BECOMING A CARER
What’s the process of becoming a new foster carer like?
At a glance
- 5 steps to becoming a foster carer
- Meet new carers Amanda and Scott
- Choosing a foster agency
- The initial phone call and meeting
- Starting the assessment process
- Skills to Foster Training
- Problems, issues and delays
- The final stages of the assessment process
- New carers Amanda and Scott’s best advice
- A little bit more about Lika
Whether you’re thinking about becoming a new foster carer or you’ve already made a call to a foster care agency and started the ball rolling on your fostering career, you’re probably wondering what the assessment process is like.
In this article, we’ll demystify it for you, and we’ll speak to a London-based couple who have recently (and successfully!) completed Lika’s foster care assessment process and have become foster carers.
Let’s start with a brief overview of the process.
|Arrange a time for one of our skilled and dedicated social care team to call you for a chat about all things fostering.
|An initial home visit before moving into the first stage of the assessment process, including checks and references.
|Attend a three-day skills to foster preparatory group and an ‘Introduction to Systemic Therapy’ training day.
|Successful completion of your assessment process and initial training.
|Attend our Independent Fostering panel, where a final decision will be made for you to become a fully approved foster carer.
If you want to know more, we have detailed information about this process in this article:
Londoners Amanda and Scott decided to become foster carers because it’s something Amanda’s parents had done, and something she had always wanted to do. When their own daughter reached two years of age, and Scott had retired from his career in professional sport, the couple decided the time was finally right.
“I grew up in a really busy household with lots of people coming and going and I would say that it had a really positive impact on my childhood,” Amanda said. “So, from my daughter’s perspective, I think the idea of having more people around, more people to play with, I just think it’s a positive thing.”
The decision to foster having been made, the next task was choosing an agency to work with. Lika was actually the first agency Amanda called.
“I remembered growing up that for a lot of the children who lived with us, there was a real stigma for them around all the different organisations and people (their professional network) that they had to deal with,” Amanda said. “So I think Lika stood out to me because on the website it talks about therapeutic parenting and bringing it home and the fact that you actually provide therapy through your everyday conversations, and then you get the training that supports you in doing that.
“And I just thought that felt like a really nice thing and like it would perhaps be more effective.
Amanda called Lika and spoke to our recruitment lead, who explained Lika’s philosophy and the assessment process and a set up a time to visit the couple at home.
“It was reassuring; it was all very well explained,” Amanda said.
Scott added: “Meeting Jamie was the last piece of the puzzle falling into place. Having him there, knowing that you have his support and his knowledge, was really reassuring at the start of the process.
The assessment process itself involves filling out an application form, pulling together a range of references and background checks, a few more home visits from the Lika team, and a bit of a dig around in your family tree.
“It went pretty smoothly; we didn’t find it onerous at all,” Amanda said. “Our assessor, Danielle, was nice and personable and we always enjoyed having her over. She came for about an hour and a half each week and of, what, about 15 hours of conversation, she had a pretty good understanding of us and was able to gauge our appropriateness. They were interesting conversations and it was an enjoyable and insightful experience.”
With the assessment done, it was time to do the three-day-long Skills to Foster Training program that all new foster carers in the UK go through before they can look after a young person.
“That was a really good part of the process,” Scott said. “It was really insightful and also opens your eyes to how you do things, not just as a parent, but in life, how you look at things. It gives you a snapshot of what might be coming up, what sorts of issues you might have, and a chance to talk about any part of the process that might scare you.”
Not every foster care assessment runs smoothly. It’s common for there to be delays or hiccups along the way. For Amanda and Scott, they decided to pause the assessment process while one of Scott’s older daughters finished her GCSEs and while the couple completed the loft conversion which would give them the extra space they needed to welcome a young person into their life.
If you need to pause an assessment process for whatever reason, that’s OK.
In the latter stages of the assessment process, you’ll complete your health checks, the Lika team will meet with your support network (the people in your life, like friends and family, who will be around you and support you in your fostering career), and there’ll be a few little last-minute checks (like a health and safety assessment of your home.
Once you’ve completed all these, you can start getting your home ready for your first placement, and if you have children at home, we’ll take them for some special training to help them understand what fostering is, why young people come into care, how their home life might change, and how they can communicate any concerns they have.
The very last stage before approval is attending the fostering panel. You can read more about what that experience is like here:
While Scott and Amanda enjoyed the assessment process, we wondered what advice they had for others who are about to go through it or are thinking about becoming foster carers but might be nervous to finally make that call.
“Just be honest and try to build up the relationship with your social worker as quickly as possible,” Scott said. “They come around so often they become part of your life for six months. It’s a good opportunity to get all your questions out during the process and talk about any worries or issues.
“There’s no point trying to hide anything that you might be worried about because everything can be solved—whether it’s anything in your past or any financial worries or whatever. As long as you are upfront and honest with your social worker, everything will go smoothly.”
Amanda said she found the Lika team, including social worker Danielle, very accommodating.
“We’re a vegetarian household and that was a slight worry for me, even though my parents had been fostering for 15 years as a vegetarian household,” she said. “But my nervousness around that was quickly dispelled. (Lika said) ‘we want you as foster carers; we are going to work out a way to make it work’. So, it’s honestly a case of don’t put it off because you’re worried about something like that.
“Also, Lika were very accommodating about the meeting times as well. Danielle used to come over to us about six in the evening, which obviously works really well if you are working.”
The couple are now waiting to welcome their first young person and said they are “very excited”—as are their biological children.
Lika is a therapeutic fostering agency, rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Every decision we take is based on Systemic Family Therapy principles. That means relationships, openness and honesty are at the heart of everything we do. All Lika foster carers receive extensive training in Systemic Family Therapy principles and therapeutic parenting techniques.
It’s similar to the training a newly qualified social worker receives (although not quite as technical) — so you’ll be fully prepared for your first placement and be viewed as a professional foster carer in your own right.
Being a Lika foster carer means always receiving specialised and consistent support from our expert team of professionals.
Your support will include:
- 1 to 4 weekly supervisions with your supervising social worker to talk through and understand the needs of your young person
- 24/7 out-of-hours access to one of the Lika team, so you’re never unsupported if things feel difficult
- Access to Lika’s team of skilled and knowledgeable Systemic Psychotherapist Consultants and Systemic Social Work Practitioners, who are never stuck for ideas on how to support
- Virtual monthly foster carers support meeting, led and chaired by experienced foster carers
- Virtual fortnightly Therapeutic Family Consultations, facilitated by one of our psychotherapists and open to all our agency’s foster carers
- Membership to the National Association of Therapeutic Parents and The Fostering Network
- Life coaching for foster children, birth children and foster carers
- Our Mentor Support Scheme, which partners new foster carers with more experienced foster carers
- Free training for fostering support networks. (Your family and friends are welcome to join any of the training Lika offers.)
- Access to Lika’s support workers, depending on the level of need for the young person
- Access to Lika’s Educational Consultant, who can offer ideas and advocacy in supporting young people to achieve in education
- Help from Lika’s Systemic Social Work Practitioners/Therapists, who can undertake skilled direct work without waiting lists for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
- 14 to 21 days of paid respite (depending on complexity) to recharge your batteries and have some space for self-care.
If you’re in south or east London and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.
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