Being a Foster Carer can be hugely rewarding. During my time working in Social Services I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people who have dedicated themselves to making a difference to children’s lives and have helped them learn and develop. Fostering can also be very challenging for all those involved however the rewards far outweigh these. I have worked both in a Looked after Children’s Team where I have worked with Foster Carers to provide support to the children they care for and also in a Children’s Disability Team where I assessed potential short break carers (a foster carer who provides respite care for a child with a disability) For this I used the same assessment process as you would for a foster carer. I also provided help and support for the Short Break Carers.
Fostering is something I have always had an interested in and I have discussed this over the years with my family. I also know that when I decided to return to social work I will be seeking a position within a Fostering Team.
So what do you know about Foster Carers? Who can be a Foster Carer? You need to be over 21 years of age, have a spare bedroom, be a British Citizen and be committed, patient and understanding. You can be a single person, a married couple or divorced. You can be a parent with young children or grown up children. Be a same-sex couple, a single parent and either employed or unemployed. What is important is that you can offer stability and support to a child or children. Foster Carers can work for a Local Authority or for an Independent Fostering Agency, the assessment process for those wanting to become a Foster Carer is the same which ever route you would like to follow.
Once you have decided you would like to Foster the next step would be to have a discussion with your family. Then having decided if you would like to work for your Local Authority or an Independent Fostering Agency you can make contact with them. They will ask for some basic information and in some cases arrange to come and meet with you to discuss the process involved. Usually you will be invited to a session along with others who have expressed an interest in fostering, a briefing session where you will learn more about Fostering, the support you will have etc. Some local authorities and independent agencies may not offer this so don’t worry if this applies to you. If following this you would still like to proceed you will be assigned your own Social Worker who will carry out the Foster Carer Assessment with you. The assessment usually takes around four months to complete during which time your Social Worker will come and visit you, usually around 6-8 times. These visits will consist of individual and joint visits if you are married or have a partner. If you have children then they also will be spoken too to find out how they feel about you becoming a Foster Carer. References will also be asked for and contacted along with a health and safety check of your home carried out. Information gathered at these visits will then be used to complete the Fostering Assessment and sound recommendations will be made by the assessing Social Worker. You will get to know each other and also have the chance to discuss any preference you may have when it comes to children you foster. Would you like to foster a child of a certain age? a sibling group? a child with a disability? These will also be noted in the assessment.
With the Fostering Assessment completed you will then be put forward to a panel who will read your assessment and ultimately approve you as a Foster Carer. The Panel usually consists of people who have a range of skills, knowledge and experiences. Some have direct knowledge or experience of the fostering process, either as a carer or as someone who has been fostered. Other members will have a professional background in child or social care. The Fostering Panel’s role is to consider applications for Foster Carers and make recommendations about their suitability which will include the age, sex and number of children and with the children’s background being placed with the Foster Carer. The applicant will usually be invited to attend and the panel members will ask them questions and they will have the chance to ask questions to the panel. The Fostering Panel also has other roles including reviewing the continued suitability of a Foster Carer, to consider any serious complaints or allegations against a Foster Carer and also to ensure Fostering Provider works to certain standards.
Once you have been approved as a Foster Carer you will continue to receive help and support from a allocated social worker, in some cases this may be the one who assessed you as you will have built up a working relationship during assessment process. Foster Carers have a self-employed status and you will receive competitive payment, it is dependent of the child’s age and needs. It is split into two, the first is the child’s allowance (what it costs to look after the child) and the carers allowance which is paid in recognition of the hard work you undertake. You will also receive training, 24 hour support and usually a set number of respite days which are paid and usually accrue while you have a child placed with you.
Would you like to know a bit more about fostering? Clifford House Fostering who are an Independent Fostering Agency have compiled some facts about Fostering which are well worth taking a look at if you are considering Fostering. You can find them here
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post however the content is 100% my own.