Foster care assessment: how the process works
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, you probably want to know more about the application and foster care assessment process.
You’ve come to the right place!
While we can’t speak for every private foster care agency in London, we can tell you a bit about the process we go through here at Lika.
You probably also want to know how long the foster carer assessment process takes. As a rough guide, it’s often four to five months from an initial conversation with our recruitment manager to completing the application form and being approved as a carer (then a foster might be placed with you within a week, or it could take a few months – it all depends).
This article will run you through the basic stages of a foster care application and assessment process, for carers in East and South London interested in becoming a carer with Lika Family Fostering.
GOT QUESTIONS?: If you want to know more about becoming a foster carer in London, ask our team here.
1. It all starts with your initial enquiry
The first step is getting in touch and letting us know you’re interested. During this initial conversation one of our team will ask some basic questions. It’s nothing to be worried about.
It’s simply questions like “where do you live?” which we have to ask because if you don’t live in the local authority areas of Croydon, Hackney, Barking, Dagenham, Lewisham, Redbridge, Ilford or Newham, then we can’t help you.
Here are the sorts of questions you can expect:
- Where do you live?
- Do you have a spare room?
- Who lives in the house?
- Are you working?
- Whom do you have in your support network?
We’ll be looking for an indication of how motivated you are (have you done a lot of research already, or are you just starting to investigate the idea?) and we’ll ask you whether there’s anything you’re worried might stop you being able to become a carer (perhaps a criminal conviction). We might even ask why you’ve chosen to call Lika over other local fostering agencies.
This is also a great opportunity for you to ask us questions. We’ll answer them as best we can.
2. An initial home visit
If everything sounds positive in that initial call, we’ll arrange to come and visit you at home.
This first visit will probably take two hours. We’ll want to speak to you, your partner if you have one, and any children living in the house.
This is all about us getting to know you, you getting to know us, and assessing how everyone in the house feels about embarking on this fostering journey.
From this initial visit, we’ll have a pretty good idea of whether we both want to move on to the next stage.
3. Filling in the foster carer application
If we’re all a good for fit for each other and you’re really keen, we might give you the application form to fill in so we can start the application process right away.
More likely, we’ll invite you to meet some of our foster carers, so you can get a real understanding from them of the highs and lows of fostering. We might even invite you to come along to one of our Skills to Foster workshops for a day, so you can meet all the team and other people who are also thinking about becoming foster carers.
We want you to be as informed and comfortable as possible before we progress to the next stage. But, rest assured, if at any time you change your mind, it’s no problem at all – foster caring is an big commitment and it’s not for everyone. Just let us know!
It’s worth noting that, once the application is in, the stages listed below may not come in the order shown – many of them happen at the same time.
4. References and background checks
Once the application form is in, we start the process of background checks. These will include at least:
- Two personal references
- An employer reference (if you’re employed)
- A London Probation Check
- A local authority check (e.g., child protection and housing issues).
5. A second home visit (and a dive into your family tree)
It won’t be a surprise, but there are quite a few home visits involved in the foster care assessment process. We try to keep it to six, but it could be as many as eight. They’ll each go for a couple of hours and each one has a different theme.
This second home visit is very likely to be about genograms – or what you might call your family tree.
This is all about understanding you; your influences, beliefs and values,; and your support network. There’s no pass or fail here, and no judgement. It’s about getting to know the complete you, so we can help you become the best foster carer you can possibly be.
Other visits will be on a range of topics like how to keep records and how to manage conflicts, and we’ll talk to your birth children so they know what’s happening and we can get their impression of everything.
6. Foster carer skills training
Your training to become a foster carer will start quite soon after your application is submitted and early checks are complete.
Central to this is a three-day Skills to Foster training program. We run these every couple of months in both South and East London, usually once we have a group of five or six people who have applied.
Lika has a particular philosophy on foster care, families and human relationships, so we’ll invite you to training days on these, too. Although you can read more about our systemic and therapeutic approaches here:
7. Health checks
It’s a fact of life that people have health conditions and having one won’t exclude you from becoming a foster carer. However, we don’t want fostering to exacerbate any conditions you do have.
For this reason, you’ll be asked to fill out a medical form and then go for a special medical appointment, where your health will be assessed.
8. Meeting your support network
We call this a network meeting. It’s a chance for us to meet the people in your life who will be your support network once you become a foster carer.
We get your nearest and dearest together and ask them some questions about you, your parenting style, how you are around kids, and so on. We also ask them how they’re going to support you, how available they will be to help out when you need it, and things like that.
It sounds scarier than it is. We promise.
If you have a significant ex-partner, particularly one you share children with, then we will want to talk to them, too. (This is usually a separate meeting to the network meeting.)
We understand that relationships with ex-partners can be acrimonious or uncomfortable (and we do take that into account when assessing their answers) but we need to corroborate what we understand about your parenting style, how you are around kids, and so on.
9. A few other little assessments and tasks
There are a few other little assessments that need to be completed as part of the fostering process. Some you complete; others we complete. They include:
- A financial assessment (Experian or other credit agency)
- A health and safety assessment on your home
- At least three supervision/assessment reviews
- At least three written assessments (these aren’t like exams, but they are a bit like homework)
- A photo library of members of your family, home, and local area, to include in your assessment file.
10. Getting prepared for a placement
While there’s one big hurdle to go (the panel, see below) it’s time to start thinking about preparing your home for a foster child.
It’s time to get the room painted, get the furniture ordered, and the like.
11. Training for your biological children
Becoming a foster carer is a commitment that involves the whole family, so if you have children of your own, we provide them with training.
This training has been created to help biological children understand the fostering process and what it will mean for them as a family.
The topics it covers include:
- Why children come into care
- Why they may behave differently and need a different response from their parents
- The kinds of changes that might happen to their family life
- Ways to communicate any risks or concerns.
The language and descriptions used are tailored to the age of your children. The intention is to leave them feeling included and safe about the fostering journey ahead.
12. Matching practice
Once you’re approved to be a foster carer, you’ll experience a process called “matching”, where we find the right foster child for you and your family. You can read more about how we go about that here:
Once that process starts, things can move quite quickly, so we like to give our foster carers some practice at it. Like a rehearsal, or a dry run, if you like.
We’ll send you some referrals and ask a question like, “here’s a child; do you think they’re a good match for you?”
It helps us work out what kind of child you think you could give a home to, which ultimately helps us once the matching process starts.
13. The foster care assessment panel
This is it: the big day! Appearing before the foster care assessment panel is the last hurdle before you become a foster carer.
The panel comprises people from Lika, social workers, foster carers, former foster children, and other experts. They’ll have read all your assessment documentation before you walk into the room to meet them.
Certainly, appearing before a group of people and answering their questions can be a daunting thing to do. You can read more about what it’s like here:
Now the fun really begins
Once the foster panel has approved you as a carer, your fostering journey can begin. We’ll refer possible matches to you, guide you through your first placement with on-tap support, and provide lots more training to make sure you’re the best foster carer you can be.
Foster care in south and east London
We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea 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.