Sue’s Story

Sue is one of our single carers and she has been fostering for over 10 years…

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

“I’ve always worked with young people and I just wanted to offer more, working on a one to one basis to help them.”

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

“Not very long – about 3 months.”

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?

“No, because I love working with young people and there are a lot out there that need help.”

What did you do before you fostered?

“I was a Key Worker for semi-independent children aged 16 plus.”

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

“I’ve collected a lot of skills along life’s path, and with working with young people who are in a vulnerable state. I feel I can offer a lot to them.”

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

“I love to see the end result and see them smile again, getting back on track towards a better life.”

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

“What I find hard at times is the children and young people that you can’t reach. I see they are broken but still they can’t find a way to trust and let someone help them.”

What support do you receive from Jay?

“Jay Fostering have been most helpful in all of my difficult times – I have to praise their support. Plus, my Supervising Social Worker Julia is the best ever!”

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

Yes, I would always recommend being a foster carer. I have already introduced people that I know who were interested in fostering to Jay Fostering and they are on board and doing a great job!

I love my work; I love my kids and as long as I have breath and my health I will always foster.”

Thank you, Sue. Long may you foster my lovely, because you are doing a fantastic job – Jay fostering

Wendy & James’ story

Wendy & James were fostering for 7 years with a different foster care provider, before transferring to Jay Fostering 6 months ago. We were delighted to award them with Carer of the Month for June and took the opportunity to ask Wendy more about the couple’s fostering journey so far.

“What made you decide to become a foster carer?” 

“Having been fostered myself, from the age of 2 until I was 18, I feel that I have lots of empathy for children in care. James gets on well with all children, being as he is a big kid himself!” 

“How long did you think about fostering before you applied?”

“It was something that I wanted to do for a long time, but wanted to wait until my own two children had grown up and become independent.”

“Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?”

“No, not really. Until you start to foster you don’t really know if you’re going to be able to do it. Training is extremely valuable and you learn day by day.”

“What did you do before you fostered?”

“For the previous 15 years, James and I ran our own taxi business.”

“What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?”

“A stable and loving home full of fun and opportunities. Being a good advocate for the children to get the best outcomes.”

“What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?”

“The rewards with each child are different but to know that we have made a difference to a child’s life, no matter how long or short their stay with us has been, is amazing.”

“What has been the most difficult part of fostering?”

“Each child comes into care for different reasons and therefore they each have their own issues. Some have been really challenging and complex, but we carry on doing our best no matter how difficult it gets.”

“What support do you receive from Jay?”

“We are relatively new carers to Jay Fostering, having moved over from another foster care provider, but the support has been good, all the staff are friendly and our Supervising Social Worker is very supportive.”

“Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?”

“I wish there were more foster carers as there is obviously a shortfall nationally. To say anyone can foster simply isn’t true, it takes a lot of different skills, but with the right support and training most people could do it if they wanted to.

Becoming a foster carer has been one of the best decisions we have made. Hopefully our experience will continue to grow and we will be able help as many children as we can.”

Thank you for sharing Wendy. The passion for fostering that you and James have, and the commitment to the children in your care, is inspiring – Jay Fostering.

Kay & Rick’s story

Kay & Rick have been fostering with Jay for over 5 years and we were delighted to present them with our Carer of the Month award for April before they went off on holiday. We asked Kay to share the couple’s story about becoming foster carers:

“What made you and Rick decide to become foster carers?”

“From a child, I had always had the opinion that there were so many children in the world that needed people to open their homes and hearts to them; making them realise that they could fulfil their dreams and were worth loving.”

“How long did you think about fostering before you applied?”

“We initially looked at fostering when our daughter was 14 years old – that was back in 2003. At that time, our daughter did not feel she would be ready to accept another child into the home. As a family we had always agreed that we would relook at fostering when the time was right. We started back on the journey 10 years later in 2013.”

“Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?”

“I don’t think we did as much as our family and friends did, as they all had heard horror stories of what the experience would be like for us. We attended the Skills to Foster training and got an insight as to what the world of fostering could look like. It was frank and a no-frills perspective and it gave us plenty of food for thought, but knew we could make a difference.”

“What did you do before you fostered?”

“Prior to fostering both of us had spent our whole working careers within Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. Rick was a Station Manager at Hastings Road Fire Station and I headed the Emergency Fire Control. We both loved our jobs but with Rick retiring we decided it was the right time for us to embark on a new adventure. Our daughter was still at home and now worked as a nurse in the accident and emergency department.”

