How To Become A Foster Carer

Becoming a foster carer is an extremely rewarding career choice and the process to become a carer might not be as difficult as you think.

This page explains the stages you need to undertake to become a foster carer and how long each step on average takes.

Ofsted

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Ofsted is a government body that inspects services providing education and skills for learners of all ages (Schools and Colleges). Ofsted also inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people.

Ofsted is responsible for inspecting and regulating maintained schools and academies, some independent schools, colleges, apprenticeship providers, prison education and many other educational institutions and programmes outside of higher education including childcare, local authorities, adoption and fostering agencies, initial teacher training and teacher development.  Ofsted is primarily responsible for making sure providers are suitable and appropriate to care for and support children and young people.

All independent fostering agencies are inspected by Ofsted and need to be registered with Ofsted before they operate.  All agencies are inspected and re-graded every 3 years and there is a wealth of mandatory requirements for the recruitment of foster carers, training of foster carers and for the matching and placing of children and young people, which all fostering services need to adhere to. All fostering agencies MUST work within the relevant legislation outlined within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services, the Fostering Regulations and the Children’s Act as set out by Government.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Foster Carer?

It takes (on average) 4 to 6 months to become a foster carer. However, this does vary depending on the fostering agency you choose and the pace they establish for managing a fostering assessment. The fostering assessment is a mandatory requirement which needs to be successfully undertaken to become a registered Foster Carer. In addition to the assessment a number of mandatory checks will also be undertaken, these can sometimes delay the assessment if accurate information is not provided by the prospective foster carer.

Being proactive in providing clear and concise information to your fostering agency when requested, will greatly support a faster assessment process.

Many fostering agencies undertake the assessment at a pace which suits the potential carer. If you wish to become an approved foster carer as soon as possible and you are able to quickly supply the information required for the assessment (and the checks), your fostering service should adapt and fast-track the process to meet your individual needs, in which case the process may be finalised in as little as 4 months. When considering a fostering agency, we would recommend that you confirm the average time they take to undertake a fostering assessment.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Foster Carer?

The fostering assessment is an application/interview/checking process which ensures that the person or people applying to foster are appropriately skilled and safe to undertake the fostering role. The assessment process itself is governed by fairly strict mandatory processes for both the prospective foster carer and the fostering agency. In general, the fostering assessment will include the following:-

  • Following your enquiry to the fostering agency, a first stage ‘initial discussion’ will be undertaken
  • If both parties wish to explore further, a telephone screening interview appointment will be made at a mutually convenient time
  • If this has been successful and the potential foster carer and agency wish to continue, an initial Home Visit will be undertaken, where a social worker will visit you at home
  • If the prospective foster carer wishes to continue the process, they will be asked to complete a fostering application form
  • The prospective carers will be required to attend mandatory training (usually during the application process), but this will need to be undertaken before the prospective carer/s attends a fostering panel for approval.
  • Once the assessment is completed, a panel meeting is held where the panel will ask the prospective carer/s questions about why they wanted to become a foster carer, discuss their experience and skills and will make reference to the completed fostering application. They will then make a ‘recommendation’ to the ADM (Agency Decision Maker), in terms of whether the application has been successful

Things that may delay a fostering assessment

  • Incomplete application form
  • Withheld information by the applicant/s
  • Unfinished building work
  • The foster child’s room is not ready
  • Problems with the Health and Safety check for the house and garden where the child will live
  • Dog assessment, if you have a dog
  • Nonattendance of the pre-approval training required to be approved as a foster carer

A member of the fostering agency’s recruitment team will contact you to ask some general initial questions about your circumstances, your family, and share with you the basic criteria required for fostering. For more information on these criteria, please visit our page on Fostering Requirements.

The agency will also send you an information pack so you can find out more about the services that they offer.

If both parties are happy and fostering seems to be a good fit for you, the agency will arrange a more formal telephone interview where they undertake a more thorough discussion to find out your reasons for fostering and if there is any reason why fostering may not be suitable for you and your family. This interview should not take more than 30 minutes and you will also be able to ask any questions you have about the process or fostering in general, including fees.

If the telephone interview goes well and you would like to take the next step, the fostering agency will make arrangements for a supervising social worker to come to your home to undertake an Initial Home Visit. During this visit, the social worker will ask lots of questions and provide you with a breadth of information about the fostering role and how this will impact your family.

The social worker will assess both the indoor and outdoor space of your home to ensure it is properly able to accommodate a foster child or young person. This will include checking you have a spare bedroom that the foster child will have exclusive use of, so they have their own space.  They will also ask about any work or other family commitments you have which may preclude you from supporting a fostered child or young person appropriately.

They will gather more information about you and your immediate family to help prepare you for the rest of the application process should you decide to proceed.

This is an opportunity for you to ask as many questions as you would like, it is imperative that you come away from this meeting feeling that you have a good understanding of what fostering will involve for you and your support network of family and friends.

A brief report detailing the meeting and the social worker’s recommendations will be submitted to the fostering agency’s recruitment team and if each party is agreeable, you will receive an application form to complete, which will formally start the fostering assessment (application) process.

You will be allocated a supervising social worker to help complete your fostering assessment, which is also known as a Form F assessment. The assessor (social worker) will complete this during a number of interview sessions in your home.  The assessor will ask to meet all family members who live in the household and also other family members or friends who will be part of your support network.  The assessment is the lengthiest part of the application process, taking between 2 and 4 months. The timing of this also depends on the receipt of the checks which need to be undertaken once the assessment commences.

