Foster carers provide a temporary nurturing environment for foster children. They can make a huge difference to a child’s life by giving them the positive experience of a loving home when they need it most.
Fostering can also be immensely rewarding for the foster carers – but they need to pass the approval process first.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, you’re probably wondering how long it takes to become a foster carer. Read on to learn about the process involved, how long it takes and what could potentially slow down your application.
Who can become a foster carer?
There are very few factors restricting people from becoming a foster carer. Providing they meet the criteria of their chosen agency, pass background checks and complete the approval process, anybody with a kind heart and an open home can become a foster carer.
There are many popular misconceptions around who can foster a child. Age, marital status and sexuality are irrelevant as long as you are passionate about caring for others and you can provide a stable family environment.
British citizenship is not required to be a foster carer either, and there are many children currently in foster care who do not have English as their first language. However, it is important to have a spare bedroom to ensure that the child you foster has their own space and privacy.
The following will be considered when assessing your suitability as a foster carer:
- Your ability to provide a safe home environment
- Who else lives in your home, such as your own children or relatives
- Skills you can bring to your career as a foster carer
- Your health, personality and lifestyle
Being able to transform the life of a vulnerable child or young person should be the key motivation for becoming a foster carer. To help do this, all foster carers receive a weekly allowance to cover the costs of looking after a child in foster care, such as their food and clothing. Fostering also offers opportunities to develop new skills through training courses.
So, how long does it take to become a foster carer?
It is important to understand how long it takes to become a foster carer before expressing your interest.
At Olive Branch Fostering, an application to become a foster carer usually takes approximately six months from the first enquiry. This may feel like a long and rigorous process, but fostering services need to carefully assess your suitability to foster a child. You also need time to prepare before welcoming a foster child into your home.
However, if you have the necessary documents prepared and you’re able to attend sessions promptly, the process can move faster. Some of our applications are approved within 12 weeks and we offer full support throughout the process. The more time you are able to give during your assessment process, the quicker the process could be.
There are a number of steps before you can become a foster carer:
- Register your interest in becoming a foster carer with an agency
- A home visit for an in-depth conversation
- Assessment with a qualified social worker, including checks and references
- A report is presented to a panel who will make the final decision
- After passing the panel, congratulations, you are an approved foster carer!
Your allocated social worker will visit your home several times over these months to collect information about you, your family and your lifestyle.
The application process is a great way for prospective foster carers to develop their understanding of fostering and learn the key skills they’ll need going forward. The thorough process also gives a prospective foster carer plenty of time to ask questions.
During the process, your social worker will assess the following:
- Your understanding of the fostering process
- Your motivations for being a foster carer
- Your skills and personal qualities
- Your expectations of being a foster carer
What is an approved foster parent?
An approved foster parent is simply someone who has passed the inspection and been approved by an expert panel. Once you have been approved as a foster carer, you can finally welcome a child or young person into your home. Sometimes a child can be placed with you as soon as you are approved, but it may take a while for a good match to be made.
Throughout your new career as a foster carer, you will continue to receive as much support and supervision as you require – as well as the opportunity for further training.
I have a full-time job – will I still be approved as a foster carer?
To be a great foster carer, you’ll need to have plenty of free time to support your foster child. While there’s no requirement to be at home full-time, foster carers need to be flexible and regularly available. For example, it would not be appropriate for a foster child to be in full-time day care while their foster carer works. However, work is certainly possible if you are fostering older children.
What can slow down your application to be a foster carer?
How long it takes to become a foster carer varies for every person. To be approved as a foster carer, you need to participate in background checks. These are out of your fostering agency’s hands and unfortunately, they can hold your assessment back. References and checks often include a DBS check, local authority residency checks and a medical report from your GP. Any residents in your house aged 18 or over will also require a DBS check.
Regardless of how long it takes to become a foster carer, the final result is an incredibly rewarding career.
Fostering in the North West & Midlands
If you’re interested in fostering, the first step is to find a fostering agency.
Olive Branch Fostering supports foster parents across the North West and Midlands to care for children in a safe and loving family setting. As well as offering 24/7 support and a generous allowance, we do our best to make the approval process to become a foster carer as streamlined and simple as possible.
To find out more about becoming a foster carer, contact our team on 01706 558910. We look forward to hearing from you.