“What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?”

“We both had huge amounts of life skills; we had come from a structured environment, with crisis management on a daily basis and had a wealth of compassion for others. We respected different cultures and the differing values of others and had learnt to be non-judgemental. As people we both have a lot of patience, caring and understanding and a whole lot of love to give even on the toughest of days.”

“What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?”

“I suppose it is always the little things; the look when our girls need that encouragement and reassurance. The school concerts when they beam with smiles and stand on stage waving wildly to us. Hearing the giggles as Rick performs his shadow kick boxing when they are worried about the dark. Listening to their rubbish jokes and pretending they are hilarious. How we have earned the trust and love of our two little girls that have had a troubled start in life. When they thank us for loving them and seeing them start to believe they are worth loving. Having just gone on holiday and for the first time in 5 and a half years have our daughters show no anxiety, enjoy every moment they spent with us and having fun simply priceless and gave us that realisation of how far we have come.”

“What has been the most difficult part of fostering?”

“For us we have had so many difficulties and frustrations. We have had to fight every step of the way to ensure our girls get the best of everything and the voice of the child is heard. In Skills to Foster training, some of the challenges that we could expect from placements were explained, with the idea that you would only experience one these during a placement, but we have had the full spectrum in abundance. There have been days when we felt we couldn’t go on; we have questioned how two children can make us feel like our lives are spent on a rollercoaster and we been sick of the sound of our own voices repeating ourselves over and over again. For us, the biggest realisation is that we cannot fix everything, but we will try our hardest to keep our girls safe, happy and growing into independence with positive perspective of life.”

“What support do you receive from Jay?”

“We have to give a huge shout out to Paula, our Supervising Social Worker. She has been our rock, our shouting post, our friend and a fantastic professional. When times have got tough, she has taken control, took responsibility away from us and dealt directly with other agencies. Her main priority has always been us as the carers, making sure we are OK. I sometimes feel, that without her help, the placement may have broken down.

I recently undertook the Carers Academy training which was excellent. It gave so many insights into our children’s lives and Mandy our trainer could impart her own experience of being in care which made the input come to life. Rick has now got his name down for the same course.

We must also say a big thank you to all team members of Jay Fostering. As a team of people, you are compassionate and caring individuals that deal with difficult situations on a daily basis with professionalism and a smile.”

“Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?”

“This is a difficult question as our journey has sometimes been a hard one. We would never discourage people from fostering but we would have to be honest about the challenges you can face as well as the good things about fostering.

“Thank you for the recognition of our professional conduct – it means a lot.”

And thank you Kay & Rick. Giving you Carer of the Month is the least we can do. Your commitment and passion towards the to the girls in your care is admirable – Jay Fostering.

Ramadan and Eid Festival Explained: Information for Carers

Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide and is regarded as a blessed month, which is observed on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. There are five basic rules in Islam which all Muslims must follow. These are known as The Five Pillars of Islam. Ramadan symbolises one of the Five Pillars and is referred to as ‘Sawm’, meaning the “Fasting during the month of Ramadan”.

family enjoying their eid meal

At the beginning of the fasting month, Muslims will greet each other with ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ as a celebratory term. The fasting month lasts for 29-30 days each year however this is not set as fixed date, such as Christmas celebrated on the 25th of December yearly.  In order to observe Ramadan at the correct time, Muslims seek advice from their local Mosque who confirm the start and end date of the fasting period which is at dawn and sunset.

Who participates in fasting and why?

It is compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, as long as they are healthy.  Many children complete fasts to practice for later life.  There are some exemptions for fasting which may include;

  • Travelling long distances
  • Menstruation for women
  • Severe illness
  • Pregnancy and breast feeding

Advice can to taken from the local Mosque to discuss individual needs if you are unsure about your circumstances. A person who is fasting is expected to refrain from consuming all foods, liquids and abstain from smoking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset.

Ramadan is set aside as a time for reflection and increased worship. Many Muslims will visit their local Mosque more frequently, perform regular prayers, read The Quran (Holy Book) and give to charity and/or volunteer for a good cause. Ramadan is regarded as a blessed month. It helps Muslims to develop self-control, acknowledge God’s Blessings and encourages one to have greater compassion towards others, especially the deprived.

