Guide to becoming a foster carer
The process to become an approved foster carer involves the following stages.
Make a fostering enquiry
Make a fostering enquiry and request your information pack by visiting our become a foster carer page.
The Information Pack explains in detail what each stage of preparation and assessment involves.
After reading and processing the information in the information pack, we hope you decide to progress your enquiry further.
We will invite you to attend one of our information sessions held regularly throughout the year. You will be able to have a chat with a Social Worker and gather more detail about the fostering journey.
Sessions are informal, local and a convenient way to ask questions before progressing to the 'Initial Visit' stage.
After you have completed the application form within your information pack, 2 Social Workers from the Children's Fostering and Carers Team will arrange to visit you at home.
They will discuss with you the assessment process in more detail and talk to you about your motivations and expectations.
The assessment stage involves a series of visits to your home, usually 8 to 10 sessions, around 2 hours each visit. Visits include meetings with household members.
A prospective foster carer's thoughts on assessment
To help you understand more about this stage in the process read the following thoughts on our assessment process by Karen who is 49 and from Ingleby Barwick.
"Making a difference to a child's life is my sole reason for becoming a foster carer, and the assessment process helped me realise it. That's why I'm seeking approval for a child or siblings 0-10 years, on long-term placement. I want to be there for someone every step of the way during their formative years, to encourage and help them. I believe in the power of education and want to pass this on. I want to be there for a child's development at primary school and spend lots of one-to-one time with them. The assessment made me see this clearly.
At first I was nervous about the process because I didn't know what to expect. I'd heard it would be 'very intrusive'. This naturally worried me. However, I found my Supervising Social Worker easy to talk to, and we had an easy rapport. She was interested in what I had to say, and I actually enjoyed talking at length about my experiences - including the times I've found challenging. She listened to me. And to be honest, at the outset, I hadn't really anticipated benefiting from it!
There are areas of the assessment I imagine some people may find sensitive, for example discussing finances. However, having owned a business and been used to discussing personal information with my bank over many years, I found the detail wanted by the Local Authority easy in comparison. It's simply a case of showing you can budget - what's your income, what's your expenditure and what's your level of debt. They need to prove you are financially responsible. It was no more complicated than that.
The assessment process made things seem more real. Up until then, for example at the preparation group, things seemed theoretical, and it was all about reading notes and having discussions about fostering. What would you do in situation A? How would you react in situation B? What's the child protection law about situation C? Now however, I feel things are happening swiftly. I'm closer to realising my long-term ambition of helping children.
The most challenging part of the assessment? I'm not very patient, so I wanted things to progress quickly from the start. But you need to go through each stage as it arises, and some things just can't be rushed. For example, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check took 14 weeks. It was something I couldn't do anything about, and it was unusually long. I guess it gave me time to get you used to the idea of sharing my life with someone new - to come to terms with the massive changes ahead.
Before starting the journey, I did a lot of research. I decided I wanted to work with the Local Authority to foster, and I know I've made the right choice. Other providers could offer me 'fast-track' routes, but the support and guidance from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council has been crucial to my peace of mind. It's given me the confidence to know I can offer a child in care a good home. The assessment has helped me see how to play to my strengths. And without the discussion and deliberation this insight just wouldn't have been possible."
You will attend a preparation and training course which usually spans 4 days, 2 sessions of 2 days each.
A Social Worker presents your home study to the panel who will consider your application.
The Agency Decision Maker will make a final decision about whether you should be approved.
If you are approved, your Supervising Social Worker will work with you to match you with children needing placements.
How long will the process take?
There is no set time for how long this process takes because it depends on factors such as your availability to meet with a Social Worker.
As a general guide, the government benchmark for approval is 8 months from the start of assessment. Apart from a connected carer placement which is when foster carers look after children who are already known to them, the benchmark for these placements is 16 weeks.