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The Fostering Application Process – Applying to Foster

Fostering Application Process - Family cut out of paper in cupped hands

The Fostering Application Process

Becoming a foster carer is as challenging — and rewarding — a role there is. The entirety of the process is anything but easy. Yet no one would put up with the rigours of applying to become a carer if the rewards weren’t so incredible. These rewards are, of course, both to you and to the children you foster.

Qualifying for a role as a carer involves submitting to an exhaustive application process. It requires you to demonstrate your diligence and suitability for the position by satisfying a number of requirements, but you also need to show that you will be able to provide the kind of empathy and patient nature that foster children so often need.

Whether you’ll be fostering them for just a few days or weeks or it’s a longer-term placement of months or even years (something that’s not as uncommon as it may seem), you’ll need to go through this process to prove you have what it takes to be a foster carer.

How to Make Your Initial Enquiry

Becoming a foster parent isn’t just about stepping up for an interview, resume in hand, and hoping for the best. The responsibilities of a carer mean you need to be highly vetted, and that begins with the initial enquiry you make, either to an independent foster agency (IFA) or a local authority. Either organisation is an excellent choice, but an IFA is usually better suited to those just beginning their journey into becoming a foster carer, as they tend to have more robust support systems available. In all honesty, they’re usually better funded as well.

Either path you choose, however, you will have an opportunity to meet with a social worker. This introductory meeting will allow you to get your initial questions about the fostering process answered. It also gives the local authority of IFA an opportunity to get to know you as well so they can get a feel for you and how well you might weather the additional steps of the process.

The First Fostering Assessment and Visit

This initial meeting is, as we’ve said, just the beginning. The next steps include an initial assessment of your home and circumstances to ensure that you have the physical resources to foster a child. An evaluatory visit to your home will occur where you can demonstrate you’ve got sufficient living space for a foster child. You need an empty bedroom for a child to live in for themselves. These initial checks are just the very tip of the iceberg; as discussed below, you will also be required to submit to a number of checks that will prove to the IFA that any children you foster will be physically, emotionally, and financially safe under your care.

The Form F Assessment

The lion’s share of this process will involve completing what is known as a Form F assessment. It’s an absolute requirement to pass through this assessment. It’s done in two main stages, with the first consisting of a number of exhaustive checks that have already been alluded to above.

We’ll go into much more detail of these checks below, but expect criminal background checks, medical health assessments, and financial health investigations. You can’t have ever declared bankruptcy in the past if you want to be a foster carer, for example; yes, you may receive compensation for being a carer, but your IFA or local authority won’t place a child in your care if they have even a suspicion that you have financial instability.

The second stage of a Form F assessment is even more exhaustive. There are requirements for skill training, regular meetings with a local authority or IFA’s social workers, and deep dives into your work and personal life. Recommendations or statements from former colleagues, spouses, or even adult children that you’ve successfully raised can and often are a part of this process. Filling out the entire form in its entirety is incredibly time-consuming. Expect these Form F filings to take three to six months at the very least. And remember, undergoing these submissions is no guarantee of acceptance, as you’ll also need to be evaluated at the end of the process.

DBS Checks

Speaking of the evaluation and assessment process, one of the actions you’ll be required to take is receiving an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The DBS is the organisation that ensures that the proper checks are maintained for anyone working with children in a professional capacity.

This includes not just foster carers but anyone such as school workers. It’s also the same watchdog that makes sure that creche workers or nursery workers are vetted. In other words, you don’t get to become a foster carer without receiving a DBS disclosure, full stop. It’s an important reminder that yes, as a foster carer, you’re not going to be let anywhere near children of any age unless doing so would be deemed appropriate by the government.

Medical Checks to Become a Foster Carer

Caring for a child is physically demanding. Even in the case where you’re assigned a foster child that may not have any special needs, the mere act of keeping up with a child or young person of any age requires the ability to physically care for them. This is why fostering assessments require you to receive a health check from the NHS, something your GP can provide for you (as long as you submit to them poking and prodding you very thoroughly). You can’t very well care for a child effectively if you have physical issues of your own that may limit your ability to function. This can include disabilities or illnesses that might impact your own function. This is important considering some special-needs foster children that have disabilities of their own can often require you to perform physically to provide them the care they need, such as if they require a wheelchair for mobility.

Skills to Foster Training Course

Training is an important part of being evaluated for your suitability to become a foster carer. You’ll have to demonstrate that you’re willing to learn specific techniques and skills, and this takes the form of successfully completing the Skills to Foster Training course. It’s an intensive series of seminars that you’ll need to attend as part of your Form F assessment — you and any other hopeful carers.

The course takes place over a period of two to three days in a row, and each of these seminars is led by social workers with experience in training new and hopeful foster carers. The group environment is usually beneficial, as you’ll be the skills you’ll need as a foster carer as a group, which can help forming a solid basis that you can then build upon. Additionally, meeting and talking with other prospective foster carers provides you opportunities to learn and grow from each other both during the training course and in the future after you become carers with foster assignments of your own.

The Fostering Assessment Panel

Once you’ve crossed all your T’s and dotted all your I’s, there’s still a big — and intensive — step in the fostering assessment process. All the data collected about you by all the different organisations involved in your assessment will be gathered and reviewed by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF). Once this agency finishes reviewing everything that you’ve submitted, you’re called on the carpet: you get your chance to plead your case in front of your official Fostering Assessment Panel.

It sounds scary. However, being called before your Panel might be disconcerting, but it’s not as if you’re being placed on trial or tribunal! The members of your panel, which will all be experts in the field of foster care, will ask you any questions they may still have about your assessment. It’s about making sure you’re the best fit for the job, so they’re not looking for excuses to toss you out. Remember, this whole process is to ensure children in need will be cared for properly!

What Happens After Approval?

Technically, your Panel doesn’t decide if you’re a foster carer or not. However, they make a final recommendation to your local authority or IFA. At that point, the Agency Decision Maker, who has the ultimate and final say if you’ll be joining the ranks of other foster carers, will either select you for the role or not.

Once you’re notified, it’s certainly the beginning of a new time in your life! At this point, you’re cleared to receive your first foster placement. This can either be immediate or it might take a bit longer. IFAs tend to take their time with matching carers with foster children, as they have more resources at their disposal to set up support structures for you and an incoming foster child, and also to ensure your skills and resources mesh well with a child or young person in need.

Regardless of how long it is until your first foster placement arrives, now is the time to demonstrate all you’ve learned and shown regarding suitability. Your foster child is likely to need patience and empathy as they settle in. It might not always be easy. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll have a few challenges to face. In the end, though, you’ll face them together along with your IFA’s support, and you’ll proudly stand amongst the others who passed through their own Foster Application with flying colours.