The length of the assessment process is usually around 16 weeks. However, this may rise to 6 months, depending upon the complexity of your personal circumstances and the speed with which checks and references are received. Every effort is made to ensure that there is no avoidable delay in the application and assessment process.
1. Request Information
The first step is for the applicant to request information pack from Acorn House or to download the booklet “You Could Be A Foster Carer”
You will speak with one of our social workers who will answer any questions you may have and in return, we will ask you several basic questions to check your suitability as a foster carer.
2. Initial Home Visit
We will arrange for a fostering assessment social worker to visit you at home and you will be given more information about the way we work and our expectations of foster carers. The assessment social worker will ask questions about your family. They will be trying to see if you have the emotional and physical space to care for other people's children in your home.
We are required to carry out these statutory checks and references:
- Medical checks. To ensure that there is no medical reason that would prevent you fostering
- An enhanced disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau, (CRB Check) This is a full and impartial confidential document detailing an individuals criminal record and where appropriate, giving information about those who are banned from working with children and / or vulnerable adults. In the event of information being disclosed in relation to a criminal record, a detailed risk assessment will be undertaken. Certain offences will immediately preclude the application from continuing.
- Proof of identity by producing certain original documents. As a minimum requirement we will need to see your passport or photo driving licence, together with proof of your current address
- Local authority checks. We will check the records of Local Authorities where you have lived to see if you are known to the social services department. If you are, we will request information from them.
- References. You will be asked to give us the names of three people who can supply us with a written reference on your suitability as a foster carer. They will be interviewed at a later date.
- References from current employer. You will be asked to provide details of your existing employer and previous employer (if in the past 12 months) from whom we can obtain a reference.
- Checks with schools for all school age children living in your household.
- A standard safety compliance check will need to be carried out on your home. You will be required to obtain a gas and electricity safety certificate and provide copies of these to the assessor.
NOTE - All the information we gather about you throughout the process remains confidential.
The social worker will put together an initial report based on your discussions, which will recommend whether or not you are to be sent an application form.
3. Preparation and Assessment
Once you and the Agency agree to proceed with your application, the assessment process can begin.
The assessment process takes the form of several home visits (usually 6 – 8) by a highly qualified social worker with knowledge and experience of fostering. The fostering assessment social worker will speak with all members of your household. They will be particularly interested in talking to your own children, as they will be significantly affected. Your children are as much a part of fostering as you.
A report (Form F) will be written by the assessment social worker; you will be actively involved in this process. The Form F is a descriptive report and is a standard way of collecting and presenting information about you and your ability to carry out the tasks involved in fostering. The Form F asks you to provide "evidence" to show you meet the competencies required to carry out the fostering task. Your assessment social worker will explain competencies and evidence in much more detail with you.
4. Skills to Foster Training
During the assessment, a training course, based on the Fostering Network’s ‘Skills to Foster’ model, is provided which covers the responsibilities of being a foster carer and working with Acorn House. All prospective foster carers must attend this training. If you are applying as a couple, you will both be expected to participate
During the assessment process, applicants will be helped to compile a portfolio of written material giving examples of their relevant experience and skills.
The Skills to Foster is a two-way process. You will find out more about fostering and we will have a better idea about you and the approach you might take to fostering. You will explore the following topics in depth:
- Sharing your home and family with other people
- Acorn House policies. Same race placement, equal opportunities, child protection and safeguarding procedures
- A positive approach to discipline, managing behaviour without humiliating or smacking the child
- Working in partnership with social workers and the child's family
- Sexual abuse
- Practical information
Notes will be taken on your participation and these will form part of the overall assessment. Your participation in the sessions will also be observed.
5. The Fostering Panel
The content of the Form F assessment report, excluding all references, will be shared with you and then presented to the Agency’s Fostering Panel. This panel is made up of independent people who make the decision about your final approval as a foster carer.
To assist in the decision-making process, applicants are expected to attend the Panel meeting.
Your approval will specify how many children, of what ages and what gender may be placed with you. You will be informed in writing of the panel's decision. It will give clear reasons if it refuses your application
Applicants are informed verbally and in writing about the agency decision and if you are approved to become a foster carer you will be continuously monitored and supported through the Foster Carer Review process.
6. Foster Carer Agreement / Review
Foster carers must sign a written agreement. It sets out your responsibilities as a foster carer and our duties to support you. Your approval as a foster carer is reviewed every year to take into account any changes in your circumstances.
7. After Approval
After you are approved at Panel you will be allocated a Supervising Social Worker and will receive a Foster Carers handbook and induction.
You are now eligible to foster.
If you do not agree with any part of the assessment or the decision of the Panel or feel you were treated unfairly, you have the right to appeal. Details of the process are outlined fully in our Complaints Procedure which is available on request.