The fostering application process currently takes around eight months to complete in most cases. It's a very thorough process which means it does take time and we do ask a lot of questions. The way to think about it is, if your own children needed care, you would want the people stepping in on your behalf to be fully prepared. We make sure that you are fully supported throughout the process and that by the time you are approved as a foster carer you are ready to meet the needs of the children.
You'll undertake tailored training based on your needs before you're approved. It doesn't stop there though; we'll continue to support your development and professional skills with training and qualifications throughout your fostering career.
This is the only step you'll take alone, but once you have you'll find support through the rest of the application process and beyond.
A team member will visit you in your home. They will give you further information about fostering in general as well as details about the assessment process, the support & training you will receive and answer any questions you may have.
They will also ask you about your life such as current work commitments, health, family etc to ensure that your personal circumstances are appropriate for fostering.
You will be invited to attend our "Skills to Foster" course. The courses are arranged across Cumbria and compromise of six sessions, usually taking place over three weekend days or six weekday evenings.
The Skills to Foster pre-approval training course aims to introduce you to the themes and issues that you will need to understand and consider as you prepare to foster. The course covers topics such as foster carers' roles and responsibilities, working with others, understanding children in foster care, safe caring and helping children cope with change.
The courses are run as a group - so you will meet up with other people who are going though the same process of becoming a foster carer as you are.
Once you've completed the Skills to Foster course a full assessment will be undertaken.
As part of your assessment, you will be allocated a social worker whose task is to consider whether you are suitable to foster, and what type of child or children you would best be able to care for. They will take into your account your circumstances and your ability to meet a child's needs in terms of the child's age, gender, health, emotional, physical, and educational development, culture, language, religion and ethnicity. They will ask if you would consider fostering a disabled child or a child with a health condition. They will look at whether you would be suitable to foster more than one child, or a child who has experienced major loss or trauma in their life or been abused, including sexual abuse. You will need to consider the possible issues that may arise when caring for a child like this, both now and in the future.
They will ask you about your feelings towards a future foster child, and the experiences they may have had. They will also explore with you your feelings about working with your future foster child's birth family, and other professionals involved with the child's care, the reasons the child needs a new family, and how you would feel about maintaining some level of contact between the child and his or her birth family, as well as your ability to accept support.
They will be interested in your reasons for wanting to foster. They will want to know about any experience you have with children and childcare (for example you may have nieces and nephews or you may volunteer at your local school or nursery) and will ask if you are planning to make any changes to your work arrangements, for example, reduce your working hours to care for your child.
During the assessment, you will be asked lots of personal questions which may feel at times intrusive. Remember that the aim is to find the right family for a child or group of children, so it is important to be as open and honest as possible.
Background checks will also be started at this point including criminal record checks. We'll explain these in more detail at the time.
We'll talk to you a lot more about what to expect before you start the assessment.
You will then be invited to attend a meeting of the Fostering Panel who review your full assessment report and consider your suitability to foster. If you have progressed this far through the process only very rarely does the Fostering Panel reject an application.
The Fostering Panel makes a recommendation to the Fostering Panel Decision Maker who is responsible for making the final decision to approve your application.
You are now ready to foster and you can look forward to the placement of your first child. This could happen quite quickly!
It doesn't stop here, now that you are now a foster carer you will enjoy regular support and encouragement from your social worker, the rest of the fostering team and other foster carers.