How do I become a Foster Carer?

We’re thrilled to hear that you’re considering becoming a foster carer and we’re sure you want to know what happens next!

You will be pleased to learn that Fosterline can support you throughout this process, from making the initial telephone call or email enquiry to a fostering service, to completing the application form and undertaking the assessment by a social worker which needs to happen before you can be approved as a foster carer.  

When you are ready, ask for a visit from the Fostering Service Providers you feel most positive about. An ‘initial visit’ to your home should be arranged with you and all your family members. It’s much better to have all the family at the meeting so that you can all ask questions and find out more.

Fostering will affect everyone and so needs to be a joint decision.

The ‘initial visit’ also enables the Fostering Service Providers to make an initial assessment of your situation to ensure that there is every chance of success for you, your family and any child or young person that you foster.

Pay close attention to the amount of training and support that you and all members of your household will receive. Fostering a child or young person can present new challenges so you and your family will need professional support as well as training.

Check out the amount of money you will receive for looking after the children or young people. All Fostering Service Providers should provide the national minimum allowance for the costs of looking after the child or young people and many will also provide a reward element for your time and effort.

View Finances factsheet

You should be offered preparation training, which usually lasts 3 days and will provide you with the basic skills and knowledge to enable you to foster. Make sure that you feel the preparation training offered will provide enough time and information to help you feel confident and competent to start fostering.

Most Fostering Service Providers will expect you to have completed the preparation training before starting the full assessment process. All potential carers will go through a thorough and effective assessment process that collates information about family histories, support networks and references, as well as identifying strengths and areas for improvement. This usually takes around 6 months in total, but may be quicker in some cases.

What Type of fostering could I do?

  • Bridging placements are required when a child needs to be prepared for another placement usually a long-term one for example adoption.
  • Emergency placements are where children and young people need somewhere to stay immediately at short notice.
  • Family and friends or kinship fostering provides children and young people with places to live with their family members or connected people they already know.
  • Long term fostering is for some children and young people who cannot return to live with their families. They require a permanent home environment to stay in until they are old enough to live independently.
  • Private fostering is where the parents make an arrangement for the child to stay with someone who has no parental responsibilities for more than 27 days. Although this is a private arrangement there are special rules about how the child is looked after. The Local Authority must be told about the arrangements and undertake assessments to ensure the arrangements are safe and meet the child or young person’s needs.
  • Remand fostering – in England and Wales children and young people can be ‘remanded’ by the court to the care of a Local Authority and placed with a specially trained foster carer. Scotland does not use remand fostering as young people tend to attend a children’s hearing rather than go to court.
  • Short break foster care or respite care is where disabled children or children with special needs or behavioural difficulties enjoy a short stay on a pre-planned, regular basis with a new family, and their parents or usual foster carers have a short break for themselves.
  • Short term fostering provides children and young people placements from a few weeks or months’ duration while plans are made for the child or young person’s future.

Fosterline has prepared a useful guide to the process which takes you through some questions and helps you think about what fostering involves for you and your family. We recommend that you read this and answer the questions as a family before the initial visit so that you know what to expect. To download the guide, click here.

The Fostering Services Regulations 2011 and National Minimum Standards set out the process that must be followed by all fostering services when they are recruiting foster carers.  The assessment process itself is in two stages but fostering services will undertake an initial screening before completing a full assessment in line with the Children Act 1989 volume 4.

Due to the very nature of the fostering, whereby you are looking after vulnerable children in your own home, the assessment (often referred to as a `Form F` assessment) is lengthy and detailed. It can also seem very intrusive with the need for medical and employer references, criminal records checks and background enquiries to ensure that applicants are suitable to foster children.  The whole process takes between six to eight months from the point of initial enquiry to attendance at the fostering panel.

The process of assessing someone to be a foster carer is a lengthy and detailed process and will be carried out by social worker who will make visits to your family home, talk to you about your hobbies, interests and lifestyle, as well as taking up references from your friends and employer. You will also be required to undergo a medical and apply for an enhanced disclosure to check for any offences you may have committed in the past.

