Looking after a foster child – like caring for any child – can be challenging. To ensure our carers have the skills and confidence to do the job effectively and to bond with their foster child, we offer a full programme of training and support.
Since October 2018, we have introduced more therapeutic support for carers of children who have experienced trauma or neglect; improved respite for foster families and children; provided greater financial backing for carers to extend their homes so they can provide more foster places, and appointed additional clinical psychologists and mental health coordinators.
Training and development
Different foster carers want different things from their role. Some see it as an extension of their existing family life, others see it as a new career choice. We tailor our training offering to meet the individual needs of each carer. So, whatever your aspiration, we can provide the development tools you need to achieve it.
All foster carers have a personal development plan, which outlines their training needs and scheduled courses, and is updated annually. Training starts before the carer receives their first child and continues throughout their fostering career. To help you decide what support you might need, before the placement begins, we will share pertinent information with you about the child's personality, education, behaviour, and emotional and physical health.
Carers are encouraged to complete three training modules annually. Our Fostering Changes programme, for instance, equips carers with the skills and strategies to manage behaviours that looked-after children can display, such as their reactions to loss and separation. Other modules range from practical training, such as instruction in the Makaton language programme and first aid, to more theoretical learning, like the impact of trauma on a child’s emotional development.
If you want to specialise in a particular type of fostering, or a certain age group, we will provide you with targeted training. For example, carers interested in taking a parent and child into their home can take a bespoke course on this area, while people keen on looking after adolescents can take a course on teenage behaviour and how to manage it.
Mindful of the demands on carers’ time, we aim to make all learning convenient and accessible. Training is delivered locally, many sessions run during school hours, and a number of courses are available online, or via distance learning. As well as benefiting from the formal instruction, many foster carers find that training sessions help them to build friendships and offer the opportunity to gain insights from their peers.
For more information, visit our foster training portal which can also be reached via the Essex Foster Carers Association site. (New site visitors will need to complete a few short registration steps.)
Our foster carers are also supported by:
24-hour support line
You can call us at any time. Outside of office hours (5pm to 9.00am weekdays, weekends and bank holidays), all Essex County Council -approved foster carers have access to a 24/7 support telephone line, as well as our emergency duty service. Calls are answered by an experienced team member and remain confidential.
Dedicated social worker
All foster carers are paired with an expert social worker who is very familiar with their foster child and family. They will visit you regularly and provide you with full support.
The Oasis network brings together foster carers with other long-standing carers who can mentor them and provide reassurance, respite and advice. Essex County Council's network gives carers the opportunity to discuss all aspects of fostering, both the highs and lows, with someone who knows fostering inside out.
Essex County Council foster carer support groups meet regularly across the county. Meetings enable new and experienced foster carers, and social workers, to get together and learn from, encourage and support each other. Many foster carers develop strong friendships and support networks via these groups.
“You’re never alone”
“Fostering is one of the best things in the world you can do,” says Darren, 51, who has been fostering with his wife Karen for more than 25 years.
"You’re never alone,” emphasises Darren. “You’ve got your supervising social worker, who you can talk to at any time. There’s monthly support groups; there’s the Essex Foster Carers Association, which is made up of other foster carers, and then there’s the national Fostering Network, which has an advice line that’s available to members.”
To chat to foster carers like Darren about life as a foster carer, call the Essex County Council fostering team on 0800 801 530, or attend one of our drop-in fostering information events.
Essex Foster Carers Association (EFCA)
The EFCA is an independent foster carer-run charitable trust which supports all those who care for looked-after children within Essex County Council. It holds regular members' meetings, offers telephone/carer-to-carer support and helps resolve specific issues on behalf of carers.
The association is represented on Essex County Council’s childcare committees, to ensure foster carer views are heard when changes are planned. It has a national voice via The Fostering Network and its connections in Parliament. Members’ benefits include a quarterly newsletter, events for looked after children and carers’ birth children, peer-to-peer support and advice, and counselling for carers' own children
We pay for all Essex foster carers to join The Fostering Network, which is the UK’s leading fostering charity and membership organisation. The organisation aims to “support those who foster, improve opportunities for fostered children and young people and provide expert guidance to all fostering services”. It provides a members’ helpline, telephone counselling, a magazine, updates on national developments, and training.
Foster carers Ambassador Group
Our foster carers are an invaluable part of the Essex County Council fostering team. We value their input and actively listen to what they have to say. For example, they work closely with us to shape our foster carer recruitment strategy and have contributed some very creative ideas.
Our ambassador group of carers embodies this team approach. Group members regularly represent and support us in the community, at events and during recruitment campaigns.
Successful foster placements depend on the commitment of the whole family. To ensure that all family members feel content and involved, we arrange a programme of events for both foster and birth children throughout the year. The schedule varies but includes summer activities and a Christmas party.
Home adaptation programme
Existing foster carers can apply for financial support to extend their homes, so they have the space and facilities to look after more children.
Benefits to foster carers
We offer competitive payments of around £350 to £580 per child per week (including allowances), depending on the age and needs of the child. To find out more see What do foster carers earn?
We offer 28-days paid holiday.
Refer a friend scheme
We award our existing foster carers up to £1,030 per successful referral. There is no limit to how many people you can refer.
or to talk to our friendly recruitment team call 0800 801 530
“The support from Essex County Council is really good. There is so much training available for virtually every situation you find yourself in.”
Kaylie, Essex County Council foster carer since 2016
“[Essex County Council] social workers have a thorough understanding of the children they work with and are passionate about improving outcomes for them.” Ofsted, January 2019
“The young person that lives with us is very much part of our family. My children have really embraced having somebody live with us and he has a fantastic relationship with them.” Daniella, Essex County Council foster carer and birth mother of two.