How long does it take to become a foster carer?

How long does it take to become a foster carer? A common question when considering becoming a foster carer and starting on your fostering journey. There can be practical considerations – for example, your current employment or when to have your home ready.

There is no set answer overall as it can be dependent on factors outside the control of your fostering agency or yourself. This is particularly relevant for checks, your DBS (disclosure barring service) and references.

For a general guidance on timing, it is fair to consider between three to six months being the average. This is based on our past experience from approvals completed by our team supporting new foster carers.

If we take the areas and factors that make a difference, let’s look at these together:

Checks and references

These include the required checks under the fostering regulations including (but not limited to) local authority, personal references, other family members, medical and DBS. The can be different times for the relevant parties to respond based on their availability and overall turnaround time. Our dedicated recruitment team will chase up checks on pro active basis to shorten the time.

The other consideration here is if your assessment and checks are started in parallel. If your checks are started first only, this is referred to as Stage 1 only. Your checks are completed first and then your assessment starts under Stage 2. It can happen, sometimes for practical reasons, that it is best to complete a check first – for example, a health reason or contacting a previous fostering agency. This would be discussed together on the approach. If you start the assessment and checks together, this is Stage 1 and Stage 2 together which is generally faster overall on average to approval.

Household members or other family members

If you have many household members (including adults) or other family members, they will be interviewed as part of your assessment and approval process. This takes time to organise and complete together. If you have fewer relevant persons, this would generally be quicker overall.

Your availability

Your fostering assessor will spend time with you over a series of meetings and discussions together. If you are available freely, this will help with the process compared to if you away or not available for any reason. Virtual meet ups can help but face to face time is important.

The time from your first enquiry to your first home visit can also be quicker if you are free shortly after making contact.

You would also need to complete Skills to Foster and be available for this. We can help co-ordinate this with our dates to deliver this for you.

Previous experience of fostering or you are transferring

If you have fostered before, you will be aware of the fostering process which helps and the checks process can be taken forward on a timely basis – for example, an existing referee will be contacted again but should respond quickly.

When transferring, there are other steps to plan in to the process including the transfer protocol meeting (if you have children in placement) and giving relevant notice (28 days) to your current fostering agency or local authority. Your assessment can often be updated where possible and whilst ensuring best practice and compliance with the Fostering Regulations.

Overall summary and stages

The key stages in becoming a foster carer are shown below over the three to six month timeframe:

· First fostering enquiry

· Initial home visit – to discuss fostering and your application

· Application form submitted

· Check and references – Stage 1

· Fostering assessment started – Stage 2

· Fostering assessment completed and written up in a “Form F” report

· Skills to Foster course completed

· Presentation and attendance at panel

· Panel recommendation made

· Decision taken by the Agency Decision Maker (based on the panel recommendation)

· Approval as foster carer

Fast track assessment

We can support you to fast track your assessment – where possible, practical and ensuring compliance with the Fostering Regulations. There can be no short cuts taken but we can look to do complete tasks as quickly as possible. This would be generally the case in any case but it can be more relevant when you are transferring or fostering maybe your primary income source. We have a dedicated recruitment team to deliver this which can reduce the average approval time.

If you have any questions on the timescale or starting your fostering journey, please do contact us for an informal discussion, to organise a home visit or video call.

Want to see more frequently asked fostering questions answered? Click the link to find out more –>