Our primary responsibility at Fostering First is to make sure children are placed in the care of couples or individuals who have the personal qualities, skills, safe and practical requirements to provide foster care.
But the process involved in assessing and training is also designed to ensure that applicants are making the right decision.
It has to be rigorous and detailed to achieve this; however, we don’t expect individuals or couples who contact us expressing an interest to become carers to already be equipped with all the attributes required.
All we are looking for in the assessment process is to ascertain that they have the right qualities, have fully considered what being a foster carer entails and are prepared to work towards acquiring the skills they will need.
Potential foster carers contact us in many ways. They may phone or email with an inquiry, or we may meet them first at one of the regular drop-in sessions we organise (details of the next drop-in sessions and contact details are below).
When we receive an initial inquiry, one of our experienced team will answer any immediate questions they have and check a few details to see whether there is anything immediately apparent this may prevent them becoming a foster carer.
For example, foster carers must also be over 21 and have a spare bedroom to accommodate a foster child.
If the applicant fits the basic criteria they will be sent an information pack full of details about types of fostering, the challenges and emotional rewards it can bring, the assessment and training process, and the support which Fostering First provides.
On reading the information pack it may be that the individual or couple concerned may decide that fostering is not for them.
If that’s the case, then we understand their decision and there’s no pressure from us to proceed with an application.
If they wish to progress, we can arrange for one of the team to meet with the applicants at the home to discuss the Fostering process further.
Looking at details such as their personal circumstances, health and family issues, the home environment they can provide, the type of fostering they would prefer and the age range of children they would like to care for.
We also ask for references and permission to carry out checks on criminal records.
At this stage it’s rare that one detail about an applicant will in itself bar them from being considered to become a foster carer – the purpose is to allow us to build up a complete picture of the applicants and the environment they can provide so that an objective decision about their suitability to foster can be made.
Once an application form is completed, the next stage is to attend a four-day Prepare to Foster training course.
This will involve presentations, workshops and the chance to meet existing foster carers.
After training, applicants will begin an assessment called the Form F which may take up to six months.
Once the assessment is completed, the applicant and their Fostering Officer are required to attend a fostering panel.
This panel will make a decision based on the details in the report about approval and suitability.
Once approved, Fostering First will begin looking for suitable children to place in their care and continue to provide support and training as and when required.
It may be days, weeks or months before foster carers look after a child for the first time – it depends upon the needs of children in care and the type of fostering which the new carers are able to provide.
The assessment process may seem lengthy and complex at first glance.
However, it’s necessary to ensure not only that we at Fostering First are recruiting the right people as carers and that we also give applicants the chance to understand and manage the challenges that they may face when fostering.
Making the right decision for all parties is the number one priority, there will be times in your fostering career when you find it hard but there will also be times when it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do.
This quote from a foster carer sums it up perfectly: ‘No role will ever love you back as fostering does.’
Fostering First is running a series of drop-in sessions to allow anyone interested find out if fostering is for them. There are two sessions remaining – on Tuesday February 4 at Church on the Rock, Princes Road, Ramsey, and on Thursday February 6 at Peel Centenary Centre, Athol Street, Peel. Both run from 3pm to 7pm. To find out more about fostering just attend one of the drop-in sessions or contact Fostering First, Family Placement Services, 97 Woodbourne Road, Douglas, or call 631947, or email email@example.com