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Fostering Blog – passport pitfalls

1 May 2018

In spite of the brief heat wave, if you’re like me, you’re still shivering from the long drawn out winter that blasted us with ice, snow and fiercely cold winds. Makes you want to book a holiday!

That’s basically the only topic of conversation in our house regardless of the fact the focus should be on end of college assignments, assessments and BTEC results. We still haven’t decided and there is divided opinion.

M has started sending me texts with links to holiday destination sites. Most of them are in the States which is currently her latest top destination followed by the Maldives and Thailand. I send her texts back with costings attached and a more realistic budget!

I’m a mentor on a forum for newly approved Foster Carers and the most talked about topic at the moment is how to avoid pitfalls at the airport or border when taking Looked After Children abroad.

Even if, like us, you’re still deciding where to go, don’t delay in getting a passport if the children in your care don’t have one. Social Services don’t move at a fast pace and the biggest advice I can give is not to delay starting the passport process.

This isn’t normally something a Foster Carer does, so you’ll need to approach the child’s Social Worker who will be able to seek authorisation from birth parents if it’s required, but you can speed up the process by having the passport photos ready. These should be signed and dated by a counter signatory (who will need to add their full name and address).

For the passport, you’ll need the child’s birth certificate; don’t assume the social worker will have it.  I didn’t have a birth certificate for M but I ordered it online and it was a straightforward process (as I had the information about birth family that was required – it may take longer if you need to start investigating family history). It takes about 2 weeks to arrive, but you can fast track the application for an additional fee. Neither M or J had a passport when they came to us and in both cases the relevant Local Authority paid for the passport and birth certificate.

Once you have the passport you’re good to go…. Right? Wrong.

If you are taking a child out of the county that has a different family name from you, then you need to explain why with official documentation (this also applies to step-children that share a different family name, but a copy of the birth certificate is normally sufficient if travelling with a parent). This is to stop child kidnapping and abduction and it is checked.

You will need a letter from the social worker or social services giving permission. This must be an authorised letter and include the child’s full name, date of birth, and that they are subject to a full care order under section 31 of the Children Act 1989.

It must also state that the child is placed in foster care with the name and address of the Foster Carers and lastly in must include the full travel itinerary (outbound and return flights, times, dates and flight numbers). It must be on headed paper, signed, and dated.

I always ask the Local Authority to send me a paper copy and also ask for an email version so I can access it from my mobile phone, just in case the paper copy is lost.

I haven’t been asked to show documentation when leaving the country yet, but I keep the letter with the passport and hand over them both.

Returning to the UK, the documentation has been checked for both children on each occasion and last year when we took M’s friend away with us, I was asked for the relevant documentation for her (I took a similar letter but with her parent’s consent, details, and signatures).

Travelling with children of any age can be stressful and children in care are no different except you have to make sure you have crossed every T and dotted every I to avoid passport pitfalls.

All I have to do now is find a holiday that suits every member of our household. Frankly the lure of a mini spa just for me is becoming very appealing!

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