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How to become a foster carer

It usually takes around six months to be approved as a foster carer and matched with your first child, children or young person. The experienced team here at Foster East is here to help every step of the way.

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Foster care approval, your step-by-step guide

All potential foster carers go through an approval and assessment process to make sure you're right for fostering, and that foster care is the right choice for you.

The Foster East team will take you through our bespoke pre-approval training programme to ensure you are equipped with the tools and knowledge you need. Once we have passed your application onto your local authority, their specialist social workers will be your main point of contact and will guide you through your assessment process. The team here at Foster East will be on hand to check in with you and to answer any questions you may have or to reassure you about the process. 

We want you to be sure that fostering is right for you, so you can foster with confidence. You'll get extensive training and support from Foster East working with your local council. 

Take a look at our handy step-by-step guide. Each local authority's process is slightly different. Our overview tells you what you can expect.

1. The first conversation

Once we've received your initial enquiry, we will arrange to talk to you over the phone, in person or online via Zoom or Teams.

We'll talk about your interest in fostering, your home and personal circumstances. To help you get to know us, we'll explain how we work with you and the children in need of foster care. This first conversation will help you to decide if it's the right time to take your application further. Some people are ready straight away, others need some time to think it all through.

You'll get the chance to join our buddying scheme where you can get in touch with experienced foster carers and ask them whatever questions you like about the role. When you are ready to take things further, you'll submit an expression of interest.


1a. Information event

You don't have to attend an information event to progress your application, but lots of people find it useful to meet experienced foster parents and other people who are considering a new career as a foster carer. Foster East partners hold regular information events where you can meet the team at your local authority, talk to some of our foster parents and learn all about the application process.


2. Initial home visit

When we receive your expression of interest, the fostering team at your local authority will organise to come and visit you at home. They will want to look round your house, meet you, your family members, and any pets so they get a full picture of who lives in your home.

The home visit gives us an opportunity to find out more about you, your values, why you want to be a foster parent, and your personal circumstances, and to talk about how you see fostering fitting into your life. You and your family members can ask any questions you'd like about fostering.

Everyone is different, from our foster carers and parents to the children in our care. The better we get to know you, the more successfully we can match the children in care to a foster family who will really help them to thrive.

Following the home visit we will talk to you about whether we think you are ready to progress to the next stage. If we don't feel it is right for you to progress, we will be honest and open about the reasons why. If we think fostering could be for you, but not just yet, we will explain why and suggest some things you could do before we visit you a second time.

If we feel it is right for you to progress and you are ready, you will officially move into the application process. 


3. Application and assessment

The application and assessment process takes some time as it's really important that you understand as much as possible about fostering and that everyone is happy that fostering is right for you.

You'll meet your assessing social worker, who will become your go-to person for any questions about fostering. You can get in touch with an experienced foster carer to ask questions at any time too. You'll go on our pre-approval training course, Skills to Foster or Journey to Foster, to learn more about fostering. The course will be held in a convenient location near to where you live, and there might be online sessions too. You'll meet other fostering applicants, as well as young people who have experienced what it's like being in care, and some of our more experienced foster carers.

Your assessing social worker will carry out background checks and gather references as part of the assessment. This is an in-depth process and will involve them asking all sorts of questions about you. The assessment helps us get to know you, your strengths, your life experiences and your skills, which will help us to find the best matches for you and the children you will foster once you have been approved. You will get to know us really well. Lots of people say the assessment process helps them to get to know themself and their partner better too. We'll also use this time to talk about what type of fostering might suit you best, and what age children you would prefer to care for. 

Your assessing social worker might recommend some other training courses you can go on too, such as first aid and safeguarding. 


4. Approval

When you are ready, you and your assessing social worker will attend a panel. The panel will consider your application and talk to you about it. They may have a few more questions for you to answer. A decision will be made regarding your suitability to foster, the number of children you can care for and what age range you can work with.

Once this decision has been verified, you will join our team of foster carers and start to work with your local authority to change lives for our children and young people.

You will be introduced to your supervising social worker, and be offered a fostering mentor by your local authority. You'll join your local fostering network and meet other foster carers who live in your area. You will also join a linked carers network. More training courses will be made available to you.