Whether you’re at the very start of your fostering journey and doing research before you make an initial enquiry, or whether you’re preparing to have an assessment soon, we understand that you may feel apprehensive about this step.
As you’d expect, the fostering assessment process involves an in-depth analysis, but it shouldn’t be intimidating or frightening. So, to help you feel more at ease when your own assessment approaches, today we’re going to outline how a foster care assessment works in a little more detail for you.
The foster care assessment is usually the third stage in the foster care application journey. Following an initial enquiry, which may happen over the telephone or in person, you will receive a fostering pack full of information to help you decide if fostering could be a good fit for you. You will also have the opportunity to speak to our Carer Engagement Officer, Nicky over the phone who can answer any questions you might have and help give you an understanding about fostering for Alpha Plus. Next you will be visited by one of our social work team who will talk to you in more detail about fostering and how it might impact on your lifestyle, as well as answering any questions you may have about the process. If you decide to proceed with Alpha Plus, the next step is to complete a fostering application form. This will be followed by your fostering assessment.
Once we receive your completed application form, we will allocate an Assessing Social Worker who will work with you and your family during the assessment process. They will visit you at your home on a number of occasions over a period of a few months and work through your application with you, gathering information about your family life, your background and history and about current and previous relationships.
You will probably have been told during your enquiry and course that the assessment can appear intrusive and there is no question or apology that you and the social worker will be become intimately acquainted! The fostering assessment has no set time and you can be approved in a matter of months, we aim to complete it in less than 4 months but it can take over a year if necessary, depending on your circumstances.
So what does the assessment consist of? Well mostly it’s you doing a lot of talking about yourself!
In no particular order, be prepared to discuss your family and origins, your relationship with your parents and siblings, religion, your childhood as well as any previous relationships and ex partners. Discussing your ex partners is one that a lot of people can find difficult and social workers are often asked ‘why do you need to know that’? If you’ve been previously married or have children with an ex partner, the social worker is required to contact them which again some applicants can find invasive. We do take a realistic approach to these references and understand that relationship breakdowns can be difficult and this will all be taken into account.
It is not uncommon for applicants to express anxieties about issues from their past coming up during the Form F, that they may feel they no longer want to talk about or that it could reflect badly on them and hinder their chances of success. We often find that difficult life experiences can be a positive during the assessment process. Where applicants are able to demonstrate that they have overcome stressful life experiences and that they are able to reflect and learn from these events, this will reflect positively on an applicant’s resilience and capacity to manage stress effectively. Furthermore, an applicant who has had to face their own personal challenges in life is more likely to be able to draw on their experiences and demonstrate empathy towards a child in their care.
There are legitimate reasons behind these personal questions and the bottom line is that the assessing social worker is required to check every link possible in order to protect any children going into your care. These requirements are outlined in the 2013 Government document: Fostering services: assessment and approval of foster carers The reality is that you want to help children who have probably lived in very difficult and vulnerable circumstances and it is now our job to do everything in our power to protect them.
The questions you are asked will be probing, but are designed to find out how fostering might impact on you and your family, so it’s important to answer fully and honestly. Your assessor will always try and make you feel as relaxed as possible. This process will help your assessor put together what is known as a Form F in relation to your application. This form is a mandatory requirement for all fostering applications regardless of who you want to foster with. The report will pull the collected information together and you will have the opportunity to review your Form F before it is passed to the Fostering Panel. You will meet with the Panel to discuss your application and find out whether they will be recommending that your application be progressed. This gives you the opportunity to discuss with them your experiences, circumstances and other details outlined in the form.
Hopefully this post has helped you feel a little more relaxed about the fostering process as a whole and about any approaching assessment meetings you may have. Our team will do everything they can to make the process run as smoothly as possible If you’re unsure whether you could be suitable for fostering or you’ve been put off by what seemed like a scary process in the past, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here. We are always happy to answer questions to put any concerns you may have at ease.