In 2013 the Department for Education introduced a 2 stage procedure so that applicants who are not thought to be suitable can be informed at an earlier stage of their assessment.

The two stages can be done at the same time, but the information required for Stage 1 must be sought as soon as possible and a decision about whether someone has successfully completed stage 1 must be made within 10 working days of all the information required in that stage being received by the fostering service.

Stage 1

Guidance on the Assessment & Approval of foster carers, issued under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 states that if, at any point during Stage 1 of the assessment process the agency decision maker decides that the applicant is not suitable to foster, they must write to the applicant informing them of their decision and give full reasons for it. At the latest, the decision must be made within 10 working days of the information required by stage 1 being received.

If during stage 1 it is decided that an applicant is not suitable to foster, the applicant has no right of review of this decision by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) or to make representations to the fostering service provider. However, if they are unhappy about the way their case has been handled, they are able to complain using the fostering service’s complaints procedure. This would address only the way their application was handled, not their suitability to foster.

Stage 2

If it is decided to proceed to stage 2 of the assessment, further information will be sought by the fostering service which will be included in a written report to the fostering panel together with the recommendations of the assessing social worker as to the suitability of the applicant to foster..

Once a Stage 2 assessment has been started, it must be completed, unless:

  • The assessment is terminated following a brief report
  • The applicant withdraws from the process
  • The applicant is deemed unsuitable as a result of stage 1 of the assessment (only where stages 1 and 2 have been carried out concurrently)
  • It becomes apparent that the applicant or a member of their household has been convicted of or cautioned for specified offence (see Regulation 26(6).

If during stage 2 of the assessment, information comes to light indicating that the applicants is unsuitable to foster, a “brief report” can be written setting out details of the assessment so far and the reasons for considering the applicant unsuitable. The applicant must be:

  • Notified that a Brief Report is being sent to the panel,
  • Provided with a copy of this report, and
  • Given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the fostering provider

The brief report will be presented to panel along with any observations submitted by the applicant for the panel to consider. The agency decision maker will then make any decision as to whether to terminate the assessment taking into account the recommendations of the panel.

If in Stage 2, following a brief or full report, it is determined that an applicant is not suitable to foster, they must be informed in writing of this decision, the reasons for it, and that they may, (within 28 calendar days) seek a review of this decision (known as a Qualifying Determination) by the IRM or make representations to the fostering service’s own panel.

Upon completion of Stage 2 a written report covering both stages 1 and 2 of the assessment should be completed, with recommendations as to the applicant’s suitability and terms of approval. As with the brief report, the applicant must be notified that the full assessment report is to be sent to panel, provided with a copy of the report, and given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the fostering service.

The full assessment report must then be presented to panel together with any observations submitted by the applicant and any other relevant information. It is usual for applicants to foster to be invited to attend the fostering panel, along with their assessing social worker, when their application is being discussed so that they can answer any questions panel may have for them.

A full assessment should be presented to panel within 8 months of the application to foster being made. Once Panel has made their recommendation, the agency decision maker will make their decision taking into account panel’s recommendation.

Once a foster carer is approved, they must be notified in writing of this fact and of their terms of approval. These will specify, for example, that they may foster only a certain number, age or gender of children, or may identify a maximum number of placements which can be made at any one time. Terms may include, short term, long term, respite, or shared care placements, and foster carers will be required to sign a Foster Care Agreement with their fostering service. Once approved by one fostering service, foster carers may not be approved by another fostering service at the same time.

A flow chart showing this 2 stage assessment process can be found here flow diagram -assessment and approval process

For further information on the IRM please visit our Useful Links page

Find out more about becoming a foster carer

To find out more about becoming a foster carer, phone Fosterline on 0800 040 7675 to speak to one of our advisors about pursuing a worthwhile career choice giving love and support to children in need of help.