To become a foster parent in the UK, applicants must complete a fostering assessment and meet the selection criteria of the chosen agency.
Applicants can choose between fostering with an independent fostering agency (IFA) or with a local authority (LA).
What’s the difference between them? In a nutshell, IFA’s are usually able to offer higher levels of support and higher fostering allowances.
We published an extensive blog about the differences which you can read here: What are fostering agencies? The difference between private and council.
How long does it take to become a foster parent?
Most fostering assessments will take 4-5 months to complete. This includes completing the fostering report, necessary checks and references, and pre-approval training.
Following approval, approximate waiting time until you are caring for a young person will depend on your matching preferences.
Typically, our newly approved foster carers will wait between 4-8 weeks for their first child.
Breakdown of stages to become a foster parent in the UK
There are 5 key stages applicants must go through to become a foster parent in the UK.
Step 1 – Initial Enquiry
Every foster carers’ journey starts with an initial enquiry.
There is so much to think about when it comes to fostering, so the best starting point is usually a friendly chat on the phone.
At Family Care we also like to send a fostering brochure with further information to read over.
When you are ready, we book in a call to complete a telephone questionnaire. Our fostering managers will then review this information and decide on next steps.
Step 2 – Home Visit
If everyone is happy to progress, the next step is arranging a home visit from one of our supervising social workers (SSWs). Here, we get to know you better and you get to know us better too.
We provide further insight into the role and expectations of foster carers, and what you should expect from us as your fostering agency.
You could think of the home visit as an interview of sorts. Applicants need to feel comfortable progressing with the fostering agency, and the fostering agency needs to feel comfortable progressing the applicant to the next stage.
During the visit, we will have a general look around the indoor and outdoor spaces of your home, and we will gather more information about you and your existing support network of friends and family.
We will also discuss your family history and explore any significant life experiences that you may have had and how this could affect your fostering role.
It is important nothing is left on the table at this stage.
“Dave arranged to visit us and explained all about the application. It was very clear and concise and we decided straight away that we wanted to proceed. We didn’t consider any other agency as we liked what we saw and Family Care had such a family, nurturing feel.”
Nicky, Foster Carer
Step 3 – Application and Assessment
Upon successful completion of the home visit, applicants are invited to formally apply as foster carers with the agency.
Our fostering administrator will check over your application form and make sure everything is in order. You will then be assigned an assessor to complete your fostering assessment.
This will involve regular visits from your assessor so that he or she can build a good picture. Typically, this involves 6-12 visits over a period of eight to ten weeks.
Once complete, the assessment report should detail the reasons why your home is a positive environment for young people to thrive in. It will include information about your skills and experiences, and it will outline your suitability to become a foster parent.
Step 4 – Skills to Foster Pre-Approval Training
During your assessment, you will be enrolled onto a Skills to Foster™ pre-approval training course. This is currently being delivered online with reflective face-to-face sessions involving your assessor.
Skills to Foster™ is the first of many training courses you will complete throughout your fostering career. To become a foster parent in the UK, you must complete Skills to Foster™ training.
Step 5 – Panel and ADM
The final step to become a foster parent is attending panel. Panel consists of at least five independent professionals from a range of backgrounds such as health, education and social care. They will review your fostering report and make a recommendation regarding your approval.
Panels recommendation is then passed to our Agency Decision Maker (ADM), who is also completely independent. If ADM signs off on Panels recommendation, you will be registered as a foster carer with Family Care.
Once approved as a foster carer, our placement officers will contact you to introduce themselves. Placement Officers use the information from your fostering report to match you with your first child. They will search based on your preferences around age, needs, and other matching factors.
How long you care for a young person will depend on the type of fostering you do. The average age of a child currently living with our fostering families is 10, and the average length of time a young person is living in the foster home is two and a half years.
Requirements to Become a Foster Parent
There are three requirements to become a foster parent in the UK:
- You must have a spare bedroom
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain in the UK
Whilst these are the only hard and fast requirements, there are many skills and qualities foster carers should have.
Check out our list of 7 Essential Traits All Foster Carers Need.
So now you know the answer to ‘how to become a foster parent’, can we please ask you to share this with your friends, family and co-workers.
Right now, the UK has a shortage of over 8,000 foster carers. If you have a spare bedroom and time to care for a child, we could help you make a life-changing difference.
Complete our short online enquiry form today or give us a call on 0800 5 677677.
Healing Pasts | Building Futures