How do foster carers and children get matched?
When it comes to matching foster carers with children, finding a good match between foster child and foster carer is the key to any placement getting off to the best possible start.
Naturally, if you’re a new foster carer, or are interested in becoming a foster carer, you will have questions about how this matching process works. This article will help you understand how we at Lika go about finding matches. (Please note, we can’t speak for other foster agencies or local authorities where their process – and your experience – might be different.)
So, here’s how we go about finding the right foster child for the right foster carer – and vice versa.
Matching foster carers – we’re thinking about your match even before you’re approved as a carer
By the time you are ready to be matched with a foster child, you will have been through your full assessment. That means the whole team will have a really good idea of your background, your experiences and values.
Your assessor will have made recommendations about what stage you are at and what you’re willing and able to handle. They’ll have written a profile based on all your conversations with an overview of your family situation. It’s designed to help us get the match right, so we’ll be thinking about that as children are referred to us for placement.
If you have your own children at home, they will be central to our thinking, too.
The first placement is crucial, so we work hard to get it right
We put a lot of energy into getting your first placement right. Obviously that’s not a guarantee a placement will go well, but we do our very best to make sure that first placement is a good match for your skills and abilities.
As you start your fostering journey, your first placement will, no doubt, be a big learning curve – and you will be tested. Our team putting a lot of effort into getting your first match right will give you the best possible chance of success.
This is important because many people leave fostering in the first year. They try it and they stop because it’s not what they expected. Some people might have been naïve about the challenges of fostering.
Our goal is to make sure that by the time you’re being matched, you have been through rigorous training and are mentally prepared for the times ahead.
What we take into account when matching foster carers and children
When we’re matching carers and their families with foster children, we take into consideration many factors. While there are no hard and fast rules on any of this (what is important is getting the right match), here are some of the things we consider:
- Skills and abilities
- Training already undertaken
- Cultural background
- Values and beliefs
- Life experiences
- Family composition, structure and situation.
We’re looking for similarities that will help create a connection quickly. A black Caribbean child going into a black Caribbean family is likely to feel much more connected more quickly, for example.
However, it is not always the case that similar cultural backgrounds will provide a better match than a family with similar experiences. For example, we have a black Caribbean family who have a white British placement, and this particular match is special because the child and the carer have had similar life experiences. This means the carer can manage the child’s behaviours through their understanding of the child’s experiences.
It’s really about the needs of the child and whether they need a carer with similar family values or with particular skills.
When the call comes, things can move quite quickly
We don’t rush in to finding a match for newly approved foster carers. We want you to have a few more training sessions and settle into the reality of fostering.
So, it’s not a case of being approved one day and having a foster child in your home the next.
However, when the call does come, it probably will all happen very quickly. Most placements happen within 24 to 48 hours.
What happens when we think we’ve identified a good match
One member of our team is dedicated to looking at the referrals that come through from the local authorities with which we work (Croydon, Hackney, Barking, Dagenham, Lewisham, Redbridge, Ilford and Newham).
As mentioned above, by this stage we know our foster carers really well, so when
we’re reading the profile of a child, we often get a “feeling” when we think we’ve found a good match.
Social workers, can get a bit excited when reading about a particular young person, their qualities and what they need, and can just see how they might fit together with a particular foster carer. It’s a bit like that clicking noise when you put a puzzle together – they can just see “that will work”.
You’re given the foster child’s profile
When we get that “connected puzzle” feeling, we contact the foster carer and say “we’re sending a profile through, have a quick read and we’ll have a chat about your initial thoughts”.
We’re hoping they’ll get that same feeling we did!
At this point, there might be some areas on the child’s profile where there is not enough information. Perhaps it says the child has been physically aggressive, for example, but gives no detailed information. (Often a profile might say something like “has been physically aggressive”, but then when we look into it, it’s nothing that would be a risk in a placement. So we look into these things to reassure ourselves.)
We then take any concerns you might have and any questions we have and go back to the child’s social worker for more information, so we can work out if it is a good match.
If everyone feels it is a good match, then things are put in place, the paperwork is filled in, and you’ll shortly be welcoming the child into your home.
What if I don’t feel it’s a good match?
It’s OK to say you don’t think a particular foster child will make a good match for you. If you do make that decision, we’ll ask you a few questions to make sure we understand why.
Often it can be the case a carer doesn’t feel experienced enough in something that is listed on the child’s profile (perhaps autism, for example), but we can provide specialist training that can give you the skills and information to resolve this concern.
Will you pressure me into matching with a child?
As a new carer, you’ve probably heard stories from other carers about feeling pressured to accept a placement they didn’t feel was right for them. Unfortunately, in some places, this is a common story.
At Lika, if you are categorically against a certain placement, we certainly won’t pressurise you into it. We don’t want to force you into any placement as, if we did that child would be at a disadvantage from day one – with a carer who doesn’t really want them in their home.
How we approach matching foster carers at Lika
We believe the thoughtfulness and the time we put into the process makes all the difference – even though there’s a quick turnaround from matching to placement.
We have someone dedicated to the referrals process, but every placement is a collaborative decision. We ensure you’re kept up-to-date throughout the process. We’d much rather have a foster carer with no placement than a bad match.
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.
We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Ilford, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea.