How to become a foster carer

Understand the journey to becoming a foster carer

Once we've received your initial enquiry, we will arrange to talk to you over the phone, in person or online. We'll explore 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. Our first conversations will help you decide if it's the right time to take an application further. 

We hold regular information events where you can meet some of the team, hear from foster carers themselves and learn all about the application process. You don't have to attend an information event to progress with us, but many people find it useful to hear about fostering in a group and meeting others in a similar position.  View our upcoming events

Before submitting an official application to be a foster carer you will complete a form to provide us with more in depth details about you and your home. Our team will support you with completing this form if you need us to.

After you've completed your detailed enquiry form and we’ve both agreed to take your application forward, one of our team will organise a home visit with you. When they come to meet you, they will look around your home and meet you and your family members.  

The home visit gives us an opportunity to find out more about you, your values, motivation, and personal circumstances. You will have the chance to ask questions about fostering or to speak to us about areas specific to your own situation.  

Following the home visit we’ll ask you if you’re happy 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 feel it is right for you to progress, we’ll officially move you into the next stage of the application process. We’ll also talk through what else we think would help you to prepare for fostering.

During Stage 1 you will complete an application form – we can support with this if you need us to.  The form requests detailed information about you, so you'll need to set aside some time to complete it and it will ask for your consent for checks such as medical assessments and DBS (to check for any criminal records). It will also ask you to provide an overview of your life including dates for education, employment, house moves and significant relationships. You will also need to provide employment and family references.

This may sound like a lot of checking, but it is a standard requirement across all fostering agencies, and is all about making sure that as local authorities we are acting in the best interest of children

Once all of the information and results of the Stage 1 checks come back, we’ll start Stage 2. At this point, a qualified and experienced social worker will be allocated to you and will come out to your home to talk more in depth with you and your partner (if you are applying as a couple). Your social worker will also start the references and checks that you consented to in your application.

The assessing social worker will ask about your lives, backgrounds, how you were brought up, and what makes you the people you are today.  

The visits will be planned in advance with you, and you'll know when the social worker is coming. Following each session, you may be asked to do some thinking, and planning to contribute to the final assessment report.

The social worker will also want to talk to your children or other family members who live in your home, both with you and without you there. For applicants who are in a relationship, the social worker will meet with each of you individually as well as together during the assessment.

The assessment helps us build up a good picture about you and your family. It will inform decisions about what ages and numbers of children you may be able to look after, and what needs you could confidently meet. 

You will start fostering training during your assessment process, this is called the Skills to Foster Training and Preparation course. The course is specially designed to help prepare people for fostering. You'll find out more about what is involved, the role of a foster carer and the team of other professionals you will join. You'll gain an understanding about the needs of children who have come to be looked after. You'll learn skills to support children and young people and how to manage and maintain links with families.

The training will provide you and your assessor with evidence for your home study assessment. In particular, it will help us assess your understanding of how to meet the needs of looked after children. This course is run over a series of sessions, over a two day period. Depending on the needs of each group, it may be run over shorter evening sessions, or weekends.  

If you're part of a couple, both of you must attend.

Find out more on our training and support web page. 

Once your fostering social worker has gathered all the information needed to complete your assessment report and make their recommendation, you will be asked to attend a fostering panel. Fostering panels are made up of people who have experience relevant to fostering, and/or children who are looked after. Panel members will read the full assessment report and consider any questions or matters they need to check. Together they will make an informed decision as to whether you are suitable to be approved as a foster carer and they will make a recommendation. They will also outline the age range and number of children they recommend that you will be able to look after. The panel’s recommendation is then considered by an Agency Decision Maker, who is a senior manager for each local authority and they make the decision to approve you as a foster carer.  

The social worker who has worked with you during Stage 2, will be there to support you. Although this stage may feel daunting, the panel will be friendly and welcoming. They’re not there to catch you out, along with all of us they just want to approve as many great foster carers as possible. 

The support available to you doesn't end at approval. You will have a social worker who will continue to offer advice and guidance throughout your career with us. You will be invited to training and support groups where you can start to build relationships with other foster carers and more professionals, so you truly feel part of the fostering community. You might also be given the opportunity to join the Mockingbird programme.

Once a child or children is / are matched with you, your social worker will continue to support you and help you understand the individual needs of the child or children in your care. You will also start to work with other professionals such as children's social workers, service managers, health professionals, teachers and Independent Reviewing Officers. As part of this team of professionals you’ll all work together in the best interests of the child or children in your care.