our Foster Carers at the heart of everything we do. This means that all our financial resources are dedicated to improving our services.

Most fostering agencies are businesses which exist to provide a return to their owners or shareholders. They can make hundreds of millions of pounds in profit every year. When you foster with us, you can be confident that your efforts directly contribute to enhancing the support, training, and development we offer our Foster Carers, helping them to provide the very best care for our children.

Join a Values-Driven Fostering Community

Our decision-making and service planning, from the top down, are based on the best interests of the local children in our care and our fostering families. We are a community driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable children. We strive to deliver this by prioritising the needs of our foster families and the children we care for, ensuring they receive the nurturing home life that every child deserves.

We actively involve the voices of our Foster Carers and children by having dedicated Voice and Participation Officers to organise events and to provide a listening ear. Foster Carer representatives attend a number of steering groups, such as helping to develop the peer mentoring programme, as well as informing continuous improvements around equality, diversity and inclusion.

Our Foster Carer Charter, which was developed in collaboration with Foster Carers, the Children in Care Council and Care Leavers Advisory Board, sets out clearly our commitment to our Foster Carers.

Enjoy Local and Specialist In-person Support

Our Foster Carers benefit from access to a wide range of local and specialist in-person (and online) support groups, offering both professional and peer support. These groups provide an invaluable platform for our Foster Carers to share experiences with one another, seek advice, and access specialist support when needed. As well as this, we have an annual Summer Picnic and each of our four post-approval teams organise regular walks at locations across the County.

We are proud to offer opportunities like this to enable the building of long-term, meaningful relationships among our fostering families and staff, creating a supportive, positive environment.

If you choose to foster with an IFA that operates nationally, unfortunately, you may not have access to any in-person support groups local to you due to the vast area over which they operate. Agency Foster Carers can often feel quite isolated as a result.

Get Free Membership to Key Fostering Charities

All West Sussex Foster Carers benefit from our memberships with established organisations such as the Fostering Network, the United Foster Carers Association (UFCA) and New Family Social.

The Fostering Network is a national charity, which provides up-to-date information on research, regulations, training, and support that will help you provide the best possible care. All Foster Carers for West Sussex get free membership, with benefits that include legal support, a members helpline providing independent advice on all aspects of fostering, a confidential support service, online resources, publications and training discounted for members, discounts on family days out and holidays as well as mortgage advice, invitations to conferences, online community providing space for Foster Carer members to share advice, support and personal experiences, plus a Foster Carer magazine.

UFCA is a charity run by West Sussex County Council Foster Carers for West Sussex County Council Foster Carers, offering support when our Foster Carers need it. This support includes a helpline, private Facebook group, organised days out and activities for fostering families to enjoy, fostering meaningful and supportive relationships. Membership helps Foster Carers to build friendships within our fostering community and the many events it organises, provide an opportunity for the children we care for and children who foster (birth children) to get together and build friendships in an inclusive space. UFCA is a group that has regular meeting with the Head of Service for Fostering and the Assistant Director for Corporate Parenting, Children, Young People and Learning, giving them a platform to advocate on behalf of our Foster Carers and providing a voice for carers both individually and collectively – supporting us to continuously improve our service.

LGBTQ+ Foster Carers with WSCC receive free Gold membership of New Family Social, giving them access to support and events. New Family Social organises events, conferences, and social gatherings, enabling LGBTQ+ individuals to network, forge connections and build long-lasting relationships with like-minded people. Members also receive support from professionals and LGBTQ+ peers who understand fostering challenges, providing a safe space to share stories and seek advice.

Access the Innovative Mockingbird Family Model

West Sussex County Council is proud to be one of the 63 services offering the Mockingbird Family Model. This global award-winning and innovative programme is led by The Fostering Network and aims to build positive, sustainable relationships. The model is structured around a group of Foster Carers and Kinship Carers coming together with an experienced Foster Carer at it’s centre, who can provide training, support, and respite care for the families within the ‘constellation’ (e.g. sleepovers). This setup nurtures the relationships between the children, young people, fostering and kinship families providing fantastic peer support, guidance, social activities, and more to strengthen relationships and give our children a wider network of trusted adults to rely on.

