How to Become a Foster Carer

Guide to Fostering Children - Part Three

Most fostering agencies and councils provide useful information about how to become a foster carer. But maybe you’re still reluctant to make a firm enquiry. There’s a lot to think about, isn’t there?
How to Become a Foster Carer
We all know that caring for someone’s child is a huge responsibility. That’s partly the reason why the idea of fostering children can seem daunting. So how can you prepare? And what sort of process will you have to undertake?
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Preparing to Become a Foster Carer

Before you can do anything, you need to know if you meet the requirements to foster. It’s highly likely that you do. You will also want to feel confident that you’ve got some of the relevant skills and experience.
You will have gained many of the skills required during your valuable experience of life, and you can learn more. The most significant factor when considering how to become a foster carer is your ability to meet the needs of any child placed with you.

Will You Find the Process Intrusive?

The truth is, becoming a foster carer is a detailed process that usually takes between four and six months. The agency you apply to will ask questions about you, your family, and your circumstances. But you might expect that.
If you genuinely feel that you can provide a warm, homely environment and meet a child’s needs, the agency representative will probably think so too.

What Are Your Expectations?

It’s a good idea to do a bit of homework, so you know precisely what the role of a foster carer is. The thought of homework might not set your pulse racing, but you must do it. The more you know about foster care, the easier it will be to set out on your fostering journey with realistic expectations.

What Are Your Goals?

Most of us recognise goal setting as a vital part of achieving success in the things we do. Having specific goals to work towards can also be an excellent source of motivation.
Remember, there are many different types of foster care and different children too. They all have individual needs with varying degrees of complexity. You might have a preference for which children you foster. It could be girls, boys, younger or older children. Those with basic needs, or those with more complex needs. A single child or a sibling group.

Are You Organised?

If you want to be a capable foster carer, it’s essential to prepare all aspects of your life. It would help if you considered everything from your home through to your relationships. It can also be a useful exercise to think about what your support network will look like, and put it down on paper too.
We all need people around us who can support us in various ways. These people might come from your immediate and extended family, support groups (online & offline), local clubs, and community organisations.

Is Your Home Suitable?

You may not have much time between being approved as a foster carer and receiving your first child. Fostering agencies and your local authority will expect your home to be safe and in a good state of repair. Consider things like:
As you can imagine, all these factors can make a difference to your experience of fostering. They can also help to determine the agency you apply to because they won’t all necessarily offer the same opportunities.

Choosing a Fostering Agency

Before you apply to become a foster carer, you have to find a fostering services provider. Ideally, one that fits with your beliefs, goals and personal situation. It’s an important choice because the support you receive from them throughout your fostering career can be critical.
There are small differences between fostering with a local authority or an independent fostering agency. If you know any foster carers, it’s worth talking to them; they’ll be able to give you a few pointers.
Local authorities have always been responsible for providing fostering services. They identify children whose needs can be met by foster care. They are also responsible for finding suitable foster families.
Independent fostering agencies are voluntary or private organisations. They include children’s charities and groups that have charitable status. They were introduced in the 1990s to help local authorities meet the increasing demand for fostering.
Most fostering agencies and local authorities have a website. Make a list of 4 or 5 in your area that you like the look of, contact them and ask for more information. They’ll be able to help you if you’ve got any unanswered questions about fostering

The Process – How You Become a Foster Carer

The process isn’t there to trip you up. It’s an opportunity for you to show your suitability for the role. It also gives you the chance to ask questions and gain a better understanding of the task ahead. At the same time, it enables the person assessing to get to know more about you and your family setup.

Getting in Touch

The first step is to contact one of your chosen fostering agencies or local authorities to express an interest. Usually by telephone or online (via email). They will arrange to meet with you.

Initial Discussion

A representative of the agency will visit you and your family at your home. They will ask you questions about your current circumstances and life experience. They will want to establish your suitability and motivation to foster children. It’s also a chance for you to ask questions about their service.
Following this initial discussion, they’ll decide whether or not to proceed with your application. You can also choose whether or not to make a formal application.
Your local authority or agency will collect information about you which will include a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and a health check. Other household members over 18 will also be DBS checked.

Fostering Assessment

Everyone who wants to become a foster carer has to undertake a fostering assessment. It involves a social worker visiting you at home (anywhere between 6 and 12 times), to gather information and compile a report called a Form F.
They will collect information about your skills, your life experience and anything else that might be relevant to fostering.

Preparation and Training

At some stage during the assessment, or once you’ve completed it, you’ll go on a short course to help prepare you for fostering. The length and format of the course will vary between different agencies, and you will complete it with other aspiring foster carers. You’re likely to find this helpful because it will give you a better understanding of the role and get you thinking about some of the challenges you might face.
They will collect information about your skills, your life experience and anything else that might be relevant to fostering.

Panel and Approval

A representative from the fostering agency will present the information gathered during the Form F assessment to a panel. The panel then makes a recommendation to the fostering agency (or local authority) manager, who makes the final decision about whether to approve you as a foster carer.
The panel will consist of agency staff and independent people. They’ll hold a meeting to discuss your suitability and consider the best types of fostering placement for you.
You’ll have a chance to share your views and talk about your expectations of fostering children. And the assessing social worker will be there to support you and your application. In many cases, the panel will inform you of their recommendations following this meeting.

You Become a Foster Carer

Hopefully, this information has given you a better understanding of how to become a foster carer. Yes, it’s a lengthy process that might seem daunting, but that’s hardly surprising when you consider the responsibility that comes with fostering a child.
Fostering children is increasingly being recognised as a ‘professional’ job. Depending on the fostering agency you register with, you can expect to get a generous amount of support and plenty of training opportunities once you’re approved.
become a foster carer externeal needed.
How to Become a Foster Carer is part 3 of our 7-part Guide to Fostering Children. Part 4 looks at Fostering a Child – the Process.
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