We know that these are unsettling, unprecedented and challenging times for everyone - not least those involved in caring for and supporting children in foster care. We are extremely grateful to all those involved in fostering who provide support and stability to children and young people in foster care and we will do our utmost to play our part in this.
This page lists useful resources, helplines and advice and is being regularly updated. There is a similar page for fostering services.
How The Fostering Network can help
- During this time of uncertainty due to coronavirus, all our helplines will remain open as usual for any fostering-related queries, including those which arise as a result of coronavirus. If you need any support, advice or a listening ear, please get in touch.
- Members can also make use of our stress support service and legal helpline.
- If you are a foster carer with concerns or queries about coronavirus and local practice (such as contact arrangements), or it's impact on your fostering because of health, then please contact your fostering service in the first instance as they know you, your family and the children in your care.
- Our practice staff across the UK are working with fostering services to advise on best practice in these unprecedented times, and we will keep responding to the needs of our members via our website, helplines and staff.
- We are liaising with other organisations, including statutory bodies, across the UK to enable consistency of advice to fostering services, and to ensure the needs of our foster carer and fostering service members are being fed in to national decision making.
- Our online community can also be a place to support and share advice with each other/others from the fostering community.
UK governments have published fostering guidance and legislation to support fostering service and foster carers through this crisis. We are in discussion with governments and will continue to produce further advice and resources to support our members through our practice staff, helplines and website.
The Fostering Network's view
The UK Government’s very clear instruction is to ‘Stay Home’, apart from tightly defined circumstances, and therefore, our advice is that face-to-face physical contact with people outside of your home should not take place except in extremely unusual circumstances. We would encourage fostering services to work with foster carers, children’s social workers and birth families to ensure that contact can happen in other ways, for example through video calls, phone calls and social media platforms.
We understand the emotional and practical impact of this on children, their birth families and foster carers, but the priority at this time is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all members of the fostering community.
We know that many fostering services have already made these changes and are exploring the best way of maintaining contact and keeping children connected with their birth families. The Fostering Network will share areas of good practice with our members to enable services to find the best way of maintaining relationships at this difficult time.
Read our blog about things to consider for online family time. This resource from the University of Sydney's Research Centre for Children and Families giving tips for using video chat for family time is also very useful.
Short breaks (Respite)
Updated 23 March
School places are available for children and young people in foster care in England but foster carers should discuss what is in the best interest of their child with their social worker and the child's social worker. Local authorities will be well placed to identify children in foster care and ensure that foster carers know that they will be eligible for this provision and how to access support if required. In the latest update from the Department for Education there is also a recommendation that this should take into account the foster carer's own health concerns. The general advice is for children and young people to remain at home if possible, however, your child’s social worker should be available to discuss the best option for your child. The latest advice from the Department for Education is here.
In Wales the Welsh Government is taking a similar view, with their latest statement saying that the 'most vulnerable' of vulnerable children (which includes those in foster care) should be prioritised.
In Northern Ireland there is as similar approach with schools offering places for 'vulnerable children'. Here is the general guidance from the Government in Northern Ireland, as well as an update from the Health Minister which says that further guidance will be published this week.
In Scotland the Government have announced that identified children who may be particularly vulnerable will still be able to attend school. We are working with the Government to establish what this means for children living in foster care.
Foster carer's finances
The Fostering Network has had an increasing number of queries from foster carers concerned about their fostering finances during the covid-19 crisis. These fall into three groups:
- Those foster carers with coronavirus who, temporarily can no longer care for their fostered child(ren);
- Those who have to self-isolate for 12 weeks because they are in the very vulnerable category;
- Respite foster carers who are unable to offer respite placements as a result of the social distancing requirements.
The Fostering Network believe that foster carers who fall under these categories should be paid a retainer at this time by their fostering service to ensure consistency of financial support. We believe fostering services should be able to draw down from a central government fund to pay for these retainers. We are currently talking to governments across the UK about our proposal and will keep our members updated.
We believe this should happen because:
- The employment status of foster carers is ambiguous. Foster carers are only classified as self-employed for tax and national insurances purposes and therefore fall through the gaps in all the Government’s financial support packages announced to date. The recent announcement for self-employed persons is not helpful for many foster carers because they use Qualifying Care Relief and the majority of foster carers are below the threshold and have no taxable profit from their self-employment.
