It is extremely important to protect children from electrical hazards whilst in your care. You must ensure that appliance cords are kept out of reach of children, especially those connected to hot items such as kettles, irons, hair straighteners and hairdryers. These types of appliances should be switched off when not in use. Keep liquids away from TVs, DVD players, stereos, computer devices and anything else electrical. Always ensure that young people dry thoroughly after coming into contact with water and before using electrical appliances as this can be deadly. You may wish to invest in socket covers to stop inquisitive fingers however; the only way to be safe from a fatal electric shock and reduce the risk of fire is to have RCD protection, either in the fuse box or as a plug-in.
Every week around 500 children under the age of five are rushed to hospital because it is thought they have swallowed something poisonous. It is essential to keep all household chemicals, cleaning products and medicines out of sight of children and in cupboards with child resistant catches. Harmful products should be kept high up and out of reach and NOT under the sink or on the floor by the toilet. It may be useful to invest in products with child-resistant caps for added safety. Don’t forget garden chemicals such as weed killer, slug pellets etc. These should be kept out of reach in a locked garage or shed.
It is important to have a well-stocked first aid kit in your home so you can deal with minor accidents and injuries. Your first aid kit should be locked and kept in a cool, dry place out of reach of children. A basic first aid kit may contain various items such as plasters in a variety of different shapes and sizes, sterile dressings, triangular and crepe rolled bandages, disposable sterile gloves, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, scissors etc. Visit www.nhs.uk for more information.
A child has no way of knowing that an exhaust pipe, an iron or any other hot surface can hurt and burn, or that hot water can burn in the same way fires can. Supervision is the only reliable way to prevent accidents from occurring. So please ensure to watch children in your care CONSTANTLY – especially around stoves, ovens, microwaves, heaters and other appliances. You may wish to teach your children to stay away from the kitchen when you’re cooking and to avoid leaving the kitchen unattended if you’re using pots and pans, toasters, sandwich presses and slow cookers to reduce the risk of burn injuries or scalding. It may be useful to always use the back burners on the stove first and to turn handles on pots and pans towards the back of the stove. Within the family living area, installing guards around heaters and fixed fire guards around open fires to discourage children from standing too close is essential to avoid harm. To guard against accidents with hot water, such as dishwater and bathwater, turn down your hot water thermostat.
Depending on the age of the children you will be required to care for; it may be advised to install stair gates in your home. Having a stair gate is necessary to keep little ones out of harm’s way when they start exploring the world – whether it’s to keep them safe in the room, out of the kitchen or away from the stairs. For safety’s sake, get one as soon as your foster child starts to show signs of crawling or using a baby walker to get about, as they’ll soon be moving faster than you realize.
Germs can be passed from person to person or indirectly by touching unclean equipment or surfaces and floors. Cleanliness experts say hygienic cleaning can help prevent up to 80% of harmful germs spreading in the home. Make sure to teach your children to use soap and warm water frequently when washing their hands to kill the germs they are susceptible to in everyday situations. You may wish to post a colourful and child-friendly sign displaying how to wash your hands in areas such as the bathroom to remind the children of the importance of washing hands thoroughly. Experts recommend singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice to fully achieve a good scrub. It is very important that cleaning aids, such as cloths or mops, are germ-free or this can cause a spread of germs to other surfaces. So ensure you use disposable cloths or paper towels when possible or disinfect thoroughly after each use. Children love to play, so it is essential to protect them from germs by cleaning hard or plastic toys by washing them regularly and storing them once they’re clean and dry. Some soft toys can be cleaned in the washing machine but all toys and equipment should be added to a regular cleaning rota. Always ensure food preparation surfaces are hygienically clean before and after use and use separate chopping boards for meat (including fish and poultry) and vegetables.
Pools, lakes, ponds and beaches can mean summer, fun, a great source of exercise and cool relief from hot weather. However, you need to ensure you take thorough precautions as these water hazards can be very dangerous for children if they are not monitored appropriately. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for people between the ages of 5 and 24. The only way to keep children in your care safe around water is to provide constant supervision – whether the water is in a bathtub, a paddling pool, a fish pond, a swimming pool, a spa, the beach or a lake. Supervision means constant visual contact with a child and keeping within arm’s reach at all times. You should be in a position to respond quickly if needed. It is a good idea to encourage children and other non-swimmers to take lessons and learn how to swim so they are able to take the proper precautions when around water hazards. You may wish to invest in flotation devices such as armbands and safety vests for extra protection when swimming in a pool or the sea. For children younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support — the collar will keep the child’s head up and face out of the water. Always remember to drain paddling pools when not in use and secure ponds with covers or fencing.
Children and young people spend a lot of time online – it can be a great way for them to socialise, explore, be educated and have fun. But children do also face risks like cyberbullying or seeing content that’s inappropriate. Talking to your children, openly and regularly, is the best way to help keep them safe online. You might find it helpful to start with a family discussion to set boundaries such as when and where the internet should be accessed and which apps, websites, and games are appropriate. You may want to ask the children what sites or apps they like so you can discuss and explore them together. It is important to advise how the children in your care can stay safe on social networking sites. You should teach them how to report upsetting or inappropriate content they may have seen, how to block someone and how to keep personal information private. Explain and make them aware of ‘stranger danger’ when using the internet and the importance of never sharing personal details or images because sometimes people are not who they say they are. Of course, the only way to protect a child or young person whilst using the internet is to closely monitor their activity by either close visual supervision or by downloading parental control software which will prevent your family from accessing dangerous material online. For more information visit www.saferinternet.org.uk
Children love pets and animals are great for helping children form attachments and improve their social skills. But it is important to follow a few health and safety guidelines to ensure the children are kept safe around family pets at all times. Toxoplasmosis and Salmonella are two examples of animal-related infections which can be passed on to humans through poor hygiene so it is essential that you ensure all members of the household wash their hands before meals, before handling babies bottles or utensils, after you have handled or cleaned up after a pet and after changing a babies nappy. It is also important to look after your pet by having them wormed regularly with vaccinations kept up to date. Check for fleas and signs of ringworm (a contagious fungal skin infection) and treat accordingly. Pets can become very jealous where there’s a new young person in the family, especially if they’ve been used to having all the intention. It is important to allow your animal and foster child to be introduced to one another with close supervision to enable a bond/relationship to be created. Please ensure you teach your child how to treat your animals to prevent any future problems which may arise due to a child handling your pet incorrectly.
As adults, we may from time to time enjoy privileges such as cigarette and alcohol consumption in the family home. However, it is important to not subject the children in your care to regularly seeing you under the influence and in extreme cases, lack of control due to such substances. Please ensure you lock alcohol away in child resistant cupboards and do not leave cigarettes or lighters lying around in easy reach of children as this can cause burn injuries or in worst cases, fire hazards. It is essential to ensure you do not intoxicate children in your care with second-hand smoke. Please ensure you smoke outside or a safe distance away from any children as this can affect their child development. Depending on the age of your foster children, you may feel the need to educate them on the effects of consuming alcohol and cigarette smoke if they have shown an interest whilst in your care. This can be a complex issue to address and handle so please don’t hesitate to contact your supervising social worker for advice. You also may enjoy reading magazines or playing computer/console games that contain inappropriate material for anybody under the age of 18. Ensure such materials are stored away in a private place or are played once your foster children are in bed or out of the family home.