The Skills to Foster™ is an essential resource for anyone involved in preparing new applicants for the challenges of fostering. The third edition is mapped to the Training Support and Development Standards in England, and is UK relevant. It provides a more flexible resource that supports all foster carers taking on different types of placements, including family and friends foster carers.
The Skills to Foster™ course was completely re-written and updated to reflect the modern face of foster care, with the third edition being published in June 2014. It is made up of the pre-approval course and the assessment materials.
The Skills to Foster™ pre-approval course
The Skills to Foster™ pre-approval course consists of a variety of resources for course leaders: a leader’s guide; a handbook, a DVD and My Family Fosters, a handbook for sons and daughters of foster carers.
The course focuses on the practical, day-to-day skills that all foster carers need. It links into the Training, Support and Development Standards in England and other professional development qualifications, as well as The Fostering Network’s competency-based assessment process.
The Skills to Foster™ sessions
The programme is divided into the following seven sessions:
Session 1: What do foster carers do?
This session introduces The Skills to Foster™ course and the importance of working together as a group.
Children and young people are at the heart of The Skills to Foster™, third edition, and this begins in Session 1 with a focus on why children come into care, why foster care is needed, how difficult early experiences may have affected the children and what these children might need from foster carers. The secure base model is introduced to show how foster carers can facilitate security and promote resilience in children and young people.
Session 2: Identity and life chances
This session aims to highlight the different factors that make up a sense of identity and their importance to children and young people in foster care.
As with all the sessions from here onwards, feedback from home practice comes at the beginning and gives an opportunity to review learning from the previous week and answer any outstanding questions.
This session introduces the theme of diversity but also the importance of recognising assumptions that individuals can make. Prejudice and discrimination are explored, looking particularly at the effects on young people in care and how foster carers can support their young people by recognising and challenging discrimination. Valuing their heritage and promoting positive identities for young people are also highlighted as crucial to the foster carer’s role.
Session 3: Working with others
Key concepts, terminology and frameworks central to fostering are covered in this session.
The team around the child is introduced so that foster carers understand that they are working as part of a team and not in isolation. Communication with others in the team is highlighted as a vital part of a foster carer’s role. A case study identifying the roles and concerns of all those involved in the initial stages of arranging emergency foster care for a child provides an opportunity to think about how this works in practice. The legal framework surrounding fostering is introduced followed by an explanation of key working documents such as the care and placement plans. The importance and impact of contact and confidentiality are discussed through the use of case studies.
Session 4: Understanding and caring for children
This session explains that children who display difficult behaviour may have learned this in response to the abusive or neglectful past experiences they have had. It explores the concept of attachment and identifies the kinds of attachments a child or young person in foster care may have had in the past. This is essential learning for foster carers to ensure a non-judgemental understanding of difficult behaviours.
Further explanation of the caregiving cycle demonstrates the importance of sensitive caregiving and how foster carers can build warm positive relationships and change a child or young person’s experience. Providing a secure base to help to build resilience and self-esteem is re-visited in more detail. A framework from Social Learning Theory is introduced for observing, describing and monitoring behaviour. How to promote good and change difficult behaviour is suggested with some practical ideas and strategies, based on the ABC model. Case studies give the opportunity to think about how to apply some of these strategies within a safe and caring framework.
Session 5: Safer caring
This session takes a holistic approach to safer caring. Building on themes of safeguarding, delegated authority and relationship building introduced in previous sessions, the session examines why children in foster care are considered to be particularly vulnerable and introduces key skills in relation to assessing children’s risk competency, balancing risk and developing responsive and proportionate family safer caring plans.
Session 6: Transitions
This session addresses the importance of placement stability for children in foster care, and identifies the impact of some common transitions. It explores how foster carers and their families can best support children when they move from one placement to another, and when they are making the transition to adulthood. The content has been designed to help course participants to look at things from the child’s perspective, but also considers the impact of transitions on foster carers and their own children. The emphasis on transition to adulthood as a process which continues throughout childhood and beyond age 18 helps all foster carers to understand their continuing role with young people. A range of case studies are provided from which trainers can select those of most relevance to participants. The session also looks at life story work and keeping memories safe.
Session 6A: Review
This session gives participants the opportunity to take a look back at what they and their families have learned so far, and to think about their next steps towards fostering.
There are activities for giving positive feedback and for celebrating participants’ achievements. There’s also the chance to run an evaluation to inform future training.
Session 7: My Family Fosters
This session provides specialist materials to use with sons and daughters. The new version includes references to social media in the different activities and it encourages sons and daughters to consider their own experiences in relation to those of fostered children and young people. It offers more flexibility about how and when to deliver the activities and also highlights issues and activities for sons and daughters to 'take home' and discuss with their parent/s.
Sessions 1 to 6: Focus on Family and Friends Carers
The third edition addresses throughout the specific additional needs facing those who are becoming family and friends foster carers, or approved kinship carers in Scotland. The leader’s guide and handbook both contain additional material relevant to each session which will help trainers and assessing social workers to consider the specific issues which they are likely to come up against. These include additional challenges arising from matters such as managing contact, keeping children safe, dealing with complex family relationships and taking on dual roles such as foster carer and grandparent. Family and friends foster carers frequently take on the role as a response to an emergency and have little time to prepare for the fostering role, and so The Skills to Foster™ training has a vital contribution to make in preparing them for this.
The Skills to Foster™: Train the Trainers course enables participants to develop the training skills, knowledge and confidence needed to deliver this pre-approval foster care training. It can be delivered in-house or as an open course. Contact the training team to find out more.
The Skills to Foster™ assessment materials complement the pre-approval course and are used to assess potential foster carers on the basis of their skills, knowledge, abilities and experiences. These are available on an annual licence basis for use with mainstream carers and also family and friends carers.
Reflecting the latest changes in legislation and produced in an interactive PDF format, the materials are designed to be easier to complete for social workers and give a clear recommendation for decision makers.
The Skills to Foster™ assessment:
- ensures consistent, high quality assessment of potential foster carers;
- is fostering specific, placing emphasis on duties particular to foster care, ensuring applicants have an adequate support network and making provisions for the sons and daughters of foster carers;
- actively involves the applicant, making sure they are aware of what being a foster carer involves and how they can be a positive role model for the children and young people they look after;
is easy to use and easy to adapt and customise to reflect your recruitment process and needs.
By using both The Skills to Foster™ pre-approval training and the assessment process to train and assess your foster carers, we estimate that you can provide evidence for over 70 per cent of the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care in England.
The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services Regulations 2013
The publication of The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 introduced a two-stage process to the assessment of foster carers in England. In order to provide a simple but clear means of tracking compliance with the amendments to the regulations, The Fostering Network has now introduced a Fostering Assessment Progress Sheet. This form has been introduced as an addition to the existing The Skills to Foster™ assessment documents and acts as a tracking document.