- To ensure continued capacity within the foster care workforce and continuity of care for children the fostering service is best placed to administer the retainers for their foster carers, but it should be funded centrally. We do not feel the responsibility should be held by foster carers, who are looking after children on behalf of the state.
- It is also the case that foster carers are taking on extra responsibilities, such as home schooling at this time.
- Fostering services, could consider alternative ways to use the skills and expertise of respite carers, for instance:
- redeployed, with appropriate virtual training and support, to be short-term foster carers and also emergency placements
- used to buddy up with a foster family to offer peer support in a range of ways, e.g. doing shopping
- planning 'lessons' for foster carers home schooling
- playing games online, reading a book to children in foster families
- providing a listening ear and peer support to foster families
We would urge the Government to explore the provision of an increase in the level of financial support given to foster carers to take into account these additional duties.
Other helplines and advice
The Department for Education has launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19.
Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday
The Children's Commissioner's advice and assistance service, Help at Hand, is there for vulnerable children during the COVID-19 crisis. If there are any foster children that would like our help or you have any concerns you would like to raise with us please contact us on 0800 5280 731 (open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health and Social Care Trust: Guidance for employers and businesses.
Publich Health Agency advice: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net
Department of Health advice: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus
The Northern Ireland Social Care Council has published a free online resource for infection control.
The Education Auhtority has establihsed a helpine, open to all foster carers, to provide support for learning. The helpline number is 028 7051 1086 (open Monday - Thursday 8am to 5pm and Friday 8am to 4pm). You can also email them at: email@example.com
Health Protection Scotland: www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/a-to-z-of-topics/wuhan-novel-coronavirus/
The Scottish Government: www.gov.scot/
Disclosure Scotland: www.mygov.scot/coronavirus-disclosure/
Children's Hearings Scotland: http://www.chscotland.gov.uk/home/
Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA): https://www.scra.gov.uk/contact-us/coronavirus-attending-childrens-heari...
Parent Club: https://www.parentclub.scot/
Information and support for children and young people
Young Scot: young.scot/campaigns/national/coronavirus
Reach has information to help young people, particularly with their schooling and education: https://reach.scot/get-help/coronavirus/
The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland is there to help children, making sure human rights are still in place to keep children safe and happy: https://cypcs.org.uk/coronavirus/
The First Minister answers questions from children about Coronavirus: https://www.parentclub.scot/kidscovidqs
Updates on COVID-19: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
BASW updates: https://www.basw.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-basw-updates
Our friends at CoramBAAF have information regarding fostering panel virtual meetings: https://corambaaf.org.uk/updates/coronavirus-adoption-and-fostering-panel-virtual-meetings
Family Rights Group have published advice for kinship carers (although it would be relevant to any foster carer) to help children maintain relationships throughout the outbreak
The Mortgage Brain are able to help, guide and offer advice to anyone who is concerned about their mortgage repayments, whether you are an existing client or not. If you are approaching the end of your current mortgage rate and are due to re-mortgage, get in touch with The Mortgage Brain as soon as possible - they can assist you with your re-mortgage to avoid you waiting in queues to speak to your existing lender or dropping onto a standard variable rate. Payment holiday advice is also available. The team at The Mortgage Brain will be available seven days a week during this period of disruption. Visit https://www.themortgagebrain.net/mortgages/foster-care-mortgages/ or call 0800 987 1700.
Coronavirus legislation and guidance
Governments across the UK are passing legislation and issuing guidance in the light of coronavirus.
We are pulling together useful resources for foster families, especially during school closures. This is very much a work in progress. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you come across any great websites or resources, and please check back to this page regularly as we add new resources.
Useful resources for children and young people about covid-19
- This page from Young Minds is a great resource for young people who are concerned about the coronavirus.
- Childline has a page for young people about coping with the impact of the coronavirus.
- BBC Newsround has a useful page about the coronavirus.
- Our friends at Become have this page of advice for care experienced young people.
- Read our interview with Dr Dawn Huebner who is a clinical psychologist specialising in the treatment of anxious children. Her latest book Something Bad Happened guides children and the adults who care for them through tough conversations about serious world events in the news.
- The BookTrust has put together this list of books for children to talk through things when times are tough.
- The National Association of School Pyschologists in America have this page on how to speak to children about the coronavirus.
- This article from The Independent is also very helpful about talking to children about the coronavirus.