Ramadan celebrations

Fasting timetable

A typical routine for a person fasting includes awaking before Sunrise to eat a meal of their choice. This is known as ‘sahoor’ or ‘sehri’. The first prayer then commences after breakfast. Sunrise times differ depending on where you live in the UK and the month Ramadan falls on. This year Ramadan is in the month of May/June 2019, therefore Sunrise is at approximately 2am.  Muslims tend to return back to sleep once they have prayed and eaten before sunrise, so to preserve their energy before they continue their daily routine of work / school / college etc.

Towards the end of the day a meal is prepared prior to sunset.  Many friends and families arrange a gathering to break their fast together.  Traditionally, once the time of sunset has arrived which is known as ‘iftar’, the first food item eaten is a date. This is also the time for the fourth prayer of the day.  In total there are five prayers observed throughout the day. Many local Mosques can provide you with a timetable of sunset and sunrise times for the fasting period, which makes it easier for any person to follow.  Generally, men are expected to attend the Mosque to observe these prayers. It is optional for women to attend and not all Mosques cater for female worshipers.

Eid Festival

Once the month of fasting is complete, Eid is celebrated. Eid is a religious festival which is held on the first day following the end of Ramadan.  On this day, Muslims wear their best outfits, usually traditional clothing. Muslims visit their local Mosque to observe Eid prayer, after which they will greet each other with ‘Eid Mubarak’ meaning Happy Eid.  Once home the family get together to have traditional sweets and breakfast.  Throughout the day many will receive visitors of close friends and relatives, gifts and share food.

Delicious prunes

How to support a Muslim child/young person in foster care:

  • Support a child/young person in identifying their local Mosque. It is the young person’s choice if they wish to attend the Mosque.
  • Provide a Prayer Mat
  • Provide a Quran
  • Provide a Hijab (Head Scarf) for females and a Mosque Hat for males. A child/young person will choose if and when they want to wear this.
  • There are multiple Islamic channels available via TV networks such as Sky or Virgin which a young person may choose to watch to support their faith, especially during Ramadan and Eid. For instance, British Muslim TV sky 845.
  • Provide fresh dates for a child or young person to break their fast. This is a very symbolic.
  • Provide a Halal diet – Halal meat can be easily obtained from most supermarkets, however can also be purchased at specific Halal butchers. Standard dairy produce can be consumed such as milk, cheese and eggs.
  • Provide a meal of the child/young person’s choice once their fast is broken. This may consist of a cultural dish such bread, rice, chicken curry, kebab’s, samosas etc. This meal needs to be high in protein, carbs, fats and dairy so to ensure the young person is still receiving the recommended daily nutrients, to take them through the fasting period.
  • Eid is a very significant time in the Islamic faith and is one of the most celebrated festivities of the year. This occasion must be marked by having sweet treats such as baklava, kheer (rice pudding) and halwa (a semolina pudding). However western sweets are also enjoyed such as cookies, cakes and chocolate treats.

NFA Group Collaborate with Children and Foster Carers to Record Song Raising Awareness of Need for Additional 8,000 Carers

We’re excited to announce that NFA Group has collaborated with children and foster carers on the recording of an original new song which aims to raise awareness for fostering. We hope that the song will help to encourage people to start a career in foster care – with the UK currently in need of an additional 8,000* foster families.

More than 200 children and foster carers helped with the creation and production of the song, capturing the emotions felt by many foster children and the impact foster carers can have on the lives of vulnerable young people.

Named ‘The Light and The Calm’, the special song was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London by an ensemble of more than 40 children and foster carers, as part of our campaign to support The Fostering Network’s annual Foster Care Fortnight.

Find out how the song came to be and, more importantly, give it a listen, below.

Why We Wrote and Recorded ‘The Light and The Calm’

At NFA Group, we’re all about promoting the positive impact fostering has on the lives of children and young people in care. As part of our efforts to support this year’s Foster Care Fortnight event, which is themed around ‘Change a Future’, we wanted to do something that shouted about the importance of fostering – and help find the 8,000 foster families which are urgently needed.

Music is one of the best ways to convey emotions, ideas and important messages. It gives people a voice and allows them to express their feelings in a powerful and emotional way. It also helps people tell their story and make sense of experiences – something which we believe is hugely important for children in care.

David Leatherbarrow, CEO of NFA Group, commented: “Our song captures the important role and positive impact fostering has on many vulnerable children and how it can truly help transform young lives. Foster carers are trained and skilled experts in their field and provide an exceptional service to local communities, opening not only their home but also their heart to children in need and local to them.”

