Have you ever thought about fostering? If so, what is holding you back from taking that thought through to reality? For many, it is fear of the unknown. If you are completely new to the concept, the process of getting involved in fostering may seem quite daunting.
Rest assured, it is not as difficult as you may think. Of course, there are several processes, checks and training to go through, but if you have a will, there is definitely a way! To help you find out more about how to get involved in fostering, read our simple guide.
Type of fostering
The first decision you need to make is what sort of fostering you would like to do. There are various types of fostering, such as emergency, short-term, short-breaks, remand fostering, long term, permanent, and kinship fostering. Some agencies will work across a range of foster services, whereas other specialise. So before you can decide who to work with you need to know what you want to offer.
Find the right service provider
With many different agencies available to work with, it is important that you put in some initial research. You must feel comfortable with your choice, so time spent now is time well spent. Check to see if they offer the type of fostering you are looking for. Would a small and personal agency suit your needs better or is the experience and resources of a large agency more important at this stage?
Research, research, research
Most fostering services have information packs, which offer a fully comprehensive overview of what they offer plus how they support their carers. Go through the information carefully, then ask as many questions as you can to get a true feel of the agency. You might also find that some services also offer information sessions. These give you the opportunity to meet members of the team in an informal setting, which can often make you feel more relaxed and able to ask questions.
The information pack will usually contain an application form. Once you have completed the form, a Supervising Social Worker (SSW) will contact you to discuss further. At this stage they will be looking at the viability of your application based on the available information.
Following initial discussions, the SSW will make an appointment to visit you in your home. During this time you’ll be asked a series of standard questions, which will determine if you have the basic requirements to become a foster carer. They are also looking to support you as much as possible at this stage, and to answer any further questions you may have.
Follow up report
The SSW will then write a report to the Regional Manager based on the home visit, which will be used to make a decision on your application. If it is a positive decision you will be allocated a SSW to guide you through the fostering assessment process, which can take up to 6 months (but usually 3-4 months).
Be prepared to have your life thoroughly looked at during this stage, under your consent of course. You’ll undergo to DBS check, plus you’ll also be checked out against local agencies. You’ll be asked to undergo a full medical (paid for) and will need to provide three non-family references. Your SSW will support you through every step, and will visit you on a regular basis to collect information to be presented to the fostering panel. You’ll also be invited to attend training sessions, aimed at helping you to learn more about fostering and the skills involved.
The fostering panel will convene to discuss your application and you will be invited to attend. Following this, a recommendation will be made regarding your approval. And that’s it – you’re officially a foster carer!
The process is fairly lengthy, to safeguard both the carers and the children. But don’t let that put you off – if you have had that thought, follow it through. You never know just where it may take you.