The fostering assessment process is comprehensive and can seem quite invasive to some people. The rationale for this is to ensure that a child or young person will be well looked after, safe and will live within an environment which enables them to thrive. In addition to all the required checks, the social worker will document the reasons why your home and your family life would be a positive environment for a foster child and why you would make a great foster parent.  The assessor will also make any recommendations they believe will benefit your application.

During the period of assessment. you will also be asked to attend pre-approval training which typically takes place over 4 to 5 days/evenings and/or weekends. This training will normally be undertaken alongside other people applying to foster.  Brief feedback from the trainers will be reviewed and included as part of your fostering assessment.

Your fostering assessment and the outcomes of all your checks will be given to the fostering panel for your local office. The people who sit on the panel are usually a combination of fostering, educational and care professionals.

Panel meetings usually take place at your local fostering office or a location close by. You (and any family members who are attached as secondary carers) are invited to attend as you will be asked some questions during this process. Your assigned assessor will also be in attendance to help prepare and support you.

Following your panel interview, a recommendation as to whether you should be approved as a foster carer will be made by the fostering panel on the same day.

The final decision to approve you as a foster carer will be made by the Agency Decision Maker (ADM). The ADM is most usually someone senior from within the fostering agency you have chosen to join. The panel’s recommendation and meeting minutes will be given to the ADM whose role is to ensure the young people placed with you will be safeguarded correctly and will request further information if they believe this is necessary or where appropriate.

Once official approval has been provided, your fostering service will notify you and confirm who your dedicated supervising social worker will be. Your social worker will be based in the fostering office most local to you. Your fostering agency will then prepare you for your first placement and would normally send your details out to your relevant Local Authority for their consideration.

How Long Does It Take to Foster a Child?

With 83,000 children in care away from home on any one day in the UK, there is an increasing need for safe and loving foster homes.

How quickly your fostering agency placement team is able to match you with a child depends on the referrals in your particular area, but also your skills and flexibility as there are a wide range of different placements. The more placement types you are able to consider, the greater number of placements will be a match for you.

Once you are officially approved to be a foster carer, it would not be uncommon for you to wait up to a month before you receive your first placement. Your fostering agency will normally have a dedicated team who will be very careful in making sure that your first placement is right for you and the child or children placed with you.

As you progress with your fostering career, fostering agencies will ensure you undertake your mandatory training within the first year of being approved, however, many agencies will also offer you additional specialist training which will enable you to enhance your skills even further and provide you with the knowledge and skills to consider different types of placements should you wish to.

What is the Fostering Referral Matching and Placements Process?

  1. The fostering agency you have chosen will receive daily referrals for children or young people in your area who requires a foster home. The referrals will include the needs, requirements, placement type, and location of the child or young person.
  2. There will be a dedicated team within the fostering agency that will identify potential matches between foster carers and the referrals based on their location, availability, skills, and knowledge of the placement type.
  3. If you are identified as a possible foster carer match, you will be sent the details of the referral and you will be able to ask any questions regarding the child’s requirements and needs, including the location of their school/college etc. The information will also include the fee which is paid for the placement and any travel you would be required to undertake for school/college attendance and potential travel to family contact if this has been granted by the courts.
  4. If you think the match could be suitable, the fostering agency will send your information to the local authority managing the child for consideration. This will include a foster carer profile outlining your skills and/or a family book that your fostering service will have put together to introduce your family and provide details of your home and leisure activities.  On occasion, if the Local Authority requests it, a redacted version of your Form F will also be provided. All private and confidential information is removed before being sent should this be requested.
  5. If the local authority approves the match, your fostering service will contact you and confirm the timing for the placement to commence.
  6. If timing permits, you will have a placement introduction meeting with the young person, however, this may not be possible if it is an emergency placement.
  7. Once the placement has been agreed upon, you will receive information regarding the placement which included the fees paid, and any other financial and practical support you will receive. Read more about fostering allowance here.
  8. Once the child or children are placed, a placement planning meeting will be arranged at your home between yourself, the child’s social worker from the local authority, and your social worker. This is to set out achievements and outcomes for the placement, and the support you will receive to help meet these goals.

How to Prepare for a Foster Child

What to buy

Once a foster child arrives at your home, they should have the basic necessities ready for use. These include:

Toileteries

Having toiletries such as a toothbrush, towels, soap, shampoo, a hairbrush, deodorant, feminine products and toothpaste are important to helping your foster child feel comfortable as they move in.

Bed and Bedding

A single bed is recommended for any child over the age of 3.

Try finding neutral-coloured bedding if you are unsure whether you have the exact theme or colour that the child or young person would like.

Clothes

The child or young person should arrive with appropriate clothing and where applicable a school uniform. In the event that the child arrives without the necessary items, your fostering agency will provide you with an emergency allowance so that these items can be purchased.

Once the child or young person arrives; you should take them out to buy any new clothes or other sundry items they require.

How To Prepare Your Home?

Tidy and Clean Your Home

Make sure your home is clean and tidy when the child or young person arrives as it will help the new foster child/young person understand your standards from the very beginning.

Secure windows & doors

Make sure your home is clean and tidy when the child or young person arrives as it will help the new foster child/young person understand your standards from the very beginning.

Protect medications and chemicals

Ensure that young children in your care do not have access to items like cleaning products, laundry detergents or tablets.

Stock Up the Cupboards

Try buying a wide variety of food as it could be tricky to guess their exact food taste. Any important dietary requirements or allergies should have already been discussed with you.

Do You Have Any Further Questions?

Let us know a time that suits you and one of our approved foster agencies will be in touch to give you any information or support that you need.