Holidays and fostering

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We all need a break to ‘get away from it all,’ and that’s what holidays are there for. Whether it’s caravanning it through the countryside in the middle of spring, or a summer getaway to Ibiza, we are practically spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the perfect spot to spend some quality time with our foster children or young people.

Provided you plan ahead, seek clarification as to the status of the child and who can make decisions about holidays, and get all those permissions and relevant paperwork in order, you should reduce the number of potential issues surrounding taking your foster child on holiday.

Here are some of our members’ frequently asked questions regarding holidays that might be helpful to bear in mind as you pencil your holiday in. Don't forget that if you have any specific questions or concerns you can contact our helplines.

We would like to take our fostered child on holiday overseas. Can I just go ahead and book tickets and accommodation?

It’s not quite that simple and you’ll need to allow plenty of time in advance to ensure a smooth process.

Your very first call to action would be to inform your supervising social worker about your holiday plans. A few things you’ll need to think about are:

  • What sort of legal order is your fostered child subject to? This will determine who has parental responsibility for them, what permissions you need to seek for the child to go abroad and who can apply for a passport.
  • Is this their first passport? If it is, it is advisable to allow extra time to apply as sometimes it’s not always a smooth process.
  • Are there any security or safety concerns with the country you are travelling to? Check the Government’s website.
  • Do you need to arrange a letter from the responsible local authority of your fostered child to have with you while travelling to explain you are the foster carers?
  • Does your fostering service provide a holiday allowance? Will they be paying for any holiday costs? Have you got such an agreement in writing?
  • Does your fostered child need any travel vaccinations for their holiday? What permissions do you need to get so that they can have the vaccinations? More information can be found on the NHS website.
  • Have you checked whether your fostered child is covered on your travel insurance policy, just like any other member of your household?
  • Does the accommodation meet the needs of your fostered child?
  • Think about safer caring practice and how you will implement this while on holiday.
  • Will contact arrangements need to be discussed and adjusted while you are on holiday?

It is quite a list, but it’s well worth being thorough.

Donna, a foster carer,  backs this up, saying: 'I never had any problems, as long as I spoke to the social worker first. If going abroad you need to get a letter from social services for the airport, to say you have permission to take the child abroad.’

We are starting to plan our family holiday but are not sure if our foster children are allowed to share a hotel room or stay in a caravan?

Before diving into any details, the first thing to do, as in the case with the question above, is to inform your supervising social worker about your holiday plans, and request a written agreement about the suitability of the arrangements.

If you need to book holiday accommodation that is more spacious than most families require (for example, in order to provide separate bedrooms for fostered children), it is reasonable to expect the fostering service or responsible local authority to meet the additional cost.

Whether at home or on holiday, the principles remain the same and should be approached with a ‘risk sensible’ rather than ‘risk averse’ mindset.

Essentially, it comes down to each individual child or young person in your care and their needs. Not all fostered children like the intimacy of family life or the abandoning of normal structures that are inevitable on caravanning or camping holidays.

You will also need to take into account any history of abuse or abusive behaviour, the wishes of the children concerned and all other pertinent information to help inform you whether it is OK for your fostered child to share a hotel room or stay in a caravan.

A blanket policy that fostered children must have a separate bedroom may be problematic for some foster families, such as those that have regular use of their own caravan or holiday accommodation. Therefore, it’s always best to check with the supervising social worker, especially with regards to safer caring.

Sue, a foster carer, says: ’We've got a static caravan and our foster children love it. We previously owned a tourer and then a motor home.

‘We had permission from children's social worker to take them away and it was never a problem. We also regularly take the children abroad and again we get permission for the children to share a hotel room with us which is safer than them being in a separate room.

‘As long as you've got permission and ensure that you use bathroom for changing etc. there shouldn't be any problems. Always be honest about sleeping arrangements and record it.’

We have arranged for our foster child to go to residential summer camp. What do we need to consider for this?

Clarity is your best bet for this question. You need to establish who has parental responsibility for the child and what authority you have to make different types of decisions. Is the child in care under a voluntary arrangement? Is the child in care under an interim or full care order?

In the case of the former, the birth parents retain parental responsibility for the child, whereas in the latter case, the local authority/trust acquires parental responsibility in conjunction with the birth parents.

After you have established who has parental responsibility, you need to check your foster child’s placement plan, which should detail the specifics of who has the authority to take decisions in key areas of the child’s quotidian life, including medical or dental treatment, education, leisure and home life, use of social media, faith and religious observance.

Alongside the placement plan, also check out your local authority/trust’s policy about delegated authority, and as with anything, consult with your supervising social worker about your plans for the child.

Permissions aside, you will also need to determine the suitability of the camp, and also to consider such things as sleeping arrangements, food and mealtimes, medical and staffing provision, and the policy around phones/social media to name a few.

It is also very important to consider the feelings of the child or young person, so always check with them before booking anything. Do they really want to go?

Finally, be sure to note the cancellation policy in the event the child refuses to or is unable to go.

As a foster carer am I entitled to any type of holiday pay for the children I am caring for?

Once again, get in touch with the supervising social worker and inform them of your holiday plans, including costs. You may be entitled to a holiday allowance, so do not book anything until you have had written confirmation from your service, agreeing to financial support.

Some fostering services provide their foster carers with a holiday allowance which is paid to the foster carer to help with expenses over school holidays. We consider this best practice as it would cover expenses such as day trips, outings, and activities, not just going away on holiday.

Before you book

Check, check, and double check with your supervising social worker. Get written confirmation of any agreements, including holiday allowances, and then get to planning.

Don’t forget to check out the Holidays section on our Special Discounts for Foster Carers page. Haven, Hoseasons and Cottages.com offer up to 10 per cent discounts for our members, depending on the time of year that you are going on holiday.

Above all else, please enjoy your well-earned holiday!