In the words of one of the foster carers who joined us at Abbey Road, the song is “a touching message about how fostering changes lives for the better”, adding that it was “a privilege to be involved”.

How ‘The Light and The Calm’ Came to Be

The story of ‘The Light and The Calm’ began back in November 2018, when NFA Group’s Emma Finch, Dan Rowles and other members of our marketing team landed on the idea of writing and recording a song to promote fostering for Foster Care Fortnight.

From the outset, we wanted the song to capture the real stories and emotions of those who have experienced fostering, and so reached out to our foster families for ideas on what the lyrics should be. We asked foster children, young people and foster carers ‘what does fostering mean to you?’, and our community responded in earnest – with over 150 people sending us their ideas about the song and what the key messages should be.

Three men singing in a studio

After compiling all the different lyrics and ideas which had come through from our foster families, Emma and Dan were tasked with sitting down and putting the song. When the song was finished, we took six young people to the Redwall Studios in Bolton to record the song for the first time, so that we could make changes and get the melody right before travelling to London to make the official recording.

From here, we spent a couple of weeks organising for the big day, which was scheduled for early April. We met with the ‘We Can Sing’ choir, who contributed to the backing vocals on the finished track, and ran a competition asking children to design a cover for the single – the winner of which will soon to be announced.

On 6 April 2019, we accompanied an ensemble of children and foster carers to London’s famous Abbey Road Studio, where the likes of The Beatles, Ed Sheeran, Adele and Oasis have all recorded. Recording our song in the same room as these famous bands and artists was a special and surreal experience for everyone involved, and we’re incredibly proud of the end result.

Since recording the song, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had from everyone involved in its creation. Here, Emma tells us about some of the feedback she’s had from our fostering community:

“The project has had results beyond anything we would have expected or hoped for. I have read so many emails and Facebook posts from our carers, saying how much this project has changed their life and the children’s lives. People have told us it was their dream to go to Abbey Road, and we made it come true. Others have said talking about music has helped their young person open up for the first time – which really sums up what an amazing experience it has been, and reinforces what the whole song is about.”

What Next for Our ‘The Light and The Calm’ Campaign

We’re proud of everyone who has been involved in the writing and recording of ‘The Light and The Calm’ and want our song to be shared far and wide to spread the message of fostering. With your help, we can help raise awareness of the importance of fostering and support The Fostering Network’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign, so please share the song with your friends and family on social media.

Little girl in the studio

Foster Care Fortnight 2019 will take place from 13 to 26 May, and during the event, we plan to launch our ‘8,000 Seconds’ campaign, in which we try to collect 8,000 seconds of footage of people singing or dancing to ‘The Light and The Calm’ – the same number of seconds for every new foster carer that we need across the UK.

Vicky Dobson, NFA Group’s Head of Marketing, concludes: “We are committed to dreaming big, both for the children in our care, our foster families and our employees. Creating a unique song with such a significant message and objective is hugely satisfying, but being able to offer a unique opportunity such as recording the song at Abbey Road to our fostering families was exceptionally rewarding. We have equally big aspirations for the song later this year and are looking forward to sharing more details with you in the future.”

Remember – sharing our special foster care song will help raise the profile of fostering, helping us to recruit new carers while spreading the message of how it can transform young lives. For more information about our foster care services, visit the homepage or call us today on 0800 0443  789.

*6,800 in England, 550 in Scotland, 550 in Wales, and 200 in Northern Ireland. Source:

https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/media-release/2018/urgent-need-over-8000- new-foster-families-across-uk-year

Maxine & Martin’s story

Maxine & Martin have been fostering for 15 years and they are the latest Jay carers to be awarded our Carer of the Month. When we visited their home to present their award, we talked to Maxine about how the couple had come to foster.

“Martin & I had been thinking about fostering since we married, two years earlier. It was something we were interested in as we had always wanted to have children in our lives and had not yet had our own.”

“Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?”

“Yes, more apprehension than reservations and then there was excitement too. I recall the nervousness of our very first open evening and the information overload, that took a while to digest. We applied to our Local Authority to start with and went through, what was then, a lengthy process, although it is much quicker these days.

And then, surprise! I became pregnant with our first child – we were shocked but so happy!”

“Maxine, what did you do before you fostered?”

“Ha ha – here goes! You’ll wish you never asked!

