What is the Fostering Process and How Long Does It Take?

foster carer and child

Congratulations – you’ve decided to become a foster carer! There’s nothing more life-affirming than changing a child’s life for the better, and your whole family will benefit from knowing that you’re making a real difference.

If you’ve reached this stage, you’ll have probably considered what type of fostering you’d prefer to do and whether you possess the right qualities to become a foster carer. Of course, you’ll also need a spare room and plenty of space for your new addition.

All that’s left to do now is to start the fostering process. Becoming a carer comprises visits and assessments with a social worker, training courses and panel interviews. Although it might seem daunting at first, it’s an excellent opportunity to ask questions and thoroughly prepare for the journey ahead.

Keep reading as we outline the fostering process step-by-step, before revealing how long it usually takes from beginning to end.

What is the fostering process?

If you want to foster, you’ll need to undergo a comprehensive vetting process to ensure you’re able to care for the UK’s most vulnerable children. Additionally, these measures give you time to reflect on whether fostering is the right path for you. While uncommon, some applicants may change their minds once they understand the commitment required.

Not every local authority or private agency follows the same sequence, but the steps stay the same. They include:

  1. Make an enquiry
  2. Home visit
  3. Assessment and training
  4. Panel interview
  5. Approval

Step 1: Make an enquiry

The first step is self-explanatory – register your interest. Here at Olive Branch Fostering, you can do this in various ways. You could fill out the form on our contact page, arrange a free call back with a friendly fostering advisor or call us on 01706 558910. Remember, there’s no obligation to go any further. We’re always happy to answer all your questions before you proceed.

Step 2: Home visit

Once you’ve expressed your interest, the local authority or private agency will arrange a home visit. Here, you’ll have a more in-depth conversation with a fostering advisor about your motivations, skills and expectations. You’ll receive a formal application form to complete, alongside an information pack. There’s no rush when answering the form’s questions – you have ample time to think about your responses and collaborate with family members.

Step 3: Assessment and training

After returning the application form, you’ll be assigned a qualified social worker to oversee the assessment and training. The assessment is called a Form F – it’s an evaluation to assess your suitability as a foster carer.

Your social worker will visit between six and eight times in total to compose a detailed report, and everyone living in the household needs to contribute. Expect to be asked about:

  • Your family background
  • Your employment
  • Previous and current relationships
  • Other household members
  • Your social support network
  • Your personality and capacity to provide a loving home
  • Your understanding of identity and diversity

Other statutory checks for all family members include:

  • DBS checks
  • Identity checks
  • Three referees who the social worker will visit
  • Employment reference
  • Medical assessment report
  • Ex-partner reference (if applicable)
  • Health and safety assessment

Alongside the report, you’ll be asked to attend a two-day “Skills to Foster” training course, introducing you to the basics. If you want to foster children with complex needs, you’ll require additional training covering everything from autism awareness to severe physical disabilities.

Once this step has been completed, you’ll meet your social worker and panel of experts to go through the report and make adjustments if necessary.

Step 4: Panel interview

The final report is reviewed by your social worker, a panel of independent members and experts from different professions. Usually, these individuals have previous experience in fostering or have worked in childcare for many years. Together, they’ll jointly decide whether you meet the requirements to become a foster carer.

Part of the panel selection process includes interviews about the report, and you’ll be invited to fill in any blanks and provide more information. It’s also a chance to explain why you think you’d be an excellent carer. Afterwards, the panel will make a recommendation to the fostering service.

Step 5: Approval

Once you get approval from the panel, you’re almost ready to welcome a foster child into your home. You’ll be assigned a supervising social worker who will support you, your family and your foster child throughout the transition and beyond.

Under the Fostering Regulations Act 2013, all foster carers must sign and agree to a Foster Carer Agreement before receiving placements. This is a contract between the agency and carer that includes:

  • Terms of approval
  • Carer reviews
  • Care planning
  • Financial situation
  • Ongoing support and training
  • Allowances
  • Notice period

Following each annual review, the agreement will be updated to reflect your most up-to-date circumstances.

How long does the fostering process take?

The most common question we get asked by applicants is: “How long does the fostering process take?” The answer is, usually around six months, but some of our applications are approved in as little as 12 weeks. Ultimately, the more time you can commit, the quicker everything will be finalised.

Once you’re approved, there’s no set timeframe for when you’ll start fostering because it’s crucial to meticulously match foster children and families. You might get a placement straight away or it could take several months. While you wait, you should consider how to welcome a foster child into your home and ensure you have provisions ready for any short notice placements.

Are you ready to start your fostering journey?

If you’re interested in fostering, the first step is choosing a fostering agency. At Olive Branch Fostering, we’re committed to helping you become the best carer possible. As well as offering 24/7 support, ongoing training and a generous allowance, we do our best to make the approval process as streamlined and speedy as possible.

To find out more and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, contact our team on 01706 558910 or request a call back via our contact form. One of our friendly team members will be in touch as soon as possible.