Traveling Abroad: Foster Child Requirements

can I travel abroad with a foster child

Travelling Abroad with a Foster Child

Foster parents are usually allowed to take their foster children on holiday abroad. However, there are several important factors to consider and arrangements to be made before doing so. Firstly, it is crucial to consult the child's supervising social worker and obtain written permission for the trip. This is because the social worker will be able to advise on any restrictions, necessary paperwork, and whether additional permissions are required from the local authority or birth parents. It is also important to check the legal order determining who has parental responsibility for the child, as this will impact the permissions needed for international travel.

Furthermore, additional paperwork may be required for the foster child, such as applying for their first passport, which can take extra time. A letter from the local authority may also be needed to explain the foster carer's relationship to the child when travelling. It is also essential to consider the child's safety and well-being, including any necessary travel vaccinations and ensuring they are covered by travel insurance.

Overall, while it is possible to travel abroad with a foster child, proper planning and communication with the relevant authorities are key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip for everyone involved.

Characteristics Values
Permission Permission from the child's birth family and social services is required. The child's individual circumstances, welfare and safety should be considered.
Documentation Passports, vaccination records, travel insurance, and a letter from the local authority are needed.
Planning Consult a social worker to ensure the accommodation meets the child's needs and to complete a risk assessment.
Timing Avoid taking the child out of school during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances.

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Permission and legalities

While it is possible to take a foster child on holiday, there are a number of legal and administrative steps that must be taken to ensure that it is safe and permissible to do so. Here is a checklist of the key considerations:

  • Check the legal order: The type of legal order that a foster child is subject to will determine who has parental responsibility and what permissions are needed to take them on holiday. It is important to consult with a supervising social worker to understand the specific requirements and restrictions that may apply.
  • Get permission from the child's birth family and social services: Additional permission from the child's birth family may be required, and a supervising social worker can help facilitate this process.
  • Arrange a letter from the local authority: Having a letter from the local authority that the foster child falls under can be helpful to quickly explain to travel authorities that you are the child's foster parent. This is not always needed but can provide extra assurance.
  • Check for any limitations: Before booking any travel, it is important to consult with the supervising social worker to ensure there are no limitations or restrictions on the foster child's ability to travel.
  • Vaccinations and health considerations: Check if your destination requires or recommends any vaccinations and ensure you have the necessary permissions to administer them. Also, be mindful of any health and safety considerations, especially if the child has any medical conditions.
  • Passports and travel documentation: Allow plenty of time to process new passports if the foster child does not already have one. Ensure that all necessary travel documentation is in order before booking any travel.
  • Insurance and accommodation: Confirm that your travel insurance policy covers the foster child, just like any other member of your household. Also, ensure that the accommodation meets the needs of the foster child and provides a safe and secure environment.
  • Risk assessment and safety planning: Develop a risk assessment and safety plan that outlines how you will manage any potential risks, including disagreements, privacy, and rules for play or independent exploration.
  • Cultural preparation: If travelling abroad, prepare the foster child for the cultural differences they may encounter, including social behaviours, local languages, and foods. This can help them feel more comfortable and confident during the trip.
  • Communication and expectations: Maintain open and clear communication with the foster child, explaining the travel plans, what to expect, and addressing any concerns they may have. It is important to manage their expectations, especially if this is their first holiday, by explaining that there may be long journeys, waiting times, and new experiences.

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Documentation

When travelling with a foster child, you must ensure that you have the correct documentation. Many foster children do not have passports, so international travel will require some advance preparation. You will need to obtain permission from the relevant local authority social worker and put together a risk assessment. The risk assessment is a document outlining the potential risks and how you plan to manage them, including rules for play, privacy, and managing disagreements. If the child is old enough to go out alone, you will need to outline rules for this, as well as for mobile phone usage.

If the child does not have a passport, you will need to apply for one. This process can take four to six weeks, but if you need to travel urgently, you may be able to get the passport sooner. For children under 16, two parents or guardians must apply in person using Form DS-11 and provide the child's Social Security Number or a formal statement if they do not have one. You will also need to provide proof of the child's citizenship, such as a Certificate of Citizenship, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a U.S. birth certificate. The document must be an original or certified physical copy, not a digital copy. If one parent cannot be present when applying, they can provide consent using Form DS-3053. A passport book for a child under 16 costs $135 and is valid for five years.

If the child is travelling with only one custodial parent, you will need a letter of consent from the other parent, preferably in English and notarized. This letter should state: "I acknowledge that my son/daughter is travelling outside the country with [the name of the adult] with my permission." If one parent has sole custody, a copy of the custody document can be provided instead. If the child has a deceased parent, some airlines or countries may require a copy of the deceased parent's birth certificate.

It is also recommended to carry other forms of identification for the child, such as a school-issued ID or library card.

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Preparing the child for travel

Discuss the Travel Plans Openly

It is important to talk to your foster child about the trip, your expectations, and any concerns they may have. Be transparent about the travel details, such as the mode of transportation, the duration of the trip, and any activities you plan to do. Address any worries or anxieties they may have and provide reassurance.

Maintain Routines and Familiarity

Try to stick to their regular routines as much as possible during the trip. This can provide a sense of stability and comfort, especially if the child is used to a particular daily structure. For example, if they have a bedtime routine, try to maintain it as closely as possible while travelling.

Involve Them in the Planning Process

Empower your foster child by including them in the planning process. Ask for their input on activities they would like to do or places they want to visit. This will make them feel valued and excited about the trip.

