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Theme of the month: Support Networks


Fostering is a profoundly rewarding journey, marked by its unique challenges and the unparalleled opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life. At the core of a successful fostering experience lies the strength of a robust support network, the invaluable resource of enhanced support, and the thoughtful use of respite care. This comprehensive guide delves into the importance of these elements, offering foster carers the insights and strategies needed to navigate the fostering journey with confidence, ensuring the well-being of both the carers and the children in their care. Through effective planning, open communication, and prioritising self-care, foster carers can create a nurturing environment for foster children while maintaining their resilience and vitality.

Fostering is a role filled with challenges and rewards, requiring a delicate balance between dedication and self-care. To navigate this journey successfully, foster carers must cultivate a robust support network, utilise available resources for enhanced support, and understand the importance and management of respite care. This guide aims to provide foster carers with essential advice and insights into these critical aspects, maintaining the well-being of both carers and the children in their care.

Building Your Support Network

A strong support network is the backbone of effective foster care. It consists of professional support from your fostering agency, peer support from fellow carers, and personal support from family and friends. Identifying individuals willing to assist you throughout your fostering journey is crucial. These supporters must undergo DBS checks to become part of your formal support network, ready to offer emotional, practical, and direct care to foster children when needed.

The Significance of Enhanced Support

For situations requiring respite or extended absence, having enhanced support is invaluable. These individuals go through additional vetting, including enhanced DBS checks and specific training, to ensure they can provide safe and familiar care to foster children. The goal is to have at least one person in your network capable of offering longer-term care, ensuring continuity and stability for the child.

Understanding Respite Care

While fostering, it’s essential to plan for inclusive family holidays, mirroring the experience you would provide for birth children. However, there are times when respite care becomes necessary, either for the carer’s rest or due to unavoidable circumstances. Our fostering policy advocates for respite care to be provided by someone within the carer’s enhanced support network, minimising disruption and maintaining the child’s routine as much as possible.

Financial Arrangements and Planning

Respite care requires careful financial planning, with the understanding that allowances during the respite period are redirected to the respite carer. Foster families are encouraged to save a portion of their weekly fee for these occasions. It’s also vital to discuss and agree on respite plans with your supervising social worker (SSW) and the child’s social worker well in advance, ensuring all parties are prepared and supportive of the arrangement.

Tips for a Robust Support System

  • Embrace Professional Support: Accessing support from your agency is not a sign of weakness but a step towards strengthening your fostering practice.
  • Cultivate a Reliable Personal Network: Engage with family and friends about how they can contribute to your support network, ensuring they understand and are committed to the responsibilities involved.
  • Secure Enhanced Support Early: Don’t delay in establishing enhanced support. Having vetted individuals ready can alleviate stress during unexpected situations.
  • Communicate Plans Promptly: Discuss any holiday or break plans with your SSW as early as possible. Approval from the local authority is also required, making early communication essential.
  • Prioritise Self-Care: Regular self-care practices are necessary to maintain your well-being, helping to prevent burnout and ensure you can continue to provide the best care for foster children.

Safeguarding and Planning for Positive Respite Experiences

The guidelines for support networks and respite are designed to protect everyone involved – the foster carer, the child, and the agency. By planning respite arrangements you’re confident in, you can ensure a positive experience for the child and a restorative break for yourself. Remember, the foundation of effective foster care is a balance between dedication to the children you’re supporting and commitment to your well-being.

Fostering is a journey that doesn’t have to be walked alone. By leveraging your support network, understanding the nuances of enhanced support, and strategically planning for respite, you can navigate the challenges of fostering with confidence and compassion.


Q: What constitutes a support network in foster care? A: A support network in foster care includes professional assistance from the fostering agency, peer support from fellow foster carers, and personal support from family and friends. These individuals offer emotional, practical, and sometimes direct care to foster children, ensuring foster carers have the resources and backup they need.

Q: Why is enhanced support important in fostering? A: Enhanced support is crucial for providing respite or care during the foster carer’s absence. It involves individuals from the carer’s personal network who undergo additional vetting and training to ensure they can offer safe and familiar care to foster children, preserving the child’s routine and minimising disruption.

Q: How should financial arrangements for respite care be handled? A: Financial arrangements for respite care should be planned in advance, with an understanding that allowances during respite periods are redirected to the respite carer. Foster families are encouraged to save part of their weekly fee for these occasions to ensure financial readiness.

Q: How can I establish a robust personal support network? A: Establish a robust personal support network by engaging in open discussions with family and friends about their potential roles and ensuring they understand the responsibilities involved. Submit their names for DBS checks early in your fostering journey and ensure they’re willing and able to provide the needed support.

Q: What steps should I take to prioritise self-care as a foster carer? A: Prioritise self-care by integrating regular self-care practices into your routine, seeking support when needed, and understanding the importance of breaks for your mental and emotional well-being. Regular communication with your supervising social worker and fostering agency can also provide additional support and resources.