The process of matching children with foster carers is one of the most important aspects of fostering.
The matching process involves reviewing information about a child and searching for a suitable foster family who can meet the child’s needs.
Once a suitable family is identified and has agreed to be put forward, an offer is made to the child’s local authority who will decide which family is the best match.
For potential foster carers it is important to understand how this process works, as good matching is the foundation for successful fostering.
Matching considerations during the fostering enquiry
At Family Care, we have a dedicated recruitment officer to guide applicants and offer advice during your initial enquiry. One of the key questions at this stage is: What age of children do you feel able to support?
The average age of a young person living with our families is 9, and the average length of our fostering arrangements is 2.5 years.
Any agency you speak with should share this information with you.
After your initial enquiry call, you’ll have a much better idea of how fostering could work for your family. If you are happy to progress, then a home visit is completed by one of our supervising social workers.
We think it’s really important that a supervising social worker completes the visit, as it is their job to support and protect fostering families. SSW’s will paint a clear picture of the highs and lows of fostering, and further discuss your specific matching considerations. It is important that fostering works for everyone living in the home.
Matching considerations during the fostering assessment
Following a successful initial home visit, you are invited to formally apply as a foster carer with the agency. The assessment process begins once your application form is accepted.
Within the fostering assessment, applicants set out their matching preferences with regards to:
- The age of children
- How far you can travel for school runs
- Needs/behaviours you feel able or unable to support
- Gender of a young person (usually due to other young people living in the home)
At this stage, it’s important to remember that these are only preferences.
For example, you might prefer younger children, but we usually advise carers to be approved for the whole age range of 0-18 if possible.
This is because age does not dictate behaviour or need. Every child is different, so why rule yourself out of fostering a young person outside your preferred age range if it could be a good match to your household?
We will guide and advise you on this, but ultimately the decision is yours.
You will also complete pre-approval training to further your understanding and expectations of fostering.
Matching in fostering – profiles and referrals
As part of your assessment, a professional foster carer profile is created which includes information from your fostering assessment, details about your fostering/parenting experience, and your training record.
In addition to your professional profile, we like to make a Family Book with pictures of your home and everyone who lives there.
These are shared with local authorities when making an offer to foster a young person. Not only does this help local authorities decide which family is the best match, it also allows the child to see where she will be living and with whom.
We receive around 60 referrals every day for children who need foster care.
Referrals contain important information about the young person which helps us decide if a match is possible. Basic details should include:
- Which school they go to
- Medical conditions
- Some details about family history
- Previous placement history (if applicable)
- Why foster care is needed
Each fostering agency will ‘triage’ referrals for children slightly differently. Some will have placement officers dedicated to that role (like us), while others may have support staff or administrators coordinating referrals on a daily rota.
If you are making an enquiry, try to understand how this process works within the organisation. As a foster carer you should feel confident that your fostering agency or local authority is following an effective matching process, starting with how they are screening referrals.
Matching in fostering – offers and placements
Our placement officers will screen and identify suitable referrals based on your matching preferences.
At Family Care we have two placement officers, Stuart and Sumeet. They work 9-5 Monday to Friday and you will get to know them quite well – especially if you have a vacancy.
If there is a possible match, they will have a chat with your supervising social worker first. The SSW or placement officer will then contact you to talk through the referral information.
At this stage, it’s not uncommon for the foster carer to have questions and we’ll do our best to answer those for you. If needed, we can return to the local authority and ask for more information. In most cases we are working to a deadline, so we need to send our responses as soon as possible.
Once we make a formal offer it is up to the LA to decide which family is the best match. If your offer is accepted, we plan and coordinate placement details with the LA social worker.
How soon the placement starts depends on the urgency of the referral. If possible we will organise a planning meeting and a period of introductions, although sometimes this isn’t practical such as in an emergency.
This is another reason why a rigorous matching process is crucial, and it highlights the importance of trust between the foster carer and their fostering agency.
Matching children with foster carers – key takeaways
For foster carers, successful fostering arrangements are the result of hard work, resilience, and a passion for making a difference. But at the very heart of this is effective matching in fostering.
With the best will in the world, foster carers cannot support children they are not equipped to care for. Fostering agencies have a duty of care to their foster families. An effective matching process should always be in place to protect the family and the young person.
If you are interested in fostering or going through the assessment process, make sure you feel comfortable with the agency as they will be responsible for matching children to your family. You should never be pressured into fostering a child you feel unable to care for.
Family Care is a family-owned fostering agency healing pasts and building futures since 1988. Our highly skilled team of fostering professionals are dedicated to improving children’s lives. With us, you can be sure that we will do everything we can to make fostering a success.
Schedule a discovery call today with our recruitment advisor or give us a call on 0800 5 677677 and start your fostering journey…
Healing Pasts | Building Futures
0800 5 677 677