So, you’ve made the decision that you’d like to become a foster carer. That’s great news. You believe you have the right skills and experience, and you have a desire to offer a safe and caring home to a child or young person. Of course, you have the space in your home to help, too. Now what?
Becoming a foster carer is a process that initially appears daunting, but one that offers a wonderful reward – the chance to change someone’s life for the better. The process also allows you to ask lots of questions and reflect on what it will mean to be a foster carer, and enables your fostering service to ensure that you will be a kind and successful foster carer.
Read on for information on how to become a foster carer in just a few simple steps.
Five steps to fostering…
Step one: Get in contact
At Olive Branch Fostering, we like to make the process as simple and hassle-free as possible. We ask that all interested parties first get in touch with us. This allows us to ask some basic questions to get the application rolling. You can either call us on 01706 558910 or fill in a form to register your enquiry. If the enquiry is positive, one of our friendly team members will call you to book an appointment.
Step two: Initial home visit
Once you have registered your interest in becoming a foster carer, the agency you work with will organise a home visit. During this visit, the agency has a chance to get to know you and your family better, and you have an opportunity to learn more about fostering and ask any questions that have emerged since your initial conversation.
This visit is for the agency to check that you can provide a safe and suitable home environment, as well as assess others in your household, including any children and pets.
You may also receive an application form along with some information about fostering. You will be free to read through the information in your own time and return the application if you are still interested in progressing.
Step three: Assessment
If your initial home visit and application are successful, the formal assessment will begin. You will receive a professional and skilled social worker to begin your Form F, which is a review of your suitability to provide foster care. The social worker may visit you up to eight times with the aim of assessing the following:
- Your family background and childhood
- Your current and previous employment
- Previous and current relationships
- Other household members, such as children, partners, and pets
- Your personality, lifestyle and support network
- Your ability to provide warmth, empathy, encouragement, structure and commitment to a potential foster child
- Your understanding of identity, diversity and vulnerability
The social worker will also need to run statutory checks, which may include:
- Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on applicants and adult household members
- Identity checks
- Employment reference
- References who will be visited by the social worker
- Medical assessment report
- Health and safety assessment
In addition to this, you will be invited to attend a short training course, which will give you more information and insight into what it takes to be a great foster parent. Attending this course also gives you an opportunity to meet other foster carers who will become part of your support network when fostering.
Step four: Panel interview and review
Once your formal assessment and training have been completed, your social worker will submit all the information and evidence in Form F to an independent panel. The panel is made up of independent members and experts from different professions who ultimately make the decision on whether or not a person is fit to be a foster parent. Some panel members have a professional background in child or social care, while others have direct experience with the fostering process.
You and your social worker will be invited to meet the panel and answer questions they may have about your case. After the interview, the panel will make a recommendation about your approval to the fostering agency. If successful, they will also recommend an approval age range that is best suited to your circumstance and experience.
Step five: Approval and confirmation
Congratulations, you’ve been approved and are now ready to foster!
You will receive written confirmation of approval and will be assigned a supervising social worker who will support you, your family and the foster child. A child or young adult may be placed with you as soon as you are approved, or it could take a while for the right pairing to be possible. Either way, Olive Branch Fostering is committed to matching the foster carer and the child for successful placement.
How long does it take to become a foster carer?
There is no definitive timescale for applying and being approved as a foster carer. It can vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on the suitability of each candidate.
Because of the various checks and home visits, the process can take upwards of three months. These checks include a DBS check, local authority residency checks, a medical report from your GP and a home risk assessment. Any residents in your household over the age of 18 will also require a DBS check, which tends to take around a month.
You will also be invited to attend a foster care training course, which is arranged on a frequent basis but may take a couple of months. You will be kept informed of the progress of your application by the agency.
Get started with fostering
Interested in fostering? Contact the professionals at Olive Branch Fostering to get started on your application or to learn more about what’s involved. Our team are committed to finding passionate, nurturing foster carers across the North West of England and matching them with children in need.
To find out more about becoming a foster carer, contact us on 01706 558910 to arrange an informal chat with our fostering advisor. We look forward to hearing from you.