If you’re thinking about becoming a foster parent, there are a few things you will need to know before starting this process; however, do not feel you need to know everything right away. It’s likely that you have a lot of questions. One we’re asked often is ‘how long does it take to become a foster carer? And why does the process take the time it does?’
On average it takes three to six months to become a foster carer. But this can vary depending on every individual’s assessment.
Deciding to be a foster carer is something that will take a lot of time. There is lots of research to do beforehand, and it can be a little overwhelming. There are lots of factors to think about, like how your family will be affected by fostering, and whether you have certain work commitments to consider.
There are a lot of elements involved in the fostering assessment, and some of them can take some time. Our assessing social workers will always try to work with you to get you to panel sooner rather than later- but sometimes there’s things you just can’t, (and shouldn’t), rush.
Your DBS check
DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) Checks can take some time to process, depending on the area you live in, the last stages of a DBS can take a little while because a police check is needed. We make sure to get your DBS started as soon as you start your assessment with us, to make sure we allow for any length of time it may take.
DBS checks are required by many employers, and it provide a personal background check on the individual. Our fostering assessment requires an enhanced DBS check, this can only be requested by employers on behalf of you. This enhanced check looks at any convictions someone may have or whether they are barred from working with vulnerable groups, like children.
If you have anyone else living in your home 18 and over, they will also need to have a DBS check. It is vital that we know the adults in the home are safe to be around. This includes birth children, lodgers, and partners.
DBS checks are very important to have as a foster carer, and this is one of the main factors in your Form F.
Your fostering medical
We ask each of our prospective foster carers to undergo a fostering medical to check that you’re fit and healthy to foster. You don’t have to be in the best shape of your life, we know that this isn’t possible for everyone; we won’t expect you to be an athlete!
But it is important that you are able to do things like pick up and drop off young people on school runs, be mobile to help with the child’s needs and generally are able to get about. Once you have your medical with your GP, they will send it on to our Compass medical advisors. They have a vast knowledge of fostering and what may or may not affect someone’s ability to foster. If all goes well, the ‘MA’ will approve this, and you will be deemed ‘fit to foster’.
You will have a Form F assessor allocated to your assessment. This is a social worker who will take you through the process of talking through your future plans, along with your past. You will build a relationship with your assessor as time goes on. Generally, there are usually about 8 to 10 visits they will make with you to fill out your paperwork.
They will get to know you, your family and even perhaps your friends who will be in your support network.
The questions we ask will be designed to find out how fostering could affect you and your family. We ask you to be as honest as possible with us, and if you have anxieties, our Compass teams will be happy to talk you through them.
Many of our carers talk about how cathartic the assessment process is. It can bring up a lot of experiences from your past that you may not have worked through, but this can show your resilience and can only help towards your fostering experience.
Your checks and references
Your own local Recruitment Administrator will be committed to help you through your checks and references section. This is someone who will contact you via phone and email to talk you through the ‘admin’ part of the process. They are there to keep all your paperwork safe and confidential, along with giving you any advice you may need along the way.
When you first come into assessment with us, you will be asked to fill out a ‘Reference and Chronology’ report. This will be things like past employment, home addresses and details of people you will want to give you a personal reference. This can be friends or family.
If you’ve had experience with working with children, we’ll need to request references from previous employers; this is so we can properly safeguard the children in our care.
Skills to foster
Being prepared for fostering is very important. This is why we run a 3-day Skills to Foster course that equips you with the knowledge and confidence to welcome your first foster child in your home.
You will be part of a group that is led by one of our Compass trainers, a qualified Compass Social Worker and one of your local Compass foster parents. The course aims to provide a safe and fun space for you to get to know other carers in your area going through the same process, learn and hear about the experiences of our insightful staff.
How long does it take to be a foster parent? We could almost say how long is a piece of string. We will always aim to get you through the process as quickly as we are able to. It will take teamwork from you with your availability along with our teams to keep your assessment on track.
The fostering process can seem daunting, and sometimes it may feel like it has gone on for a long while. But it will be all worth it, if you want to hear about the experiences of some of our fantastic carers, you can read our blogs here.
Providing a safe home for a foster child can change their life forever. If you’re considering welcoming a child in need into your family, please get in touch with the Compass Fostering team to learn about the process and the support we offer our carers.