A Comprehensive Guide To Becoming A Foster Carer
If you’re considering becoming a Foster Carer, you may wonder what it involves and how long it takes. Given that our carers will be looking after children who have experienced trauma, the assessment process is understandably an in-depth process. Therefore, this typically takes around four to six months to complete. However, this may be quicker if you are transferring from another fostering agency. Unfortunately, there is no control over timescales for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and medical checks.
Let’s delve into the process of becoming a Foster Carer, shedding some light on each step involved to provide you with a clear understanding of the journey before you embark on this rewarding and exciting path!
Understanding the process of becoming a Foster Carer
Becoming a Foster Carer is a life-changing decision that requires consideration and preparation. The process involves several essential steps designed to ensure the safety, well-being, and best interests of the Foster Carer, their family and the child or children they will care for. It’s worth saying that there is absolutely no pressure and if, at any stage, you decide that fostering isn’t for you, or it isn’t the right time, we absolutely respect and support that. While the exact timeline may vary depending on individual circumstances, we have outlined the steps to becoming a Foster Carer below.
What are the steps to becoming a Foster Carer?
Step 1: Initial Enquiry & Information Gathering
The journey begins with you making an initial enquiry – either by filling in an online enquiry form, by calling the team (0330 222 7775), or by attending an information session. This step is about gathering information about the requirements, responsibilities, available support, etc, so that you can make a decision about whether fostering is right for you – either now or in the future. If you haven’t attended an information session, we would definitely recommend coming along. This gives you the chance to hear from our experienced Foster Carers – who will bring the realities of fostering to life, highlighting both the challenges and the rewards – and members of our Fostering Recruitment team, who can answer any questions you may have.
Step 2: Initial Call & Home Visit
If you are ready to progress to becoming a Foster Carer, the next step is the initial call and home visit. This is where one of our Fostering Recruitment team will run through some of the headline requirements. Assuming we’re all ready to move forward, we’ll book an initial home visit. This involves a member of the Fostering Recruitment team visiting your home to provide you with a detailed understanding of fostering – what it involves and what to expect. It also enables us to ensure that your home is suitable for fostering. Don’t worry, although this may seem like a daunting experience, we are here to work at your pace and provide you with any information you need to make an informed decision about whether you would like to continue to the assessment stage.
Step 3: Assessment Process
When we refer to the ‘assessment process’, we are talking about a series of checks, references and in-depth conversations which help both you and us determine your suitability and readiness to becoming a Foster Carer.
Watch Assessing Social Worker Sally explain what happens when someone is ready to move from enquiry to assessment and what the process involves.
Once you are ready to begin the assessment process, we begin collecting the essential information needed to complete a formal Foster Carer application with us. This means providing personal details, employment history, personal references, and undergoing various background checks. These checks include a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, safeguarding and health checks, as well as personal and employment references. The purpose of these checks is to assess your suitability for becoming a Foster Carer, while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the children in our care.
All new applicants are then enrolled on a three-day mandatory ‘Skills to Foster’ training course, which will prepare you for becoming a Foster Carer.
What is the Skills to Foster course?
The Skills to Foster course is designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide high-quality care to children in need. It covers a range of topics, including child development, attachment theory, safeguarding, and managing challenging behaviour. Additionally, it provides an overview of the fostering process, including the roles and responsibilities required of Foster Carers, the legal framework, and the available support. Typically lasting two to three days, the Skills to Foster course is delivered by experienced trainers and current Foster Carers, with extensive knowledge of the fostering process. It is a flexible resource tool that supports new applicants in developing their skills and knowledge across different areas. This course is an essential part of the fostering assessment process, ensuring that you feel well-prepared and equipped to provide the best possible care to local children.
