Over the following months you will be trained and assessed and ultimately a decision made on whether you are suitable to foster a child.
Training, Support and Development Standards (TSDS)
The TSDS provide provide a professional framework for the professional training and development of all foster carers in England. You may even be provided with a workbook to use with your social worker that will provide evidence of your ability to perform the required skills to be a foster carer.
You will be invited to attend a series of preparation groups and training sessions with other prospective foster carers, which will help you explore the benefits and challenges of fostering. You will also have the opportunity to meet experienced foster carers and learn about a range of issues including:
- backgrounds of the children needing fostering.
- child protection.
- working with birth parents.
- specialist parenting skills needed to care for children who may have experienced neglect and abuse.
- working with social workers as part of the child’s care team.
- helping children to move on beyond your care and say “goodbye”
The “Home Study”
The main part of the assessment is a series of visits made by a social worker from your fostering service to your home. During this time the social worker gets to know you and your family and spends time helping you think about what strengths you could bring to fostering.
During this time the social worker will have conversations with you about your childhood and your experiences of growing up. They will ask you about how you have dealt with past experiences. Your capacity to reflect on your own past experiences may well be important in the future as you help a child reflect on things that have happened in their early years. Be open and honest and this will enable your social worker to get a full picture of your strengths and weaknesses which in turn will help them match you with a child whose needs you can meet.
Talking to family and friends
As well as speaking with you, and your partner if you are a couple, your social worker will also meet any children you have and other people who live with you, as well as some of your wider friends and family in order to build a picture of who you are and the types of parents you would be. The agency may also want to contact previous partners, especially if there have been children involved in the relationship, and any adult children you or your partner might have.
While this might seem intimidating remember that this is done with the best interests of the children in mind. Former partners do not have any veto over your right to foster, but your social worker may want to discuss with you why your relationship ended and what you learnt from it.
All the training and conversations feed into the assessment report, known as “Form F” which will outline what sort of carers you would be and how you would be able to support the kinds of children in care. It will evidence how you have the the resilience and emotional maturity to be a good foster carer, and that you have the capacity to work alongside social services and other support workers in providing the necessary support package for the child you are caring for. Once the report is complete, you will be provided with a copy to comment on before it is submitted to the services Fostering Panel.
GOING TO PANEL
The panel is made up of fostering experts, experienced foster carers and is independent of the fostering service. They review all the evidence presented to them and then make a recommendation back to the fostering service’s decision maker on whether you are suitable to foster a child. Your assessing social worker will attend to answer any questions they may have and you would also be invited to attend.
Making a decision
Your fostering services decision maker will decide if you are suitable to foster. The decision maker is a senior figure within the fostering service who has the legal responsibility to make an approval decision. In most circumstances the decision maker accepts the panel’s recommendation.
APPEALING A DECISION
If your application is turned down you must be notified of this in writing together with the reasons. If you disagree with the decision, you may request that your application is considered by the Independent Review Mechanism within 28 calendar days. The IRM will review your application and then make recommendations to your service. It is then up to the service’s decision maker to consider the recommendations and make a final decision.