- The children's commissioner has produced a children's guide to coronavirus.
- Resources for managing wellbeing
- Mind have produced this useful page with tips for self-isolation.
- IMO have a page for young people about managing wellbeing during isolation.
- Mental Health Foundation also have a page about looking after your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
- It is very important to keep in touch with others at this time, and there are plenty of great tools with which to do that. We've been using Zoom and Teams, but there are lots of other ways. Here's an article outlining the main tools. We think Zoom would be great for group story times, quiz nights, games and so on. We'd love to hear from you about how you are using video conferencing to stay in touch with friends, family and other foster carers.
- Don't forget that members can join our online community which is a vital place for peer support.
- NSPCC have released guidance about how to have difficult conversations with children.
- Daily Quaratine Quesions - good tool to structre your day and promote wellbeing.
- Oxford mindfulness centre have free online sessions and podcasts.
- AC Education have a useful video on understanding and calming anxiety in children in the current context.
- Resources for educating at home
For many families, being isolated at home and seeking to maintain children's education and keep them entertained can be very daunting. We have published a blog Supporting learning during periods of school closure: a guide for fostering families.
When your children are off school you might want some ideas and resources on keeping learning going and continuing a structure for your child, as well as ideas for fun and creativity.
- BBC Bitesize is increasing its offer from 20 April. You will be able to access daily lessons in English and Maths, as well as other core subjects, on the website and also on special programmes broadcast on BBC iPlayer and BBC Red Button.
- BBC Teach School Radio offers learning resources including video, audio and downloads for Early Years, KS1 and KS2, covering music, dance, drama, history, literacy and maths.
- CBeebies also has loads of great resources for younger children.
- Our page on supporting maths for primary learners.
- Our page on supporting writing for primary learners.
- Our page on supporting reading for primary learners.
- This website has a list of 20 of the best homeschooling websites and learning resources.
- Scholastic (based in the US) have produced 20 days' of engaging lessons for home, with exciting articles and stories, videos, and fun learning challenges
- Hamilton have learning at home packs for Maths and English for children in Y1 - Y6 downladable through their website.
- While schools are closed Audible has made some of its library of audio books for children and young people free.
- This page has been created to support children's online safety at a time when children will spending more time online at home.
- Ideas for keeping busy and nurtured at home
- This Family Lockdown and Ideas Facebook page has loads of great ideas for family activites at home.
- National Geographic Kids is a fun website for children who like to explore the world.
- Why not learn a new language using Duolingo?
- Or develop new computer programming skills with Scratch?
- Blue Peter has eight badges children can work towards.
- The Tate has a very vibrant section for children with games, quizzes and ideas of things to make.
- A New Direction has a fabulous list of 10 creative at-home activities for families, including ideas for indoor treasure hunts.
- David Walliams is releasing a FREE audio story for children every day for the first 30 days of 'lockdown'. You might enjoy it too! bit.ly/AudioElevenses
- BSL is offering pay what you can sign language classes for the under 18s.
- And here are some free live online art lessons.
- If you have a garden here are some ideas for fun activities. Many of them can be done indoors as well.
- The Children's Commissioner in Wales has a range of useful resources and ideas, including in the Welsh language.
- The Cinema Society is bringing movies to your home by providing discounts on Rakuten TV, Chili and Sky Store ecodes. Once logged in, go to 'Buy vouchers' to see the options available.
- Girlguiding are releasing weekly adventures at home for children of all ages (from 4 to 18 years old)
- Our blog has tips for things to consider for family time online.
- Great virtual days out
- Google Arts and Culture is amazing, featuring virtual tours of hundreds of art galleries and museums.
- Here's a list of virtual museum tours including the Louvre, the British Museum and the Guggenheim.
- Here are 22 other virtual tours including volcanoes in Hawai'i, Carnegie Hall in New York, and Disney World.
- Every Thursday, The National Theatre broadcasts shows online for free.
- Ideas for keeping the whole family fit at home
- Joe Wicks, the Body Coach, is hosting a free live PE lesson every day from 23 March at 9am on Youtube. Find out more here. And here are Joe's workouts for kids during the holidays.
- Cosmic kids is yoga, mindfulness and relaxation designed specially for kids aged 3+
- The Ballet Coach is offering free ballet lessons on Facebook.
We would be grateful to receive your ideas and resources of things that you have found work well for this. Please email email@example.com.