The foster process can seem, on the surface long and daunting but the truth is, it is an interesting journey. Becoming a foster carer means taking a look at the bigger picture of what you and your family can offer a looked after child. With foster carers needed from all walks of life, what is it that you need to know?
People new to fostering will have a lot of questions about the process and what fostering is. For example, you may want to know if you are eligible, what support and training there is for new foster carers and so on. You may have bigger questions too, like how will fostering affect your children, if you have any. This information-gathering exercise is the first step in the fostering process and possibly the most important. You will do a lot of research online as well as approaching fostering agencies to answer specific questions about the services they offer.
If after gathering this important information you decide to continue with the journey of becoming a foster carer, the fostering agency you think you can best work with will make arrangements for one of their social workers to visit you at home. This is a no-obligation visit in which you will be given more information, as well as a chance to ask specific questions about you, your family and lifestyle. A fostering agency doesn’t expect foster carers to make massive changes and adaptations to their lifestyle, but there may be some you need to make to ensure that the home is nurturing and safe for a foster child.
The formal application process
Deciding to continue with fostering is a decision you won’t regret. This step involves making a formal application to foster and is the longest part of the process. It isn’t a case of filling in a form and welcoming a foster child. There is more detail needed about you, who you are and why you think you will be a great foster carer;
- The application form is completed over a period of months and involves many home visits by social workers. As well as talking to you, they will also talk with your partner in some detail as well as with your children, if you have any.
- References will also be sought from close friends and family about how they think you will manage as a foster carer, as well as your skills and personal attributes.
- Initial training is usually held over a couple of days. The group training will look at fostering skills and some common issues foster carers face in helping children and young people in foster care when they live with them.
- Foster placements are not all the same as foster children have different needs. You will decide what type of foster placement you would like to offer and this forms part of the approval process.
- The approval panel is a group of people who look at fostering applications and decide whether they think everything is in order. This may sound daunting but it is an important part of the process making sure that we have the right foster carers offering the placements that foster children need.
Once approved, you can start fostering. Some foster carers find that the length of time between approval and their first foster child arriving is short. Other foster carers who are perhaps offering a particular kind of placement may find that they have a few weeks to wait before their first fostering placement.
Fostering is a process that changes lives for the better. No child you foster will ever forget your love and kindness. Is this something you could do?
Active Care Solutions are a nationwide fostering agency, placing children with loving families to give them the best start in life.