Fostering is one of the most rewarding things you can do, but it is not a decision that should be taken lightly. We know from years of experience that foster carers will take months or even years considering the impact on their lives, families and routines before finally picking up the phone to make their initial enquiry. Once you’ve decided that becoming a foster parent is right for you, ‘how long does it take to become a foster parent’ is one of the most common questions we are asked, but unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all answer’.
Much can depend on your availability and responsiveness, complications involved with your checks and references, plus your previous experience of fostering. The total timescale is filled by 5 key steps: (you can read more about the fostering journey here).
The initial enquiry is an opportunity for you to find out more about fostering and the application process, to help decide if it is something that you want to pursue.
At this stage you are not making a commitment, you will simply have an informal telephone chat with our friendly enquiries team. You’ll get the chance to ask any questions that you have and you’ll answer a few basic questions about yourself, your motivations and your basic eligibility to become a foster carer. This phone call usually takes around half an hour.
Our enquiry team are available 5 days a week, including some evenings and can therefore make this call at a time and date that suits you.
If all goes well in the initial enquiry, a member of our enquiries team will carry out a virtual home visit using Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp video. This will include a more detailed discussion about your circumstances, your family, any experience that is relevant to fostering and your motivations to become a foster carer, as well as talking about your understanding of fostering and the needs of looked after children.
We’ll also look around your home to view the safety and condition of where you will be looking after a young person. A virtual home visit takes place as soon as you feel ready after the initial enquiry, at a time that suits you (and your partner if you are in a relationship). The virtual visit usually takes around two hours.
The next step is our ‘Skills to Foster’ training course, which is designed to give you an introduction and insight into life as a foster carer. The course will give you more detail about your role as a foster carer, the expectations of you and your family and some of the other people that you will be required to work with.
The course will cover lots of information and will sometimes be emotional. You’ll explore some of the reasons that children come into care, the experiences that they may have had and what your role will be in helping to manage their development.
The Skills to Foster is delivered virtually over two days. We have courses taking place every week meaning you have the option to choose dates that are suitable for you.
Application and Assessment
You’re now ready to formally apply to become a foster carer and start the assessment process. You’ll be allocated an assessor who will work with you to complete a detailed assessment of your suitability to become a foster carer, known as a Form F assessment.
The assessment process involves a number of checks including DBS, medical and financial. Checks will also need to be carried out on other members of the household, as fostering involves the whole family! We’ll need to obtain personal and professional references, and we will need to make contact with significant adults in your life, including adult children and ex-partners. Your assessor will explain to you in detail who and what needs to be involved.
This is the most time-consuming section of the enquiry to approval journey and has many variables which can affect how long it will take. However, we usually expect to complete this stage in 4 – 6 months.
“We filled in our details online and the very next day we got a call. From there on, it was an efficient and smooth process to get us to panel. It did feel rather intrusive at times, however we knew that there are good reasons why the process is in-depth. We built up a great relationship with the Assessing Social Worker, so much so that we still keep in touch today. Most people, including ourselves, feel anxious about going to the panel but it was actually quite enjoyable and all the panel members made us feel very welcome and at ease.”
Once your Form F is completed, the final step is your panel date. The fostering panel consists of a group of experienced, independent care professionals who will review your assessment and make a recommendation to the agency decision maker in TACT about your suitability as a foster carer. You may be nervous about this stage, but your assessing social worker will have raised any concerns with you well before you go to panel. We wouldn’t put you through to this stage if we didn’t think you’d make a brilliant foster carer!
As we’ve covered, there are many variables that can speed up or slow down your journey from first enquiring through to becoming approved. On average, the whole process will take approximately 6 months. One of the key variables is your previous experiences of fostering; if you are a current foster carer looking to transfer to us, the process can be fast-tracked. Find out more about transferring to TACT here.
Could you become a foster parent?
Becoming a foster carer is one of the most rewarding things you can do. The process to becoming approved isn’t quick, but we want to ensure fostering is right for you and your family, as well as ensuring the young people we care for will be safe and stable. If you’re ready to start the process of fostering a young person, why not make a no-obligation enquiry by completing the form on this page – or call us on 0330 123 2250.