Fostering is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. Yes, it is a career choice. However, more importantly than that, for many people, it is a life choice.
Children enter the care system for a variety of reasons, and for those children, living in a foster home provides them with the best possible outcomes. Those who foster know what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to make such a difference to a child’s life. Fostering can have a positive impact on your family, your relationships with others, and on the wider community.
After making the decision to become a foster carer, the next step is to investigate the application process. It is at this early stage that people are often put off from even applying.
They may fear the process will be too complex, or that they may struggle to even be considered. To help alleviate these fears, we have provided a breakdown of the process here. Please also refer to our FAQ page where we answer some of your questions.
Step 1: Starting the initial conversation
At CFS Fostering, the journey starts with a conversation. Contact us via our social media or website to register your interest, and we will arrange for you to have a chat with one of our social workers.
During this call, we will answer any questions you have and tell you all about our fostering service and the work that we do. We will try to find out more about you and your situation by asking some basic questions about your family and your home, your employment, and what has motivated you to consider fostering.
If the outcome of the conversation is positive, we will ask to arrange an initial home visit with you so that we can get to know you better. If you have a partner, we will ask to see you both together. If, however, we do not feel able to progress your application further, we will tell you straight away and explain the reasons why. We may also point you in the direction of another service that would best suit you and your family.
This initial home visit is a further opportunity for you to ask more questions and find out more about the application and assessment process that will follow. The visiting social worker will provide you with an information pack which is full of useful information about fostering and about ourselves. This is an important meeting as it gives you the opportunity to share your hopes and ideas, as well as any anxieties you may have.
The social worker will ask you to show them around your home, as well as the bedroom you propose to offer a fostered child. Depending on the outcome of the visit, the social worker may leave you with an application form to complete, or give you time to consider and call you back a few days later to discuss/make a decision. If they feel there is a reason why you should not progress to the next stage, they will take the time to fully explain the reasons to you.
Step 2: The application and assessment process
The application form is your formal invitation to apply for fostering. This form can vary between agencies, but it will typically request certain information regarding your circumstances and personal history. Common requirements can include residency checks, medical information and details of referees (both personal and employment). We will also ask you to declare any criminal convictions, provide proof of your identity, and declare any health issues, both physical and mental health.
Once we have received your completed application form, your fostering assessment period begins. At this point, you will be allocated an assessing social worker.
Your assessor is responsible for the completion of your fostering assessment, and it is important to develop an honest and open relationship with them from the start. It is their job to gain an in-depth understanding of your personality, attitudes and beliefs, as well as an insight into your relationships, family dynamics, childhood, education and employment history.
They will visit you at home on a regular basis over a number of months. As well as collecting information from you, they will offer support and guidance on anything you are unsure of. The assessment process is comprehensive and in-depth for obvious reasons, but it is not designed to be invasive. Lots of foster carers speak positively about this process once they have been through it.
All applicants are expected to attend the mandatory Skills to Foster Course which forms part of their assessment. This can take place at any point during the assessment. Following this, you will be invited to a number of pre-approval courses as you progress through assessment.
Step 3: Preparing to meet the panel
At the start of your assessment, you will receive a timetable from your assessor that includes the dates and number of visits you can expect to have, as well as a date for your panel hearing.
Your assessor is responsible for ensuring that all your background checks and their report are submitted to the agency well ahead of your panel date, to ensure sufficient time for your application to be considered by all panel members. Your assessor will also help you to prepare for meeting the panel and will be there to support you on the day.
Our panel members are carefully selected professionals from a wide range of backgrounds who have extensive experience in fostering. The opportunity to meet the panel is a positive thing and definitely not something to be anxious about.
The panel alone do not make the decision to approve an applicant as a foster carer. They will make a recommendation for your approval, and this will then be sent to the agency decision-maker (ADM) for their consideration. You can then expect to hear the ADM’s final decision just a few days after your meeting with the panel.
Following approval, you will receive written confirmation from the agency. You will be assigned a supervising social worker (SSW) who will come to visit you at your home to discuss your training needs and to sign some documentation. Your SSW is your primary source of support and will guide you through the next steps of your journey and beyond.
If you are interested in changing a child’s life for the better and you wish to foster, please get in touch with our expert team today on 01204 704777 or [email protected]