In association with EDF Energy

When EDF Energy sent me a new Amazon Echo Dot, I thought for quite a long time about where to put it.

I considered the kitchen, to use it as a timer and to play music while I’m cooking. Or maybe the living room – I have quite a few smart home gadgets, including Philips Hue light bulbs and a smart heating system, so in the living room Alexa could’ve set the lighting for me or turned on the radiators.

The thing is though, I can control those things from my phone and when I’m downstairs I normally have my phone nearby. Where could I put Alexa that she would add most value?

Then I thought, ‘how cool would it be to be able to finally get rid of my phone from the bedroom and still be able to set an alarm, know the time and listen to the latest episodes of the Serial podcast in bed?’

Even better, if she was in the bedroom perhaps Alexa could make me a cup of tea in the morning? (Spoiler: she can’t do that.)

Here she is:

cool things to do with Alexa View Post

I bought a house for the first time last year, not long before I turned 40. On the one hand it has made me feel far more secure than I ever have before, but with that has come a new sense of responsibility, and the knowledge that unless I manage my finances and my lifestyle carefully, there is always the risk of repossession.

It might sound dramatic, but I sometimes It can be easier than you think to find yourself in trouble, especially when you are self-employed like me. It only takes one thing to go wrong – an accident that prevents you from working maybe – and you can find yourself on a slippery financial slope.

If you ever should get to the stage where you think your home might be at risk of repossession, there are plenty of organisations who can help. Citizens Advice can offer advice on debt and if it’s appropriate for your circumstances, you might want to consider a a bridging or repossession loan from a company such as TIC Finance. Shelter can also offer specific advice about house repossession, including information about applying to a court for a court order to be changed.

They say though that prevention is better than a cure, so here are a few ideas for ways to avoid the risk of repossession in the first place. View Post

I had a bit of a moment on Twitter last week.

On reflection, I think I was a bit pre-menstrual, which is where the ‘need a boyfriend’ bit came in, plus it was bin day, and bin day always makes me feel slightly less keen on being single. The dice thing, just so you don’t think I’m a bit slow with maths, was something I did know, but I was writing the post about the 648 different ways with yogurt and so I wanted to double check just in case.

‘Stylish recycling bins’ though, now that is a real dilemma.

Bins full stop in fact. It baffles me, because a bin is something that everyone has, and yet 99% of them are HELLA GRIM. I just don’t get it. We spend so much time and money on making our homes look lovely, and then you have to ruin it by sticking a stack of ugly white plastic boxes in the corner of your kitchen, next to a hideous metal and black plastic monstrosity that is YOUR BIN. View Post

We ask foster carers to open their hearts and homes to a foster child. This is a great place to start but a traumatised child will need more than this. And this is why foster carers are becoming trained specialists.

Training is an important part of the support offered to foster carers. But what does this training look like and can you as a foster carer, progress your skill base?

Initial training

You may or may not be a parent when you apply to become a foster carer, and you may or may not also have extensive experience of working with children and young people.

While these life and work skills are taking into account; it has to be recognised that being a foster carer is a career and a vocation unlike any other.

Fostering is not a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday commitment. As a foster carer, you will expend a lot of emotional and physical energy on the children you foster, every minute of the day every day.

The initial training is part of the application process. It is a significant opportunity to discuss and examine in more detail many of the issues that a foster carer deals with.

It covers topics such as managing poor behaviour, sexualised behaviour and how to interact with birth parents, listen to a traumatised child and more.

Career progression

Being a foster carer is a professional career as well as a life-changing choice. There are many reasons why people come to fostering. They may want a new direction in life, or they feel they now have what it takes to offer a looked after child a home.

It is important that foster carers are supported throughout their time as a foster carer – and that means being offered training courses to progress and consolidate their skills.

You can also choose to offer a specialist type of fostering placement. Different placements are needed so that foster carers can work appropriately with children exhibiting particularly complex needs.

Many foster carers choose to formalise this training, aiming to complete an SVQ 3 Social Services (Children & Young People) SCQ F Level 7 qualification.

Specialist courses

Ongoing fostering training comes with many topics for consideration, many of which are prominent for children and young people today.

For example, a recent report found that the number of 14-year-old girls self-harming was on the rise. For a foster child, self-harming could be the release they use to let out some of the pent up emotions inside of them.

Courses in self-harming and how to help children and young people who do harm themselves is one course on offer, as well as other topics such as identity and self-esteem, attachment disorder and child development.

