We aim to make your enquiry and the fostering application process for our foster carers as easy as possible, to give you peace of mind and ensure you know what is happening every step of the way.
Start your journey with the first step.
Step 1. Request Information
The first step is for the applicant to either request an information pack via our website, or contact the office and speak to a team member. You can also download our “Could you be a Foster Carer?”
Step 2. Initial Visit
We will arrange for a member of staff to visit you at home and you will be given more information about the way we work and our expectations of foster carers. The member of staff will ask questions about your family and your home environment. They will be assessing to see if you have the emotional and physical space to care for other people’s children in your home. They will pull together an initial report based on your discussions and any observations, which will then be passed to a member of management to make a recommendation whether or not to proceed to an application.
Step 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 8 -12) by an assessing 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 task as you will be. A report (CoramBAAF 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/your family and your ability to carry out the tasks involved in fostering. The Form F requires evidence to demonstrate how 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.
Step 4. Skills to Foster
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 other professionals 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.
Step 5. The Fostering Panel
The content of the Form F assessment report, will be shared with you and then presented to the Agency’s Fostering Panel. This panel is made up of independent people who make a recommendation to the Agencies Decision Maker (ADM) about your approval as a foster carer. To assist with this process, applicants are required 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 ADM’s decision. It will give clear reasons if your application is not approved. Once approved you will be continuously monitored and support through the foster care task and all subsequent reviews of your approval. (at least once every 12 months)
What to Expect
The one thing most prospective foster carers are most apprehensive about is how they can be sure if the foster child will fit in with their family, and what happens if they don’t. Before embarking upon becoming a foster carer, it helps to know what to expect, both from us, the foster care agency, and from the young people in need of foster care. In this section you can find out a little more about typical foster care placements and about our matching process. Reading through the testimonials will also help you to get an idea of what to expect from the fostering experience.
The Matching Process
One of the keys to successful fostering for both young people and carers is closely matching the needs of the young person with an appropriately skilled and compatible carer. For Acorn House, the matching process is central to achieving positive outcomes. During the application process prospective carers have the opportunity to agree with their case worker the type of child that would thrive best under their care, and this includes specifying age range, gender, ethnicity and religion if these are important to the individual carer. We always try to place children in homes that are culturally as similar as possible to their own family which helps to minimise the disruption and alleviate the young person’s sense of dislocation as far as possible. Where possible we offer every child an introductory period to a proposed foster carer so that he or she has the opportunity to give their view too.
Actively Involving Young People and Carers Alike
Although ultimately it is the Local Authorities that decide whether a placement goes ahead or not, we ensure that both the prospective foster carer and were possible the child/children needing the placement are involved in the matching process. We evaluate all the information received about the young person and best matches are achieved by sharing this information between everyone involved – the child, their family, the proposed foster carers. Foster carers always have the opportunity to decide whether they want to take a child into their family home or not, and their opinions, preferences and decisions are always respected. Our ethical approach to the matching process can mean that finding the right placement for each carer may sometimes take a little longer, but in our opinion, this is a small price to pay in the interest of ensuring we have happy cared for children with happy foster carers.
Placements – About Young People in Foster Care
Young people may be in need of a foster home for all kinds of reasons, such as a sole parent being admitted to hospital through to custody disputes or more serious family problems. What unites them all is that they are separated from their parents and sometimes their siblings until their home circumstances change. Many may have been taken into care at short notice or as the result of a traumatic event or series of events. Some may never have known what it is like to live in and contribute positively to a family unit. Almost all of the young people requiring foster care will be feeling confused, angry, betrayed, hurt, insecure or uncertain about their future. And as with all children, negative emotions can lead to challenging behaviour. There are a lot more older children (10+) than infants requiring foster homes, and typically it is boys more than girls that struggle the most to find secure long-term homes.
Hard Work but Immensely Rewarding
Acorn House believes it is important for prospective foster carers to know what to expect from foster placements so that they do not have a rose-tinted view of life. However, as you will no doubt read in our testimonials, often it is the simplest things like sharing a family meal, or going along to watch them play in a football match that can bring such joy to these young peoples’ lives. Most foster carers say that they feel the opportunity to improve young peoples’ lives is a privilege and an immensely rewarding experience that far outweighs the hard work and challenges.