I’ve had a variety of jobs throughout my life ranging from full time overlocker, to shoe maker, a fresh meat packer at the cattle market and a chambermaid abroad. I’ve also waitressed in restaurants and worked in food factories. I was even a part time model – this raised some eyebrows!

We moved to our new house in a small village and I changed my job, as the travelling was too far, and gained employment at a label manufacturing unit, I then worked in an office as an admin assistant.

I left this job on maternity leave and after giving birth became a Community Carer (young and old service users) and trained as a classroom assistant.”

“And Martin?”

“Martin trained as an electrician, worked in a food factory (this is where we met) progressed onto an Electrical Engineering Manager which he is still is today, as well as well as my support as a foster carer. Definitely a team effort.”

“What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?”

“Our job roles in the past reflect organisational skills, good time keeping, listening and being of a kind and caring nature. Following the company’s rules and policies. Being peace maker, being hands on when it comes to tasks and good all round “people person” with children and adults alike.

I also didn’t feel my upbringing as a child was one of the best. We both wanted better for any children around me in the future.”

“What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?”

“Making a difference to a child/young person’s life. Giving them a chance to fulfil their true potential that we could see was lacking previously.”

“What has been the most difficult part of fostering?”

“Dealing with really unruly behaviour at times and watching my own children’s reactions to that type of behaviour; things like swearing, real defiance, absconding, being destructive to themselves, others and property too at times.”

“What support do you receive from Jay?”

“If there is a problem, Jay Fostering has always been there for us as a family, as well as the child in placement.

Our meetings with our Supervising Social Worker are friendly and informal, mostly times that suit our circumstances and the child is seen in placement too.

Training is invaluable and although considered necessary, it’s also very enjoyable. I also like social side of training, where foster carers come together and share their experiences without being judged.”  

“Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?”

“Yes, as with us it works with our family lifestyle. Time is precious these days and fostering incorporates being together and traditional family values.

We have three teenagers in our house at present, one of which is a foster placement, and they are all in full-time education. Fostering gives us the flexibility to complete reports for the agency, attend meetings with the Local Authority and school too. I can also socialise with other foster carers, friends and family within school hours. We are then able to give our teenagers our full attention out of school hours, doing activities, helping with homework, attending health appointments, visiting friends and enjoying life in general.”     

Thank for sharing your fostering journey with us Maxine & Martin. You are passionate and committed foster carers and we all enjoy working with you! – Jay Fostering.

What Are Autism Spectrum Disorders? Autism and ADHD Explained

Autism spectrum disorders affect around 700,000 people in the UK, meaning that over 2.8 million people have a family member on the autism spectrum. It’s a lifelong condition that affects how people interact with others, and it can be mild or serious depending on where the person sits on the spectrum.

For families with an autistic child, everyday life can be a real challenge. Autism affects how children see, hear and feel the world around them, and different people will need different support depending on how the condition affects them.

Because autism is a spectrum condition, every child experiences it differently – and this can make it challenging for those who care for them. Foster carers can sometimes find it difficult to offer the right kind of support to autistic children in their care due to their different needs.

But, small changes and a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can make a big difference for foster carers supporting children with autism. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on ASD – giving foster carers the help and information they need to provide the right kind of support to an autistic child in their care.

Quick Links:

What is Autism and How Is It Defined?

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a developmental condition that affects how people view the world around them. It’s a lifelong condition that children have from birth, and, because it’s not an illness or disease, it can’t be cured.

Autism is very common, with 1 in 100 people on the autistic spectrum. Signs and symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, which is why an early diagnosis is so important for children with ASD.

For many autistic children, the condition causes the most difficulty when they’re interacting with other people. Everyday interactions can be overwhelming, and they can struggle to build a rapport with those around them – even their closest friends and family.

Diagnosing ASD early is important to ensure children get the developmental support they need from a young age. However, because it’s not a physical condition, autism can be very difficult to spot, and many people often mistake the signs for behaviours that a child will grow out of.

Diagnosing autism is very complicated, requiring many tests to define where the child sits on the spectrum. Depending on the outcome, autism specialists will suggest strategies to help the child live life to the fullest.

What Are the Most Common Signs of ASD in Children?

While children exhibit ASD in many different ways, most autistic people share common behavioural traits. As a foster carer, understanding these traits could help you identify autistic behaviours in your child.

