In order to become a foster carer, you will need to work with your chosen fostering service while they assess your suitability and prepare you for your new role. A fostering panel will then review all the information about you and make a recommendation to the decision-maker – a senior member of the fostering service who decides whether or not to approve you as a foster carer. Once you are approved, a suitable “match” – a child whose needs you can meet – will be found for you.
Preparation and assessment
The preparation and assessment process to become a foster carer can take six to eight months, sometimes longer. You will attend a series of preparation and training sessions to learn more about fostering and explore issues such as attachment, contact, managing difficult behaviour and child protection.
You will also be visited by a social worker at home, or perhaps meet at their office, usually eight to ten times. This is how the fostering service will get to know you and assess your suitability to be a foster carer and also how you learn about what will be involved and consider whether you have the necessary skills and experience. The social worker will also carry out a series of checks including:
- background checks
- criminal records checks
- employment checks
- following up on the references you have provided
- health checks
At the end of this process, your social worker will write a report about their findings. You will be able to see this and add your own comments.
Going to panel
The report written by your social worker will be submitted to a fostering panel who will consider your suitability to foster. The panel – made up of various people with a professional or personal connection to fostering – will discuss the report and may ask your social worker to answer any questions they may have. You will probably be invited to attend the panel meeting. The panel will then make a recommendation about you to the fostering service’s decision maker who will decide whether to approve you as a foster carer or not.
Fostering services should have in place review and complaints procedures which you can follow if you are not happy with the decision made. In addition, in England, you can contact the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) and in Wales the IRM Cymru to appeal about your agency’s decision.
Being matched with a child
Your service will place a child with you as soon as a suitable placement has been identified. It could be as soon as you are approved, or some months later. It is important that the match between you and the child is a good one so that the placement is successful.
Find out about the next step - looking after a fostered child.