Being a safe carer is also an important part of a foster carer’s training, along with putting in place positive behaviour management

There are practical skills that foster carers need such as first aid and health and safety too.

Some of the topics for further fostering training may surprise you. Teamwork, for example, may not be something that is immediately obvious as part of foster work, but working together as a team with effective communication is essential.

Interacting with birth families is something many foster carers do, and this also brings a host of issues, challenges and concerns.

Issues around child protection are essential too, a field that is ever-changing.

Making a big difference

There is no denying that every day, foster carers make a big difference to the lives of the foster children they look after.

By continually upskilling, foster carers can offer even better placements to the children they foster, and that means making a more significant difference to the lives of children and young people unable to live with their birth families.

Foster Care Associates Scotland are looking for forever families and foster carers from across society to provide loving, supportive homes to foster children and young people. Why not find out what you can offer?

Fostering impacts the whole family and so it is essential the decision to foster is a joint decision and one in which everyone must have their say. But how does fostering affect your family?

Your own children will be an important part of the fostering process…

Children who cannot live with their birth families are unable to do so for many reasons. Becoming part of a family again is a big deal for them.

But the trauma they have faced and the secrets they have yet to tell will weight heavy with them. A foster child may be quiet and withdrawn. They will be overwhelmed, unsure and even scared.

Your own children are important in the fostering process, but it is important that they are not placed under pressure to play with the foster child, to share a room, share their friends and their favourite toys or tech with them.

Allow any friendships and relationships to develop naturally.

… but they can find it daunting too

A foster child can present behaviour and use language that your own child can find very scary. Also, if they acted in this way or spoke to you in such a way, they would be told off!

For a foster child, the reasons why they act out, swear and so on are usually for reasons that run very deep. There is a difference between excusing poor behaviour and not dealing with it and understanding it and dealing with it in an appropriate way.

Your foster child is important…

Welcoming a foster child into your home can be disruptive, or it can be a smooth transition – it depends very much on the child and the reasons why they are in foster care sometimes too.

They will need a lot of your time, patience and energy.

… but continue to make time for your own children

This last sentence alone will say a lot to parents. It is not uncommon for the children of foster parents to feel jealous and resentful towards a foster child.

As the foster child will swallow your time, your child has to learn to share you; something children are not always very good at doing.

Not only that, their lives will change too. The schedule of things that you used to so as a family will, to a certain extent, revolve around what you can and can’t do with a foster child in the family.

For example, at one time, you would watch them at their weekly swimming lesson but now its Grandma or Grandad who take them because you have to do something with the foster child instead.

It is important that you make time for your own children and that this time happens without fail.

Just as you promise to be there for your foster child, you need to be there for your own children too.

You need to maintain confidentiality…

As a foster carer, you will be given information about the foster child coming to live with you and you need to maintain confidentiality.

… but communicate with everyone in the family

Just as you wouldn’t expect to welcome a foster child ‘blind’, don’t expect your own children to do the same. Tell them a little about the foster child, how long they will be with you and so on.

Explain children will leave and it’s OK to be sad

When a friendship is formed, it can be tough to wave goodbye to a foster child.

However, there are times when goodbye is not an ending but the start of a new chapter for the foster child, such as moving to their forever family.

Lifelong friendships can be created as part of fostering. It can help your own children to become empathetic, thoughtful adults, as well as a chance to create lifelong friendships. Is your family able to welcome a foster child?

As part of the fostering process, Fostering People work closely with the children of foster carers to help them understand what is involved. Find out more about their ‘Speak Out Loud’ toolkit.

In association with Lancashire Farm

Lancashire Farm full fat natural yogurt

I have a reputation in my family for being competitive.

I’m not entirely sure where it has come from. I mean I did TELL Belle she should have been on my team for that family football game. Of course she was going to go down in the tackle, she was only eight.

I had been thinking that I was mellowing with age, but then I went on a writing course recently where we played an Articulate style team game with celebrity names in a hat and I may have got a bit carried away trying to describe Boris Yeltsin through the power of mime.

This weekend though we played Toppers, a fun game sent to me by Lancashire Farm to encourage us to be a bit more adventurous with yogurt. (Ooer). All Lancashire Farm yogurt is made with 100% free range milk. They make one kilo tubs of natural and Greek style natural yogurt, both also available in fat free versions, as well as coconut, strawberry and mango flavours of low fat bio yogurt. View Post