Prepare Them for New Experiences

If your foster child hasn't travelled much before, it's important to familiarise them with the different modes of transportation they may encounter, such as planes or boats. Talk about the different cultures, social behaviours, languages, and foods they may experience. You can also watch movies set in your destination country or try out local cuisine to get them excited about the new experiences.

Ensure Their Comfort and Safety

Make sure your foster child understands that their privacy and personal space will be respected during the trip. Discuss any concerns they may have about sharing rooms or bathrooms with other family members. Reassure them that you will be there to support and guide them throughout the journey.

Manage Expectations

Be clear about the rules and boundaries during the trip. Discuss how you will manage disagreements or challenges that may arise. For older children, set guidelines for going out alone or using mobile phones. It is important that they understand your expectations and the consequences of not following the rules.

By following these steps, you can help your foster child feel prepared, excited, and comfortable about the upcoming travel plans, ensuring that the experience is enjoyable and memorable for everyone.

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Accommodation

The suitability of accommodation is a concern for many foster parents when planning a trip. Foster parents are usually asked to provide foster children with their own bedrooms at home. However, on holiday, not all children will be able to stay in shared family apartments. Before booking, speak to your supervising social worker, who can advise on how to choose the best places to stay and, if appropriate, help complete a risk assessment.

If you are travelling with opposite-gender children, one of whom is a foster child, they will likely not be allowed to share a room, even for a short amount of time. This may mean that you have to give up your bed and sleep on the couch while the foster child gets the private bedroom.

If you are travelling with your own children, they might begrudgingly share a room, but this is not an option for a foster child. In this case, you will need to book separate rooms or ensure that the accommodation has enough space for the foster child to have their own bed.

If you are travelling with your foster child and staying with friends or family, you will need to ensure that the sleeping arrangements are suitable. It is important to consider the gender of the children and the level of comfort and privacy provided by the accommodation.

In some cases, a foster child may be allowed to share a room with their foster parent, provided that they have permission from the child's social worker and that they use a private bathroom for changing.

It is crucial to discuss sleeping arrangements with your social worker to ensure the foster child's safety, privacy, and comfort.

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Safety and wellbeing

The safety and wellbeing of a foster child should always be a top priority when travelling abroad. Here are some essential considerations and guidelines to ensure their protection and overall positive experience:

  • Permissions and Legalities: Before planning any trip, it is crucial to obtain the necessary permissions and adhere to legal requirements. Consult the child's care/placement plan and check their legal order, which outlines who has parental responsibility. Ensure you have permission from the child's birth family and social services.
  • Documentation: Foster children may not have passports, so allow sufficient time for passport processing. Also, consider obtaining a letter from the local authority confirming your foster parent status, which can be helpful when dealing with travel authorities.
  • Risk Assessment: Work closely with your social worker to conduct a risk assessment. This document outlines potential risks and how you plan to manage them, including strategies for disagreements, privacy, and rules for play or independent exploration.
  • Preparation for Travel: Prepare the foster child for the realities of travel, especially if they are experiencing air travel or boats for the first time. Discuss different cultures, social behaviours, local languages, and foods. Use movies or meals to introduce foreign concepts in a safe and familiar environment.
  • Maintaining Routines: Stability is vital for children in care, as they may have experienced turbulent life events. Maintain familiar routines as much as possible during the trip to provide a sense of stability and comfort. Bring their favourite toys, books, and clothes to help them feel secure.
  • Communication: Keep the lines of communication open with your foster child, your social worker, and the fostering agency. Discuss expectations, concerns, and any limitations. Ensure everyone is fully informed about the travel plans and any necessary arrangements.
  • Health and Safety: Check government websites and local tourism sources for safety warnings and advice on travelling to your destination. Ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and a well-stocked first aid kit to avoid illness or communication barriers regarding medications.
  • Sleeping Arrangements: Discuss sleeping arrangements with your social worker. Foster children need a comfortable and secure place to rest, whether it's a separate room or an appropriate shared space. Ensure their privacy and personal space are respected.
  • Bonding and Trust: Foster children thrive when they feel safe and valued. Use this opportunity to build trust and strengthen your relationship. Involve them in planning activities and choosing destinations to empower them and create lasting memories.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: If travelling to a different cultural context, prepare the foster child for any cultural norms or behaviours they might encounter. Explain these differences to help them feel more at ease and navigate potential cultural shocks or misunderstandings.
  • Therapy and Emotional Support: Consider the foster child's emotional needs and any ongoing therapy they are receiving. Discuss with the foster care staff if it's appropriate to miss therapy sessions during the trip or explore alternatives like Skype sessions.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, you can. However, there are a few things to consider and arrange before you go.

Firstly, you need to get permission from the child's birth family and social services. You should also check the legal order of your foster child, which will determine who has parental responsibility and what other permissions you need to seek. It's also important to consult your supervising social worker, who can advise on any extra paperwork and help ensure it's provided in time.

It's a good idea to get a letter from the local authority that your foster child falls under. This will enable you to quickly and easily show any travel authorities that you're the child's foster parent. You should also ensure you have the child's passport, and that your travel insurance policy covers them.

It's important to prepare your foster child for the realities of international travel. If they've never been on a plane before, for example, talk them through what to expect. Discuss different cultures, social behaviours, local languages and foods. You could also watch films set in your destination country or eat similar food to what you'll be eating to help them prepare.

Yes, there are plenty of holiday options that don't require a passport. For example, you could visit the Channel Islands, the Isle of Wight, Scotland, Wales or the Norfolk Broads.

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