Do you know what happens when you first say: "I think I might be interested in fostering?"
We have a chat. Actually, a couple of chats. The process starts with a phone call. You ask as many questions as you like, so you get the information you need to decide if you want to take the next step. We also ask you a few questions. You don’t need any experience or qualifications to be a foster carer, but there are a few basic criteria you have to meet to start the process.
You must not:
Once we confirm you meet these criteria, we’ll arrange a time for a social worker to come round to your house for an in-depth chat. That discussion is a chance for you to ask more questions, and for us to talk about what to expect from the approval process and what life’s like as a foster carer.
After this discussion, you’ll get a form to fill out if you want to take the next step.
After you give us your form (and we'll come collect it from you if that's easier), you take The Skills to Foster™ training for prospective carers.
The Fostering Network, the UK's biggest fostering charity, runs The Skills to Foster™ course. Our carers consistently tell us how valuable it is. During the training you discuss:
The training takes place over 3 days. There are no tests or exams, and you don't need to take notes or write essays. It's focused around group discussions led by experienced social workers, and includes the chance to speak to a current foster carer.
The children are our top priority, and to ensure they'll be safe and cared for we need to complete a series of checks.
You and everyone living in your house over age 16 needs to get an Enhanced Disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Formerly known as a CRB check, a DBS check is a prerequisite for anyone who works with children, for example in schools, nurseries or crèches.
You also need to make an appointment with your GP for a medical examination, to certify you’re in good health.
Finally, we need to speak to references. These can be family, colleagues and friends. We need to speak to any adult children who no longer live with you, and to any previous partners if you lived and cared for children together. (If you're concerned about us making contact with anyone, please let us know so we can discuss the best approach).
You'll be assigned a supervising social worker who will be your primary point of contact. Anytime you have any questions or concerns, just give him or her a call.
Your social worker will visit you many times to chat. You talk about your experiences as a child, at school, in relationships and of children and young people. We’ll discuss your current situation and hopes for the future.
It's important to remember that this is a 2-way process, and that there are no right or wrong answers. Just be open and honest, ask as many questions as you can think of, relax and enjoy. Lots of carers tell us these meetings are a good way of reflecting on your life.
These chats are an opportunity for you to learn more about being a foster carer. They're an opportunity for us to figure out how you'll offer the best support to a young person, and to identify how we can best support you.
At the end of this step, your social worker will put together a report based on the information gathered and your discussions.
Your social worker submits the report to an independent panel, which reviews the evidence and recommends whether or not you should be approved as a foster carer.
Always, always remember that everyone wants you to succeed. This has to be a rigorous process because we're looking for people to provide the best care to children.
In becoming a foster carer, you’re doing one of the most rewarding and meaningful things you can do. And everyone wants to help you, every step of the way.
First, they'll meet with your supervising social worker to discuss the report. Then you’ll be invited to meet the panel. You don’t have to do any preparation for this meeting – it’s an opportunity for the panel to meet you and ask questions, and for you to talk about yourself.
The panel is made up of at least 5 people. They're thorough (as they must be when considering people who will care for children), but they're also friendly and welcoming.
They know that foster carers are special people, and that we need more of them. And this means they want you to be successful. So be yourself and let them see your caring, kind and considerate attributes.
After your meeting with the panel, the chairperson will ask you to step out of the room while they make a decision. The chair will then let you know their recommendation.
You're a Newly Approved Foster Carer
Once the panel recommends you, the Agency Decision Maker must formally approve you as a foster carer. The Agency Decision Maker will review the social worker and panel reports and then make the final decision.
Once you're approved, your supervising social worker will start the matching process, and you can start the most rewarding job you'll ever have - changing a child's life.
This entire process generally takes 4 to 6 months. While certain steps (like the meetings with your social worker) can happen quickly, others can take more time.
For example, the information gathering in Step 3 depends on how quickly your references and DBS checks come through. And the panel meets bi-monthly, so you may have to wait a couple of weeks for your appointment.
You get comprehensive support throughout the assessment process, and that continues once you're approved.
We're here to help you at all times with regular visits, excellent out-of-hours contact, training and the opportunity to make friends with other foster carers.
Social worker support
Once you're approved, you'll be assigned a supervising social worker who will be your first port of call for guidance, advice and reassurance. They will play a vital role in matching you with a child and supporting you throughout the placement.
Buddy & mentoring
We organise a buddy and mentor scheme that gives new foster carers individual support from more experienced foster carers. We arrange for all our experienced foster carers to be trained in mentoring, and help them to attain nationally recognised qualifications in the subject. The scheme is often the start of longlasting friendships.
You'll also be able to contact a senior social worker 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – we're only ever a phone call away. If you have a problem in your personal life or with a child in care, we'll be there to offer help. For example, if you're having trouble getting a child to sleep at bedtime, a support worker can come and help you in your home.
The foster carers' forum is held every month. It's an opportunity for foster carers to meet up, discuss fostering issues and learn from each other’s experiences. The forum also plays a key role in organising regular group activities we hold for our foster carers and the children in their care.
We give you 2 weeks of paid respite each year and can arrange regular breaks at other times.
Personal development plan
Foster carers come from all different backgrounds. Some have degrees, some never finished school. Some have worked with children before, and some are changing career completely. When you foster with us, you and your social worker will create an individual development plan. We identify what skills you already have and where you can enhance your skills. You can make suggestions about what training you want to do, and we'll help you do it as long as it's relevant to your fostering role.
We never expect foster carers to cope alone, which is why we always emphasise that we're with you every step of the way
If you're interesting in learning more about fostering, the next step is to get in touch.
You can call us on 0845 074 0076 or send us an email ([email protected]) (one of us will ring you back).
This is an informal chat and there's no obligation to proceed.
It's an opportunity to ask questions and talk things through, so you can decide if fostering is right for you.
Perpetual is an independent fostering agency that's supported more than 1,000 carers and children over more than 20 years.
We're committed to supporting the children we place and helping them fulfil their potential. Our foster families and children build such successful relationships because we're committed to meeting everyone's emotional and professional needs.
Whether you’re just thinking about becoming a foster carer or have many years' experience, we'll be with you every step of the way.
If you would like to study our guide as a PDF, you can download it to view offline at your leisure.
This easy-to-read guide explains what's involved in becoming a foster carer, from the first chat through to getting your first placement.Step-by-Step Guide