Becoming a foster family is one of the most rewarding and extraordinary experiences a family will undergo. As well as giving a child in need a loving and supportive home, fostering can also bring an existing family closer together, as you aid and support one another through what can be a challenging time.
To be a successful foster family there are several processes a family needs to go through in order to foster a child.
The assessment process usually takes around three to four months. Assessments will be taken by a supervising social worker who will support the family through these thorough checks.
Initially, the family must give consent for checks to be undertaken. Checks will be made by the Criminal Records Bureau and Local Authorities. A full medical check is also required, which is normally paid for by the fostering agency.
The family must provide three referees (non-family members) who can comment on their suitability to become a foster family.
The family will be regularly visited by a Supervising Social Worker to enable them to collect all of the information for the assessment report. The report is then presented to the Fostering Panel.
Although the process is quite lengthy, the rewards of being a foster family will be well worth the process.
Identifying a Child
Once an application has been approved, the foster family can start looking for a child who is in need a loving home. In some cases, the agency may already have a child in mind for the family; however foster parents do have the option to choose the child they wish to foster.
Matching a Child with a Foster Family
When a possible match has been considered, the agency will approach the foster family with a few details about the child. The foster parent’s social worker will pass the family’s details onto the child’s social worker. If each individual believes that this match would be beneficial for both the child and the foster family, the family will be offered a more descriptive report about the child, containing details of the child’s background, birth family and history. Other reports such as medical and educational will also be given to the foster family.
If everyone agrees that this is still a good match, the child’s social worker will visit the family, giving them the opportunity to ask any questions. This also enables the social worker to see if the foster family is right for the child.
If approved, the match between the child and the foster family will be considered by the Fostering Panel. After reviewing the foster family’s recommendations and comments from the child’s social worker, the decision-maker of the child will decide whether or not the foster family is the right for the child.
Meeting the Child/Children
Meeting the child for the first time can be both an exciting and anxious time for foster families. The family will be introduced to the child gradually over a period of time. As well as meeting the child, the foster family will also meet people associated with the child, for example, the child’s birth parents, the child’s existing foster family, as well as the child’s social worker.
If the foster family has any concerns, they can opt out at this stage if they feel the match isn’t right.
Moving in with the Foster Family
When the child is placed in the foster family’s home, they will receive regular visits from the child’s social worker who will assess how well the placement is going. Both the foster family and child will need to provide the social worker will regular reviews of their experiences with one another in order to assess the child’s welfare and progress.
During this time the foster family will also have contact with the child’s birth family and professionals who are associated with the child.
Supporting the Foster Family
A foster family will undergo continuous training to ensure they are suitable for looking after children. Foster families will also have annual reviews, enabling them to recognise their strengths and weaknesses as foster parents. Foster families will be given further training and support following these reviews.
When a foster family is matched with a child permanently, the foster family will receive financial support, as well as health and educational support. Fostering agencies are always on-side to support foster families during evenings, weekends and public holidays should they need immediate guidance.