If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, you’ll probably have plenty of questions– like how long does the fostering process take?
On average, it takes between three to six months to become approved as foster carer. Or, if you’re on our fast-track assessment process, the average approval time is around 16 weeks. How long the process takes depends on a range of factors, including your availability and how long each step in your assessment takes.
At Compass, we know that choosing to begin your fostering journey is a big decision. With so much to consider, it can feel overwhelming at times. That’s why, in this article, we’re looking at one of our most frequently asked questions: how long does it take to be a foster parent?
We’ll cover the various steps involved in the assessment process and how long each one takes, giving you a clear breakdown of how your time will be spent, and why the process takes the time that it does.
Your Initial Enquiry: 24 Hours
The first step in the road to becoming a foster carer is submitting an initial enquiry. This lets us know that you’re interested in fostering and would like some more information on the subject.
Following your initial enquiry, we’ll get in touch with you within 24 hours to have an informal chat about your motivations for fostering and answer any questions you might have.
Your Initial Home Visit: 48 Hours
Following your initial enquiry, one of our Assessing Social Workers will get in contact with you within 48 hours. They’ll work with you to find a time for your Initial Visit; this will take place either virtually or face-to-face, if you’d prefer.
Initial Visit’s provide you with the opportunity to find out more about fostering with Compass, while also letting us to get to know a little bit about you. You’ll be able to ask any further questions you have, as well as showing us what you can bring to the fostering role.
Your DBS Check: Approx 8 Weeks
An enhanced DBS Check is an essential part of our fostering assessment process. This check looks at any convictions someone may have, including whether they’re barred from working with vulnerable groups, like children.
If there is anyone living in your home that is 18 years old or over, they will also need to have a DBS check to ensure that our children and young people will be safe living in your care.
DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks can take varying amounts of time to process. According to Mind UK, they usually take around 8 weeks – but how fast they are processed can depend on the area you live in and the details you provide. We make sure to get your DBS Check started as soon as possible, to make sure we allow for any length of time it may take.
Your Fostering Medical: 1-6 Months
While there is no upper age limit to fostering, we need to make sure you’re fit and healthy to become a foster carer. This doesn’t mean you have to be an athlete! But, fostering can be demanding at times, which is why all our foster carers undergo a Fostering Medical as part of their assessment.
How long this takes depends on your availability and the availability of your GP. During the medical your GP will look at things like your health background and family medical history, alongside a physical examination and some general questions about your lifestyle, including whether you smoke and how much alcohol you consume. While smoking won’t necessarily prevent you from becoming a foster carer, factors like these will have an impact on the type of fostering you can offer.
Once your fostering medical is complete, your GP will pass it on to our Compass Medical Advisors. These are individuals with an extensive knowledge of fostering; they’ll review your medical information and deem whether they believe you are ‘fit to foster!’
Your Home Visits: 3-6 Months
During your fostering assessment, you will also be allocated an Assessing Social Worker whose job it is to learn more about you and your individual situation. They’ll talk to you about your life experiences, personal relationships, support network, future plans, experience with child-care, understanding of fostering – and much more.
We understand this part of the process can feel invasive, but we’ll do our best to make you feel comfortable and at ease throughout. It’s important to remember why we need this information; to ensure our children and young people will be safe and well cared for in your home.
Like your fostering medical, how long this part of the process takes again depends on your availability, as well as the availability of your Assessing Social Worker. Generally, your Assessing Social Worker will make between 8 to 10 visits in total, getting to know your home environment and helping you fill out any necessary paperwork.
Skills to Foster Training: 3 Days
During your assessment, we’ll also sign you up for our comprehensive ‘Skills to Foster’ training course. Our Skills to Foster training course equips applicant foster carers with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to welcome their first foster child into their home.
Skills to Foster is a mandatory part of your assessment process and takes 3 days to complete in total. Led by one of our experienced Social Workers, a qualified Compass trainer and some local Compass foster parents, Skills to Foster has been designed to help prepare foster carers for the challenges and rewards that fostering can bring.
Not only will you benefit from an introduction into the world of fostering, you’ll also be able to meet fellow fostering applicants like yourself – giving you the opportunity to begin building your local fostering network.
Your Checks and References: 3 – 6 Months
When you first come into assessment with us, we’ll ask you to fill out a ‘Reference and Chronology’ form. This asks for the details of any references we can contact to help us build a picture of you and what you’ll be like as a foster carer.
Once we’ve received your form back, we can begin the checks and references part of your assessment – a process which can vary in length depending on how quickly your references get back to us. This involves getting in touch with some of the people close to you, as well as your current and past employers and other people who have got to know you. This helps us better understand you, as well as ensuring we can properly safeguard the child in our care.
Your Fostering Panel: 1 Day
Once all the above steps are completed, the final stage in your journey to becoming a foster carer is your Panel Day. We’ll give you a date for your panel during the early stages of your assessment with us, giving you plenty of time to talk with your Assessing Social Worker and prepare for your panel.
In total, the panel interview will take no more than a few hours and will likely take place virtually over Microsoft Teams. During this time, you’ll sit down with a panel of industry experts and care-experienced individuals to talk about your experience during the assessment process and your application to become a foster carer.
Once this part of the fostering panel is completed, they’ll adjourn to discuss your assessment and make a recommendation about your suitability to foster. You’ll then be invited back into the meeting to hear the outcome of their decision. All in all, this process should take no longer than a day!
So, how long does it take to be a foster parent? Well – with so many moving parts, the length of the process can vary greatly.
At Compass, we always aim to get you through the assessment process in a timely manner, so that you can begin transforming lives as soon as possible.
However, as always, the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people is our top priority – which is why we never sacrifice the thoroughness of our assessment to save time.