Becoming a foster parent isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. It takes dedication, kindness and commitment to make a difference to a child’s life. To help you decide if you’ve got what it takes, you can read our Top 10 Foster Carer Qualities. Once you’ve decided that you would like to start the journey to become a foster carer, there is a process we follow to get to know you and your family and help you prepare for life as a foster parent. You will be guided every step of the way and treated with sensitivity and respect. We will keep you informed of the progress of your application and assessment throughout. Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect:

Steps to becoming a foster parent

Step 1: Getting in touch with AFA

You can complete our fostering enquiry form via the website. A member of our team will then give you a call to have an informal chat. This gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you have, so that you can be sure you want to go ahead.

We will tell you all about the assessment process, what you can expect and the type of placements we’re looking for. We will tell you a bit more about the training, support and benefits we offer. This call will also help us decide if we should make a home visit.

Step 2: Initial home visit

This is a good opportunity for one (sometimes two) of our workers to meet you and your family. We will explain the assessment in more detail and discuss any relevant health, offences, accommodation, employment and/or financial issues with you.

We may arrange a second initial visit if there are any areas not explored during our first visit.

Step 3: Application form

Following the home visit, the worker will help you make a decision about filling in and sending a formal application. If you are not invited to apply, a manager will write to explain the reason for their decision.

We will send you a pack which gives additional information about fostering in general and AFA in particular, as well as a “consent to checks” form. This gives us the ‘thumbs up’ to carry out a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, along with a medical, employer and personal references. These checks are the first step of the assessment and we always treat all the information you share with us as confidential.

Step 4: Skills to Foster training

During the first step of the assessment, you will be invited to attend a Skills to Foster training course. Attendance at, and contribution to, the Skills to Foster course sessions will form part of the assessment. The training gives us another opportunity to get to know you and it also helps you to find out more about fostering and consider whether it’s right for you and your family.

The workers running the Skills to Foster group will observe and write a record, which will be shared with you and the assessing social worker. This will form part of the final report presented to the Fostering Panel.

Step 5: Fostering assessment

Following completion of all the checks and references, and the Skills to Foster training, our area manager will decide whether to proceed to the next stage of the assessment. This step is really important. We need to make sure that you can, with support, meet the needs of our most vulnerable children, helping them make positive memories and keep them safe.

At this stage you will be allocated an assessing social worker who will carry out a full assessment. They will identify your strengths and any areas where further training or support may be needed. We will look at:

  • Your ability to care for children
  • Your ability to provide a safe and caring environment
  • How you work as part of a team
  • Your commitment to keep training.

The assessing social worker will carry out a series of interviews. They will interview any children or other adults living in the household and the suitability of the accommodation will also be assessed.

A report will be completed and shared with you, and you will have a chance to comment on the assessment before it is submitted to the Fostering Panel.

Step 6: The Fostering Panel

The Fostering Panel will be sent a copy of the final report which they will carefully read before attending the meeting. This information, along with the discussion by the Panel members, will result in a recommendation. Your assessing social worker will explain who attends Panel, what questions they may ask and how you will be informed of the outcome. You are warmly invited to attend Panel and a booklet will be sent to you before the meeting, so that you know what to expect.

Step 7: Approval

After the Fostering Panel meeting, the recommendation, the minutes and the assessment will be forwarded to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) who will make a decision to approve, not to approve, or defer for further information. If you are unhappy with the decision you will have the opportunity to appeal the decision and we will send you full information on how you can do that.

If you have been approved, you will receive written confirmation of the decision and a Foster Care Agreement. Then…it’s time to celebrate! Congratulations on becoming an AFA foster carer!

You will be allocated a Placement Manager and it is their responsibility to support and supervise you. They will be your primary point of contact going forward but there is 24/7 support available to all our foster carers.

For more details about the process of becoming a foster parent with AFA, you can read our full assessment and approval process on our Policies website.

How long does it take?

Every application is responded to individually, so the time it takes to complete can vary. As a guide, it takes on average 8 months from your initial enquiry to approval as a foster parent. If you want more information please get in touch, we will be glad to help.

If you would like to become a foster parent in Suffolk or Norfolk, please contact our East Anglia team on 01603 559255. To find our more about becoming a foster parent in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire and the West Midlands, call our Midlands office on 01332 813866.