commonly asked questions: the process of becoming a foster carer

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, you will be interested to know the process, what happens at each stage, and how long it actually takes.

Below are answers to various questions that people ask around the process of becoming a foster carer.

how long does the process take?

The assessment period should take no longer than six months from application to approval stage.

Sometimes this can take longer but this is often down to the applicant’s availability or references taking longer to get hold of. Whatever the reason for the delay, we will keep you regularly informed.

Caring for children and young people is an important commitment, so we need to get to know each other well and be sure it’s right for everyone in your home. During this time, we will do background checks, a medical check with your GP, assessments and training. Your assessing social worker is your support and will be with you every step of the way.

There are several stages to becoming approved as a foster carer.

Step 1: Get in touch with us – email, phone or via our website

Step 2: A member of team will discuss your interest with you and answer any questions you might have. If you want to proceed, we will complete a registration of interest form with you. This just involves getting basic information off you and doesn’t take long to complete.

Step 3: The next stage is an initial home visit. If you are keen to proceed to this next stage and we are satisfied that you meet all the initial eligibility criteria, we will arrange for a member of the team to visit you and your family at your home. This stage is all about us getting to know you better, see your home, and have a look at the bedroom/s that you have available for fostering. We also request that local authority checks are done.

Step 4: The member of staff who visited you will complete an assessment of the home visit. This then gets quality assured by a manager who then decides whether you can progress onto our pre-approval training. This is called ‘Skills to Foster’ and is a three-day training course. However, if after the home visit, you decide that you don’t wish to pursue fostering, then there is no obligation to go any further in the process.  

Step 5: Once you have completed the ‘Skills to Foster’ training, you are allocated an assessing social worker who will start compiling your Form F assessment (this involves several sessions with you and your family, background checks, a medical with a GP, and references). Your assessing social worker will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis throughout your assessment period. You’ll get to know each other well and they will complete your assessment report with you. Together, you’ll work out what types of fostering best fits your lifestyle and family, and the children and young people you will be best matched with.  

Step 6: Once your Form F assessment is complete, you will attend fostering panel to be approved as a foster carer. This is made up of various representatives who ask questions based on your Form F assessment. Your assessing social worker will be there to support you. The Panel will make a recommendation on whether to approve you or not. The final decision is made by the Agency Decision Maker, usually the Head of Service for Child & Family Services. This ratification usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Step 7: Become a foster carer and get matched to a child/ren.

do i have to pay to become a foster parent?

It doesn’t cost anything to become a foster carer. We don’t charge any fees for you to apply to become a foster parent.

We pay for your Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, and we also pay for the GP medical, as every applicant is required to undertake one as part of their assessment. Once you become a foster parent, we continue to support you with free 24/7 support, free training and access to other free resources.

i’m already a foster carer for another agency. can i transfer to foster wales swansea?

You have every right to transfer to us from another fostering agency, or even if you are registered with a local authority. We will help to make the transition as easy as possible. The process will differ slightly depending on whether you currently have foster children living with you.

what background checks and references do I need to become a foster parent?

When you apply to become a foster carer, your whole family/household will be assessed. You foster together, as a family. Before we do any background checks on you and your family, we’ll need to get your permission first.

The checks we do are:

  • criminal checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
  • medical checks with your GP
  • background checks with local authorities
  • employer references – current employer and any / all employment paid or voluntary working with children, young people, or vulnerable adults
  • personal references x 4
  • family member references x 2
  • Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) checks and equivalent if the applicants have lived in other parts of the UK
  • Health and safety check of the applicant’s home

what does an initial home visit entail?

After a registration of interest form is completed, an initial home visit will be arranged. This is where a member of the fostering team will visit you and your family in your home. They will ask various questions to get to know you better, plus they will ask you to show them around the house, especially the room/s available for fostering.

what training do I have to attend before becoming a foster carer?

Before you are allocated an assessing social worker, you are required to take part in a three-day ‘Skills to Foster’ course. This is often referred as ‘pre-approval training’. The course is mandatory and free of charge. The ‘Skills to Foster’ training is a great opportunity to find out whether fostering is right for you, if it’s the right time, and gives you a great insight into fostering and the role of a foster carer. If you attend the training and decide that you don’t wish to pursue fostering any further, then there is no obligation to proceed any further.  

what is a form f?

In simple terms, this is the assessment completed by your assessing social worker to determine your suitability for fostering. The Form F document is a generic assessment tool which all fostering services have to adhere to.

After the completion of pre-approval training, the next stage of becoming a foster carers is the Form F assessment. This is where your assessing social worker will work with you to put together all the information needed for your assessment and approval. It summarises your suitability and details your skills and experiences.

what happens at a fostering panel interview?

Once your assessing social worker has collected all the information they need for your assessment, your Form F and background checks are passed to a fostering panel. The panel is made up of fostering, educational and care professionals. You will be invited to attend the meeting where your assessing social worker will be at your side to offer support throughout. Members of the panel will ask you some questions based on in the information provided in the assessment. The answers you provide will help the panel to make a decision on whether to approve you as a foster carer. Don’t worry, fostering panel is not as daunting as it sounds.

what happens after I’m approved as a foster carer?

The reality is that it probably won’t be too long before you are approached about a child, young person or sibling group. Once you’re approved, you’ll be allocated a dedicated supervising social worker who’s there to support you and your family. If a child is needing a foster placement, and your supervising social worker thinks you are a good match, they will contact you to go through all the information we have about the child. If you decide that the child is a good match for you, your supervising social worker will put your name forward to the placement finding officer and the child’s social worker. The matching exercise looks at the child’s needs and the carer’s skills, knowledge, and family dynamic. If it’s decided that you are best match for the child, then you will be officially matched with them.

Where possible, it’s good for you and the child to meet before they come to live with you. However, there are situations where this isn’t possible, for example, if an emergency placement is required.

You might feel extremely nervous the first time a child comes to live with you, but this is very normal. Your supervising social worker and the fostering team will support you through it and do everything they can to help you.

get in touch

If you can open your door to a local child or young person and offer them a safe and loving home, then please get in touch for more information or to make an enquiry.

Story Time

Stories From Our Carers