Your designated Assessing Social Worker will conduct a comprehensive assessment to evaluate your suitability and capacity to become a Foster Carer. This stage involves a series of in-depth interviews that explore various areas to gather essential information. Subsequently, your Assessing Social Worker will compile a report known as a ‘Form F’ assessment. This report will detail the gathered information and provide a recommendation regarding your approval, including the preferred age range, type of fostering, and the number of children you can accommodate. If, at any point during the assessment process, we determine that recommending you for fostering may not be appropriate, we will discuss this with you as early as possible and provide written reasons for our decision. Similarly, if you decide to withdraw from the application process at any point, you are free to do so.
The final stage involves submitting your assessment report to a Fostering Panel, consisting of individuals with diverse life experiences and a deep understanding of and interest in fostering. The Panel will review your application, and you and your Assessing Social Worker will be invited to attend the Panel meeting to answer any questions they may have. Based on the Panel’s discussion and recommendation, we will decide on your approval as a Foster Carer. Once approved, you will be ready to provide a nurturing home to one (or more) of our children!
Step 4: Matching Process
Once approved, the matching process begins. Our team will carefully consider your skills, experience, and preferences to find the most suitable match between you and a foster child. We understand that every child is unique, and we strive to find the best possible match to ensure a successful placement. Our team will work closely with you throughout the matching process to ensure that you are comfortable and confident in your decision and will help you prepare to welcome a foster child into your home.
Step 5: Ongoing Fostering Support & Training
Becoming a Foster Carer is an ongoing commitment to providing care and support to a child. After welcoming a foster child into your home, our team continues to provide comprehensive training and support to help you develop your skills and knowledge across different areas. This includes courses like Motivational Interviewing Training, Secure Base Workshops, Therapeutic Parenting with PACE, Emergency Paediatric First Aid, Online Safety Courses and more. This ensures you have the necessary tools and resources to meet the evolving needs of the child in your care. We also run a range of face-to-face and online support groups so that you can discuss different scenarios with other Foster Carers to help further build your knowledge and develop your practice.
At Fostering West Sussex, we are here to guide you every step of the way of the process, providing the support you need to embark on this extraordinary journey of fostering.
We also provide support for birth children, running social events throughout the year for our amazing ‘children who foster’.
What is an Assessment Social Worker?
An Assessing Social Worker is a professional responsible for conducting a comprehensive assessment of potential Foster Carers to evaluate their suitability and capacity to foster. This involves a series of in-depth interviews exploring various areas to gather essential information. The Assessing Social Worker then compiles a report, known as a ‘Form F’, and provides a recommendation regarding the Foster Carer’s approval. The Assessing Social Worker will also work closely with the potential Foster Carer(s) throughout the assessment process, providing guidance and support and answering any questions they may have. The role of the Assessing Social Worker is crucial in ensuring that children in care are placed in safe and nurturing homes with suitable Foster Carers who can meet their needs, while also ensuring that the needs of all children in the home are considered.
What disqualifies you from fostering?
In the UK, you may be disqualified from fostering if you have a criminal record for violent or sexual offences, offences against children, or offenses related to drug or alcohol abuse. You must also have adequate space in your home, be financially stable, and be fit and healthy enough to care for a child. The minimum age to become a Foster Carer is 21 years old, however, there is no upper age limit.
Can I choose the age and gender of the child I foster?
We will always take into account your preferences and circumstances when matching you with a child or young person, but of course, our top priority is ensuring the needs of the child are met by the fostering family we place them with. It’s important to be open to fostering children of different ages and genders, especially as the majority of the children waiting for a loving, supportive place to call home are aged 11+.
Can I still work while fostering?
Yes, many Foster Carers can work while fostering. The type of fostering you do will ultimately determine the amount of time you need to be available to meet the needs of the child in your care. That’s why we work closely with you to assess what type of fostering is most suitable for you and our children. It’s worth considering that fostering can be a busy role. There are the usual commitments of looking after a child, from round-the-clock care for babies and toddlers to school runs and after-school clubs for older children. In addition, you will have meetings to attend and training to undertake as part of your role as a Foster Carer.