When you’re applying to become a foster carer, one of the steps is to have what we call an Initial Home Visit.
This home visit is essential and takes place whether you’re on the fast track application process or the usual one.
Our potential foster carers usually feel nervous about this visit, but there is no need to worry unduly. It’s really an opportunity for you to find out more about us, as well as for us to find out more about you.
So, let’s lift the lid on what happens behind closed doors during the Initial Home Visit: who you’ll see, what to expect and what sort of questions will be asked.
The home visit – step by step
The Initial Home Visit normally lasts between one and a half and two hours and has a relaxed and informal feel. The objective is to decide whether or not your application to foster a child can proceed.
1. Who attends?
You’ll be visited by one of our recruitment officers, a manager from your local agency team or one of our supervising social workers.
All adults in your home will need to attend the meeting. It’s fine for older children to attend, too, if they want to.
We generally don’t recommend younger children coming to the initial home visit, although they will be actively involved later on in the applications process if you decide to proceed.
“It was a pleasure getting to know the family during the assessment process as we built up a close trusting relationship where we can be open and honest with each other. We now have this as to day-to-day support/advice – as I have become their supervising social worker.”
Michael, supervising social worker
2. What topics will we discuss?
We’ll spend time talking to you about your current situation, your family life and home circumstances, a bit about your background and, most importantly, why you want to become a foster carer.
As well as finding out about you, you will have plenty of time to ask us any questions you have about fostering. Normally people have lots of questions and we encourage you to ask whatever is on your mind.
We’ll discuss the kinds of children you might be caring for and the issues they might face, too, and the different people you’ll be required to liaise with.
3. What questions will I be asked?
We want to be sure everyone who applies to become a foster carer understands what the role entails, is committed to doing what is needed, and is suited to looking after vulnerable children.
Our questions cover many different things, from your experience of caring for children through to your current lifestyle.
How in-depth do the questions get?
Some questions might feel a little intrusive, but you probably understand why we need to ask them. We’re doing our best to make sure we’re recruiting the right people to care for children who have had a difficult start to life.
The ‘right people’ in this sense are people with the skills and desire to create great outcomes for fostered children. We’re an inclusive fostering agency that welcomes diversity, including applications from people from a wide range of backgrounds. More about this below!
If you decide to proceed with your application to become a foster carer, the approvals process is in-depth. We’ll look in detail at your background, history and childcare experience. In many ways, the initial visit will give you a taster of this process.
Our fostering applicants generally agree they learn valuable things about themselves during the approvals process and it can be an enjoyable and enlightening experience.
“Right from the start they were brilliant, through the initial assessment and on to panel, they couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive, what a difference to our experience with a local authority.
“We have been with National Fostering Group now for 2 years and we couldn’t be happier, the level of support is outstanding, both for ourselves and more importantly for the looked after children.”
John & Ginny, foster carers
What happens after the home visit?
Following the meeting, we will prepare a report and make a recommendation about whether or not the application can go ahead.
The decision to proceed or not is also partly yours. Roughly half of people who have an initial home visit don’t proceed with the application process straight away.
Often this is because they decide it’s not the right time for them. There can be a variety of different reasons for this, ranging from stressful situations at work through to planned home improvements.
Our door is always open
In fact, on average we find it takes around two years from when someone first begins to consider fostering to when they actually apply!
If, after your visit, you’re given the green light to apply but decide not, please keep in touch. Your circumstances might change and, if they do, we’d love to hear from you again.
Who can foster?
We welcome foster carers from a diversity of different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life, as well as members of the LGBT+ community, people who are single or married, homeowners, people who rent and many more.
If you have criminal convictions, we will discuss the nature of the offences with you. Minor offences should not normally prevent you from fostering, although more serious offences often will.
Foster children need a space they can relax and call their own. If you don’t have a spare bedroom, it’s unlikely that your application to foster can go ahead at this time.
Deciding to become a foster carer is a major life change and it is important to think carefully about it and to do it at a time that is right for you and your family. This will also offer the foster child the best chance of settling in comfortably.
If you’re ready to talk and ask us questions about for to become a foster carer, including the initial home visit, get in touch with your local foster agency team.