Here, we look at the five behavioural traits which children with autism may exhibit.

Social Communication

Autistic children can find it difficult to interpret both verbal and non-verbal communication, such as tone of voice, hand gestures, facial expressions, humour and emotions. They may also struggle to communicate verbally or non-verbally. For this reason, autism specialists often suggest sign language or visual symbols as a way of communicating clearly with very young autistic children.

Social Interaction

Given the communication problems touched on above, many autistic children struggle to interact with others. They can easily misinterpret another person’s feelings, meaning or intentions, and can appear insensitive. They may seek time alone and become ‘overloaded’ by social situations, or may talk at length about their own interests, dismissing customary forms of conversation and interaction.

Repetitive Behaviour and Routines

Because autistic children can find new situations stressful and overwhelming, they sometimes enjoy a set daily routine. This helps them avoid unpredictable scenarios in which they can become confused and anxious. Even simple things like requesting the exact same breakfast every morning could indicate autistic traits.

Highly-Focused Interests

Many autistic children develop highly-focused interests from a young age – it could be music, drawing, animals, or a particular colour. Often, the interest may be unusual, and this can cause problems at school or make it difficult for them to make friends. As with repetitive behaviour, children often become fixated on a particular subject because that’s what makes them the happiest and most comfortable.

Over or Under Sensitive

Autistic children may experience sensory sensitivity, in which they grow over or under-sensitive to taste, touch, sounds, light, colour or pain. The most common type of over-sensitivity is sound, in which quiet background noises become overwhelming and difficult to block out. Whatever they become sensitive too, it’s important to avoid this where possible as continued exposure can cause anxiety or, in some cases, physical pain.

Remember, children exhibit autistic traits in many different ways, so it’s important to make a note of any behaviour you find unconventional and seek a professional diagnosis if you are concerned.

Support Strategies for Foster Carers, Parents and Guardians

Caring for a child with autism can be challenging. There are, however, several recognised strategies that can help you provide the right help and support to your child – and we’ve touched on a couple of these below.

SPELL

SPELL is the National Autistic Society’s framework for responding positively to children on the autism spectrum. It stands for Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low arousal, and Links. Basically, SPELL emphasises the need to change our approach to autism, so that we can provide the right support, help, communication and interaction to everyone on the autism spectrum – whether they have ADHD or Asperger syndrome.

TEACCH

Like SPELL, TEACCH is recognised by the National Autistic Society as one of the most positive strategies parents and carers can use when interacting with an autistic child. TEACCH stands for Teaching, Expanding, Appreciating, Collaborating, and Holistic, and it prioritises building understanding around the ‘culture of autism’ and the use of visual structures to aid development, learning and communication.

Social Stories

One of the newest coping strategies recommended by the National Autistic Society, Social Stories is a series of visual stories, created by Carol Gray, which aim to help autistic children understand social situations through visual learning. Since they were released in 1991, Social Stories have proved extremely helpful in developing greater social understanding for autistic people, and families are encouraged to create their own comic strips and storyboards to help children develop their social skills.

Helpful Resources

There are lots of resources available online offering advice on how to provide help and support to children with autism. Here, we list our recommended resources for foster families:

  • National Autistic Society – The UK’s primary autism charity, offering a broad range of information and advice, as well as a confidential helpline.
  • Resources for Autism – A registered charity which aims to provide practical services for children and young people with autism.
  • Child Autism UK – The UK’s largest dedicated charity for children with autism, offering a range of support guides and advice for children and their families.
  • NHS autism support groups hub – The NHS’s autism support hub, which can help families find support groups and services in their local area.

At Jay Fostering, we provide complete training and support to all our foster carers, so they can provide an effective and supportive home for children with autism.

For more information on how to foster with us, register your interest here or call us today on 0800 0443 789  .

Leslie & Andy’s story

Congratulations to Leslie & Andy, who have been awarded our Carer of the Month for February 2019. They have been fostering with Jay for a year. When we presented Leslie with the couple’s certificate, we chatted about how they came to foster.

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

We had been talking about fostering for some time before we took the plunge. We had moved house and we only had one grown up daughter left at home. I was not happy in my job and was feeling that it was time for a change.

We felt that we could do our best for any child who came to stay with us whether it would be for a few weeks, months or years, it would not matter what their challenges were; we wanted to help them feel safe and comfortable while they were with us.

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

About 2 years.

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?

