Currently 65,000 children in the UK are living with foster carers. Thousands more foster families are needed this year to give every child who comes into care a stable and loving home. If you think you have what it takes to change a child’s future, keep reading.
This blog outlines what you need to know about the application process. If you want to know more about what fostering entails visit the All about fostering section of our website.
Find out more about fostering
Fostering is an immensely rewarding role, but it can also often be challenging. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, there is a lot you might want to know in advance. Take your time and read through our website to find out more about the role and the different types of fostering. You can also search for fostering services in your local area.
Get in touch with fostering services
As a prospective foster carer you have a few things to think about in advance, such as which fostering service you want to work for, what the age range is of the children you would like to foster (there is a real need for foster carers to look after teenagers), and how many children or young people you might be able to accommodate. You might also want to consider caring for a child with additional needs or a sibling group – there’s a particular need for foster carers for these groups. Part of the assessment process will also help you think through these decisions.
If you get in touch with a fostering service, ask them lots of questions. As a foster carer you will work closely with them, so it’s important to feel comfortable.
Training and assessment
Once you have applied to your preferred fostering service, social workers will assess your suitability to foster. You will also get invited to attend pre-approval training, The Skills to FosterTM which equips prospective foster carers with the practical, day-to-day skills that all foster carers need.
An assessment usually takes around four to five months and accounts for most of the time of the application process. You and members of your household will undergo a thorough background check – your home environment, experience with children, relationships, life history and your health will all be examined. These checks are necessary to ensure the safeguarding of children in foster care. On completion your assessor will submit a full report to a fostering panel, including input from you.
A fostering panel will decide whether you are suitable for the role of a foster carer. The panel is a group of people with a range of skills, knowledge and experience who have worked in child or social care or have direct experience with fostering. The panel reads your report and will also hold an interview with you and your social worker. They then make a recommendation, as to whether you should be approved, to the agency decision maker of your fostering service – who makes the final decision.
Your first placement
If you have been approved as a foster carer, you can start preparing for your first arrival. Some foster carers have a child come to live with them straight away, others wait a bit longer. The wait depends on the needs of the child and the availability of fostering families who can meet those particular needs. Your service will do their best to find each child a home that is most suitable for them – this is called matching. Making a good match is essential for the fostering placement to be successful, and the stability this good match can bring is vital for children and young people