BECOMING A CARER
Matching Foster Carers: How Do Foster Carers & Children Get Matched?
At a glance
- We’re thinking about your match even before you’re approved as a carer
- The first placement is crucial, so we work hard to get it right
- What we take into account when matching foster carers and children
- Things can move quite quickly when the call comes
- What happens when we think we’ve identified a good match?
- You’re given the foster child’s profile
- What if I don’t feel it’s a good match?
- Will you pressure me into matching with a child?
- A little bit more about Lika
Carefully matching foster carers and children is the key to any foster 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 what you need to know about our approach to finding the right foster child for the right foster carer — and vice versa.
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
Gina Johnson is a long-time foster carer and a Supervising Social Worker at Lika. She’s heavily involved in Lika’s matching foster carers process. Every day, she reads dozens of profiles on young people who need foster homes.
“When I’m reading the profiles, I’ve got the carers in mind because that’s where the matches start — it’s from the carers,” she said. “It’s not just matching the children with the carers, but it’s also matching the carers to the child — especially when the carers are new.”
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. This report is designed to help Gina and the Lika team get the match right, and Gina will 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.
Lika puts a lot of energy into getting your first placement right. Obviously, that’s not a guarantee a placement will go completely as expected, but we do our very best to make sure the first one 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. Gina said she puts a lot of effort into getting your first match right to give you the best possible chance of success.
“With all new carers, I want to introduce them slowly into the role so they can build up their confidence and have a sense of building on the knowledge and skills that they’ve got,” she said. “We don’t want to give them anything more than they can handle. And if I do think there’s a little bit of a challenge there, getting them the extra support they might need. But I don’t want to put too much complexity on the foster carers.”
This is important because many people leave fostering within the first year. They try it but later 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.
We take many factors into consideration when we’re matching foster carers and their families with foster children. While there are no hard and fast rules (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 quick connection. A black Caribbean child being matched with a black Caribbean family, for example, is likely to feel much more connected more quickly.
However, it’s 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.
Gina said sometimes having the same or familiar cultural backgrounds can help foster carers and young people break the ice, find a connection and build a relationship, but it’s not essential.
We don’t rush into finding a match for newly approved foster carers. Sometimes we want you to have a few more training sessions and settle into the reality of fostering.
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.
By the time Gina is trying to find a match, we know our foster carers really well. 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 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”.
When Gina or one of the Lika team gets that “connected puzzle” feeling, we’ll 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 all 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 such as “has been physically aggressive”, but 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’ll have a conversation with the carers and talk about any worries they might have and the behaviours that any complexity might present,” Gina said. “We’ll discuss how they could facilitate that, what they could put in place, how they could manage it. If it’s a child with autism, for example, we have training that the carers can go on.
“It’s about providing them with the confidence and drawing on some of the skills that they have and those transferable skills that, if they’re open to the training, they could develop their knowledge in.”
“Then the next step is to organise a matching meeting where we can discuss all those little concerns in an open, honest conversation with the child’s social worker,” Gina said.
“The placements team will talk about what the carer has to offer, about what the carer needs to develop. We make sure that the carer is a part of those matching meetings so their voice is being heard and they’re able to get a feel for the social worker, for the young person, and the social worker to get a feel for the foster carers.
“It’s really just going quite deep, talking about any niggles, any concerns, asking what support the local authority can offer in terms of any problems that we might think might be a bit difficult for us to manage, and so on.
“But in that meeting I am there for the foster carer and I’m there to make sure the foster carer feels safe. I’m the voice for the carer.”
After the meeting, if everyone feels it is a good match, things are put in place, the paperwork is filled in, and you’ll shortly be welcoming the child into your home.
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 that 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.
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 pressure 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.
“If it doesn’t feel like it’s a good match or the foster carers feel unsure about the placement, I will not go ahead,” Gina said. “There are lots of children out there that need to be matched and the right match will come along. It’s never a case of the foster carers feeling they have to take a placement.
“What’s hard sometimes is when, as a new carer and you read a story, you feel like you want to help and you’re very eager to want to offer your support to a young person, even if the match doesn’t feel right. But I don’t want to set the placement up to fail. So, as much as we want to help all these children out there, it has to be the right match, and the carers will never feel pressurised at all. It’s a decision that we make in partnership together.”
We’ve had carers signed up with us who have waited a very long time to find the right placement — and that’s OK!
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.
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,We’re currently in Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Brent, Bexley, Bromley, Camden, City of London, Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster, Enfield, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Kingston upon Thames, Richmond upon Thames, Waltham Forest, Harrow, Essex, Nuneaton, and Tameside.