Yes, initially we were concerned for whether we would still get time just us ‘a couple’, but as time has gone on, we have still managed to make time as we did when our own children were younger. This time we have the support of our family and friends, which has made our experiences and the children’s experience very positive.

What did you do before you fostered?

I was a community nurse

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

I feel that I have a professional outlook that helps with the legal side of fostering. I have empathy, patience and I feel that I can listen well. I have always embraced continual personal development and this is ongoing in fostering, as there is lots to learn, and it has brought a new enthusiasm. I have the experience of bringing up three children of my own and I have childcare qualifications from when I left school and when I was childminding. Life as had its ups and downs and this has made me more resilient, which will help me and the children we foster.

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

Watching children in our care feel safe enough to play and laugh. I have also enjoyed the training which I have found very useful in caring for the children.

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

Some of the children’s behaviour has been challenging and learning how to channel this in a new way has been difficult. Therapeutic parenting has been very helpful but it does not come naturally, as you are learning as you go.

What support do you receive from Jay?

We have had great support from Jay Fostering! They have been there throughout the year. We don’t know them all but when we speak to them on the phone or see them at training, they are always helpful and willing to spend time talking to you. We have our own Supervising Social Worker who does supervision with us every 4 weeks, and she has been fantastic! She has supported us through many areas, giving us advice with difficulties with the children, helping with Local Authority Social Workers and she has been there on the end of the phone whenever we need her.

The training has been really good too; there is opportunity to do a lot of different study days and it has all been relevant and well presented by enthusiastic lecturers with years of experience themselves. I have enjoyed all of them and learnt a lot from them.

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

We would recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone who felt that they could offer a safe, happy home to a child. You just cannot imagine how rewarding it can be until you do it. There are times of utter joy and complete sadness in equal measures but it is an absolutely fantastic thing to do. Thank you Jay Fostering, for helping us to become foster carers!

And thank you for becoming foster carers with us Leslie & Andy! It is a pleasure working with you both.

 

So glad we kept sisters together | How fostering siblings works for us

To mark Fostering February, we asked Michael to tell his story of 12 months since fostering siblings.

Fostering siblings

To mark Fostering February, we asked Michael to tell his story of 12 months since fostering siblings.

It’s just over a year since we welcomed sisters M__ and E__ into our home — in the early hours of one winter morning.

Coming from an inner city environment, the girls were understandably unsure at first about our countryside location.

Today, they’re perfectly happy outdoors or playing with our ‘pack’ of four pugs — and are now living with us as a permanent placement.

Fostered sisters with dogs

But we didn’t get to this point as a family overnight — once me and my wife Louise decided we wanted to foster, we had a lot of research to do.

Starting our fostering siblings journey

One of our oldest friends has been a foster parent for years, so we knew what a difference it could make to vulnerable children.

When we started looking into it, we spoke to a number of IFA’s — but it wasn’t until we got in touch with our current agency that it felt ‘right’.

They gave the impression of a ‘family’ environment — friendly contact, helpful information and a lovely initial visit.

It’s been a learning curve — we were apprehensive about our final panel meeting but needn’t have been.

Same with the first LAC meeting we went to — lots of new people, plenty to take in — but not scary at all once you’re there.

And we quickly revised our initial aim not to foster anyone older than our sons, R__ and M__, instead deciding to assess placements on their own merits.

We’re glad we did, as the girls are benefitting from having brothers — and vice versa — plus the age gaps aren’t that big anyway.

Fostered siblings playing

Although neither of the girls were in education when they came to us, we got to work enrolling them in local schools.

While waiting for their places to be confirmed, I was able to spend time with them — I’m self employed and mainly work from home.

And although time with the dogs and enjoying various craft activities was great, it was a relief when the girls were able to join their new schools.

Both sisters have flourished — especially considering how much school they’ve missed out on — and E__ is predicted top grades in every subject.

Making new memories – keeping siblings together

It’s not all work though, we’re a very ‘doing’ family — all of the kids have had a go at steering our canal boat during trips away.

Fostered siblings in the snow

And you’ll often find me up above the treetops — I’ve got a microlight aircraft and also fly powered parachutes.

Louise and I both qualified as pilots years ago in the US and we love getting up high and enjoying the views of Rutland Water and the surrounding countryside.

E__ has already been up for a flight — and we’re even working on persuading our social worker to strap in when she visits during warmer weather!

