When you’re preparing to foster, one of the first things you’ll probably start researching is the fostering process. From the application process to the fostering panel, there is a lot of information to take in before you are approved and can welcome the first child into your home.
Becoming a foster carer is a big decision, one that is as rewarding as it is challenging, and there are a lot of things to think about and consider when you choose to start the process.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to start the foster care process and start making a difference in the lives of some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children and young people.
Process of becoming a foster carer
The first step towards becoming a foster carer and changing the lives of children in care is to make your initial enquiry. At FCA Scotland, our local team is available to chat over the phone about any questions you might have and will spend time getting to know you and finding out a bit about your current situation.
Once you are happy to continue and explore fostering further, the next steps of the process will begin.
The Home Visit
After your initial enquiry, our team will organise a home visit with one of our friendly fostering advisors. If you would prefer a virtual home visit then this is no problem at all, and we can arrange this via a video call.
During this home visit, our advisor will give you some more information and details about what it’s like to foster with FCA Scotland, the fostering process Scotland follows, what your role as a foster carer will entail, and lots more (feel free to scribble notes as you go!)
This is also a great opportunity for you to ask as many questions as you’d like, such as how the matching process works, whether you need to leave your current job, and what the different types of fostering are. Don’t worry, there is no such thing as a stupid question, and our advisors are there to help.
By the end of the visit, you should hopefully have decided whether now is the right time to foster, and if you are suitable to foster, you can start completing an application form.
The Fostering Assessment
After completing your application and it has been accepted, the next step is to start your fostering assessment.
At the start of the assessment process you’ll be allocated a Recruitment Support Officer (RSO). The role of the RSO is to support and guide you throughout the process; explaining the steps involved and instructing you on what you need to do, such as book your DBS check, Drs appointment, and invite you to the relevant training. They will be your point of contact and keep you on track to ensure your assessment runs smoothly.
During this time, one of our lovely social workers will also visit you up to ten times to gather information about your home, family, relationships, and health, and to discuss any experience you might have that will help you in your fostering journey.
You will also be asked to provide fostering references from friends or family, and certain background checks (such as a Disclosure Scotland Check, health medical assessment, home assessment, and pet assessment) will be made for legal reasons.
We understand these questions might seem a little intrusive, but the checks are essential for assuring the safety of our children in care. Don’t worry, this is all part of the process to ensure you’ll make a wonderful foster carer. All this information will be put together in a report which will be later seen by a fostering panel.
Throughout the fostering assessment process, you’ll also be allocated a foster carer buddy so you and your family will benefit from support and guidance from someone who's already been in your shoes. Their own first-hand experience of the fostering journey means they can provide empathic, insightful advice to guide you through the process smoothly, along with also sharing similarities with your own circumstances.
At FCA Scotland, not only are we here to support our foster carers 24/7, but we also ask you to take part in essential training to give you the confidence and skills you need to succeed in fostering.
Our fostering preparation training course will give you a full understanding of fostering, from the next steps to becoming a foster carer, what it’s like to be a child in foster care, and the knowledge and skills required to be a carer.
This training also allows you to meet other foster carers so you can start making bonds and connections with other foster families.
Once your assessment is complete, it will be presented to an independent fostering panel, which you will be invited to attend. To help make things easier for you, the panel will take place in a venue local to where you live or virtually, and your assessing social worker will be there to support you so you’ll never feel alone. The panel of independent people from various backgrounds will review your application, and ask you some questions about your home, lifestyle, and the like.
The panel lasts for about an hour and you’ll be told their recommendation during your time there, so you don’t have to worry when you go home.
The recommendation given by the panel along with your assessment is reviewed by our agency decision maker, who will make the final decision about your suitability to become a foster carer.
We know this is a lot of information to take in, and with so much to go through, you’re probably wondering just how long is the process to become a foster carer.
The foster care application process can take on average between four to six months, with the foster care approval process finalising your application to becoming a foster carer.
This might seem like an eternity, but having this time is essential for ensuring you’re a suitable candidate to care for some of the most vulnerable children and young people. It’s also a great opportunity for you to talk to your friends and family about your decision to become a foster carer. Use this time to consider your work and family, and how they can fit around the fostering process, and start to get excited about welcoming your first foster child into your family.
Part of fostering is making sure you can fit the process and application around your work and family. It is, after all, something that involves everyone in the household.
Some common questions we’re often asked include things like when will I get paid, when should I give up my job, and, when should I start telling my family. We understand it’s a lot to take in when you decide to start the fostering application process, and hopefully, these answers will help.
When will I get paid?
Being a foster carer is a full-time role, and we believe you deserve to be rewarded for your hard work, care, and dedication to making a difference in a child’s life.
Your allowances and rewards begin the moment a child is placed in your care. While the weekly fee you receive will depend on the type of placement, the child’s age, and if they have any additional needs, our average fostering fee is around £435 per child per week.
On top of your weekly allowance, you’ll also receive rewards such as a summer and winter £250 bonus payment each year, up to 14 nights paid respite, annual events to recognise your important role, an appreciation bonus each year, discounts on shops across the UK and family experiences, and much more.
Do I need to give up my job?
If you are currently working and are wondering if you need to quit your job in order to foster, then the answer can vary. Foster carers are often required to reduce their hours and some will need to quit altogether, depending on the child’s age or needs. However, if you’re looking to foster older children or teenagers, or you have a long-term placement child who is nicely settled, then it might be possible to continue working on a part-time or even full-time basis.
Our generous fostering allowances and payments take into account the needs of your family and your foster child. This includes everything from food and clothing to travel, bills, and everyday living. Because of this allowance, it might not be necessary for you to continue working in your current role.
We understand that it’s not always realistic for every fostering household to give up a steady income. If you have any concerns or worries then we’re here to talk you through your options.
When should I tell my family?
Fostering is an enriching experience for the whole family, but we understand it won’t always be easy. You might experience awkward questions from friends and family or feelings of unease from your birth children (if you have them).
This is why we always recommend telling those close to you about your decision to foster as soon as you start the process. Take the time to explain your decision, and why it’s important to you, and be prepared to answer any questions they might have. Having a solid support network around you is so important, and telling those close to you about your decision to foster early on will give them time to get used to the idea - and even get excited about it!
At FCA Scotland we provide care and support for the whole fostering family, and our team of social workers will always make the time to talk to everyone in the household about their feelings, so they always feel valued and listened to.
How should I prepare for my first foster child?
It’s totally normal to feel both excited and nervous when you’re preparing to welcome your first child in care.
As we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know you and your situation, we’ll ensure we place a child who we believe will be a good match. At FCA Scotland we have a high success rate in matching children to the most suitable families, with over 95% of all children we place remaining with their foster family for six months or more. So once we have the best match for you and your family, we’ll do all we can to introduce you to each other as soon as possible, so you can get to know one another. You’ll also be made aware of their background and any specific needs they might have.
Once you know a little more about your foster child, you’ll be able to personalise their room a bit and stock the cupboard with their favourite foods to help them feel at home. You can ask questions about their likes and hobbies, and have fun with your family creating a safe and secure space they’ll love.
Your FCA Scotland support team will be on hand 24/7 to assure you and to give you any help or guidance you might need. Even if all you need is a friendly ear to listen to your thoughts.