Get Professional Support and Out-of-Hours Assistance

We appreciate that fostering can present challenges at times. We provide professional support, including a dedicated Supervising Social Worker as well as a separate Social Worker for each child, as well as out-of-hours assistance for our Foster Carers. This ensures they have access to guidance and support whenever they need it, offering peace of mind and ensuring that children receive consistent and optimal care. Whatever you need, we are here to support you every step of the way, from your initial enquiry through to your fostering assessment, approval, welcoming the first child into your care, and beyond. You can find out more about our support offer here.

Receive Competitive Pay and Rewards

Finances should never be a barrier to fostering. We recognise the invaluable role our Foster Carers play in providing supportive, safe homes for vulnerable local children. We provide competitive pay of up to £28.5k per year, per child, along with additional allowances and enhanced pay rates for some fostering roles, as well as tax exemptions. This means our Foster Carers get the financial support they need to effectively focus on the needs of the children in their care and foster as a full-time career if they choose to. But that’s not all… newly approved Foster Carers receive a £750* welcome bonus to assist with the transition to their new role. Foster Carers also enjoy access to a huge range of discounts across the UK’s major retailers through the West Sussex Choices benefits scheme. This gives you a % off your shop across the leading supermarkets, high-street fashion, days out, cars and travel, education, technology, utilities, health and fitness and sustainable living.

Benefit from Carefully Considered Matching with Shorter Gaps

One of the critical aspects of fostering is finding the right match between the fostering family and the child. We very carefully assess the needs of both the child and the prospective fostering family, ensuring that the placement is beneficial for everyone involved.

As a local authority, it is our job to find the right foster homes for our children when they need them.

We always try to match children with our own West Sussex County Council Foster Carers first. We have recruited, assessed and trained them and therefore know how well they will be able to meet the needs of the children we care for. This means that we can find an appropriate match more quickly for our fostering families.

West Sussex Foster Carers have direct access to the network of support and knowledge that leads care planning for all of our children, with no Involvement of a third party. This significantly improves the speed and quality of decision making.

Only when necessary, will we place a child with an IFA if we don’t have a suitable family available. As a result, agency Foster Carers can wait longer to have a child placed with them.

So, by fostering with your local authority, you will benefit from shorter gaps between placements, and better matching for both your family and the children we care for.

Extensive Training and Professional Development

Comprehensive up-front training is essential so that all our Foster Carers feel equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to support the children we care for. During the assessment process, you will undergo our three-day Skills to Foster course. Once approved, you will need to complete mandatory training, which covers essential topics such as Emergency Paediatric First Aid, Safer Care, Fire Safety Awareness, Child Protection Awareness, Recording Training for Foster Carers and PREVENT Awareness. These are essentials for our Foster Carers to be able to provide the highest standards of care, but also to provide essential knowledge.

We offer ongoing, regular, in-person, and online training sessions throughout the year, including evening and weekend sessions, to provide continuous professional development for our Foster Carers. A range of courses are available to all Foster Carers and are tailored to an individual’s needs, helping to develop skills and knowledge across various areas. This includes courses such as Motivational Interviewing to improve communication, Secure Base Workshops to share practical therapeutic approaches to attachment, Online Safety Courses to protect children in the virtual world, among many others.

Each Foster Carer has a Personal Development Plan, which is regularly discussed with their Supervising Social Worker. You might find courses of interest, other Foster Carers might recommend training, or your SSW might identify training that could help address any gaps in knowledge around a particular issue.

Stay Informed with an Online Resource Centre and Regular Newsletters

All of our Foster Carers have access to a dedicated online Fostering Resource Centre, which has been created especially to keep all helpful information in one place. This resource includes general information such as the Foster Carer Handbook and guidance on a range of core fostering topics; learning and development resources like training pathways and recommended books; as well as an events and activities calendar, listing dates, times, and venues for support groups, information events, and family activities. We are proud to offer this system to our Foster Carers, as few other local authorities and IFAs provide this level of support.

Monthly newsletters and monthly training bulletins mean Foster Carers never miss out on upcoming events, new training opportunities, surveys, celebrations, and much more.

Want to know more?

At West Sussex County Council, fostering is not just a service; it’s a community-driven commitment to the welfare and development of the vulnerable children we care for. By choosing to foster with us, you become part of our wonderful network that keeps children local, prioritises their needs, and supports Foster Carers. If you have the space in your heart and home, you could make a lasting difference in the lives of children and families in West Sussex. Regardless of whether you have just started to think about fostering or are ready to take the next step, we encourage you to get in touch. Complete our online enquiry form, call the team on 0330 222 7775 or email us at fostering@westsussex.gov.uk.

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