And now we’ve sorted out the girls’ passports, we can’t wait for our first family holiday abroad — Sri Lanka this Easter.

Giving more children a chance

This last year has been fantastic — the girls are as good as gold and we love them to bits — I would recommend fostering to anyone.

The training has been excellent, we’ve been given all the support we’ve needed and everyone we’ve met has been a huge help.

And our social worker Paula is great — nothing is ever too much trouble for her — but she’s also the one who told us the most heartbreaking thing.

Fostered siblings family

At the ‘Skills to Foster’ course we attended, we found out not only how many kids need help — but also how many a month unfortunately can’t be placed.

Louise and I were lucky to have the childhoods we did — and we’ve done what we can to make sure the girls have the best we can give them.

But it’s important to share our experience — so other people will see how much the girls have enriched our family by coming to live with us.

And hopefully someone will be inspired to change a vulnerable young person’s life — and change their own at the same time.

There’s no better time than now, during Fostering February.

If you’d like to know more about how you could help brothers and sisters who need each other stay together, please contact us online or ring 0800 0443 789.

 

Linda & Shaun’s story

Linda and Shaun have been foster carers for 10 years but only with Jay Fostering for the last two years. Having been awarded the ‘Jay Carer of the Month’ for December, we recently chatted to Linda about the couple’s motivation to become foster carers and how they feel about fostering today.

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

‘We had a friend who had been fostering for some years, who recommended it to us. Our own two children had flown the nest and we felt we could offer a secure and happy home to children in care.’

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

‘We chatted about it on and off for about 6 months and then we decided to take the plunge and look for an independent foster care provider. We were with one agency for nearly 8 years but became unhappy. Then an old friend recommended Jay Fostering to us and we decided to transfer.’

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied originally?

‘Mainly about how our son would handle it (he was only 13 at the time), but we were able to have a preference to care for children younger than he was.’

What did you do before you fostered?

‘I was a Nursery Nurse, working full-time in reception class in a primary school for nearly 20 years. Shaun worked in sales, so he became the main carer, which he did very successfully for 4 years until I decided I wanted to do it full time and become the primary carer! Whilst he’d been at home he studied, which enabled him to have a career change and he now works part-time.’

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

‘We work well as a team and have learned to take on Therapeutic Parenting, which is very different to the way we parented our own children, but very useful, given the complexities of some of the children we have fostered.

We are creative and love to provide children with new experiences and challenges in life. We have a good understanding of child development and how to enhance this and although some past placements have been tough, we’ve learned different strategies and are constantly soaking up new information.’

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

‘Seeing the children thrive when they are given new experiences. Many children in care haven’t had positive parenting and have missed out on certain areas of development. We can promote this development by providing opportunities – woodland walks, painting, play-dough, spending time playing together and being positive. In this way, we get something out of it too! At the moment we’re working through “50 Things to do Before You’re 11 ¾”, compiled by The National Trust, which is lots of fun!

It is also very rewarding to help children get in touch with their emotions and then encourage them to understand and deal with those emotions.’

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

‘When we were with our old agency, we had some Parent & Child placements, and when some of the young parents made bad choices, I just didn’t get it and I found it hard to deal with. We hadn’t had any training on it and were the first carers in our old agency to have Parent and Child placements. I’m sure that the specific training that Jay Fostering provides, would have helped a lot, rather than learning as we went along, but I do feel we gained a huge amount of experience and were able to show parents how families can work.

Some of our other placements have been children with very challenging behaviours and it has sometimes been hard to see how we could make a difference, which is hard for all of us, but we have been well supported through these times and come out the other side!’

What support do you receive from Jay?

‘Lorna, our Supervising Social Worker, is brilliant! We couldn’t hope for anyone more supportive. She’s there when we need her and understands where we’re coming from. She’s really encouraging.

I attended the Carer Academy training which was excellent (as are all Jay Fostering’s courses!), and am looking forward to more in the future.

I am friends with other carers from Jay, and we meet over coffee to put the world to rights!! I think it’s really important that carers support each other where possible and Jay carers do this all the time.’

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

‘We are constantly recommending becoming a foster carer, and recommending Jay. Having been with another agency in the North for nearly 8 years we have seen how supportive and fair Jay Fostering agency are in comparison. They not only provide us as ample opportunities to meet and train, but also encourage children in care to meet up at different exciting events.’

Thank you, Linda & Shaun! We feel very lucky to have you as our foster carers – Jay Fostering