Becoming a foster carer can be a lengthy process. But because we value everyone who applies to be a foster carer so highly, we aim for the process, from the date you complete your skills to fostering training to your final approval - to take no longer than 6 months.
We need to make sure you are right for the children and that fostering is the right decision for you. So, we ask a lot of questions as we find out a lot more about you and your family. At times this may feel intrusive, but please stick with it. We're sure you'll understand that we've got to get to know you, carry out some checks and assess your potential skills and ability to care for other people's children.
After all, we've got to be 100% certain that any vulnerable child or young person who comes to live in your home will be safe, protected and well looked after. So please be as open and honest as possible and we'll be the same.
Step 1 - Fostering information event
After you contact us, we'll call you to discuss your enquiry further. We may invite you to attend a fostering information event - come along and we'll have a 1-2-1 chat with you and answer any questions you have. If you can't make a session, we'll arrange a home visit to meet you.
See the dates of fostering information events
Step 2 - Screening
At the end of the session, our team will fill out a brief information report about you. We'll decide whether you can progress to the next stage or if we need more information first.
We'll give you an Essential Information form about you and your family, including a consent form, which you can complete in time for the next step.
Step 3 - Skills to Foster training
This is where you'll learn more about what's involved with fostering and the specific skills and qualities you need. You'll also be able to show us that you have these skills through a range of activities and conversations. Your training takes place over 3 days and you'll be booked on the first available course.
If you still agree fostering is for you and if all your essential information is okay, you'll go to the next step.
Step 4 - Assessment
You'll be allocated an assessing social worker and support worker who'll talk to you in detail about our 2-stage assessment process, which we aim to complete as quickly as possible.
Stage 1 – Information gathering: This is where we carry out all the necessary checks for you and anyone else in your household aged 18 or over. These involve everything from local authority checks, Disclosure and Barring Service checks to medical assessments and speaking to referees and employers. Please be patient as some of these take a while.
Stage 2 – Skills and experience: This will focus on your ability to understand and work with children and their families in promoting their welfare. How will you provide safe children practices and a safe home? How will you work as part of the team for the children in your care? We also need to look at your story and life experiences and consider how you will make the most of your support network.
Your assessing social worker will be with you every step of the way - interviewing you, your partner and your family, individually and as a group. They'll give you work to complete on your own and with your family. They'll contact any ex-partners you've been married to or had long-term relationships with (we know some splits aren't amicable and will be as open as possible at this stage).
Step 5 - Fostering panel
Your assessing social worker will write a report, outlining your skills and any areas where you need more training or support. You'll be able to see this report and, if you wish, add your own comments before it's sent to the panel.
The fostering panel is a group of professional people, some of them independent from the local authority, who carefully read your assessment and then invite you and your assessing social worker to attend a panel meeting. You might be asked a few questions and you should find out on the day whether the panel intends to make a recommendation of approval to the Agency Decision Maker (a senior member of the local authority).
The Agency Decision Maker will consider all the information and the panel's recommendation and make a decision. You'll be informed of this decision by phone within 2 days and it will be confirmed to you in writing within 7 days.
Once you've been approved you'll be allocated a supervising social worker who'll provide advice, guidance, support and supervision in your role as a foster carer. We'll consider your skills and experience when matching you with a child who needs a placement within your approval status and skill level. We'll provide you with support and training to help you develop your skills and keep pace with new developments, which will enable you to move to a higher level skills payment.
You'll be reviewed 6 months after approval and then once a year. You must tell us if there is a change in your circumstances. But remember that you won't just be left to get on with it. We'll stay with you every step of the way to help you make a real difference to the lives of our children and young people.