Here are some of the questions asked most frequently by people like you who are thinking about becoming foster carers. Please get in touch with us on 01959-535025 if there is anything else you need to clarify. We are always happy to speak to you, and never feel a question is too silly to ask. If it is important to you, then it is important to us too!
I AM SINGLE – CAN I STILL BE A FOSTER CARER?
Yes, being single does not disqualify you from becoming a foster carer. We would want to make sure though that you have a good support network and have appropriate life experience. Matching too would be important, especially if you were employed outside of the home. You would need to have some flexibility with your employment to make sure you could properly support the child/young person you were caring for.
I WANT TO CONTINUE WORKING AFTER I BECOME A FOSTER CARER. IS THIS POSSIBLE?
This depends very much on the child/young person placed with you, so good matching is an issue. We would hope that if you have a partner one of you would either not work or be able to be flexible with working times outside the home. Fostering will involve you in daytime meetings, e.g. training, medical appointments etc., and you will need to be available. Therefore, if you continue to work your employment needs to be flexible, so that you can meet your responsibilities in relation to fostering. There may also be issues with education, such as a child/young person being excluded or on a reduced timetable. It would not be appropriate to leave a child/young person at home alone, so you will need to available, if such situations occur, since many children/young people in care do experience difficulties in coping educationally.
I/ WE DON’T HAVE ANY CHILDREN. IS IT STILL POSSIBLE TO FOSTER?
Yes, you can. The important thing is that you have life experience that will enable you to care for someone else’s child. It is also important for you to be clear about your motivation to foster, and to acknowledge while it is extremely fulfilling to foster, it can also be emotionally demanding, though ALL4U Fostering will always be available to give you support and guidance.
AM I TOO OLD TO FOSTER?
No! ‘You’re as old as you feel’! Life experience is more important than your chronological age, and the experience that older foster carers bring to fostering can be invaluable. You should, however, make sure that you have the energy and enthusiasm to ‘keep up’ with children/young people if you are going to foster them. As part of the assessment process you will have to have a medical to confirm that you are fit enough to foster. You should also be willing to make a commitment to training. No-one is too old to learn, and things change all the time, so we want our carers to be up-to-date in their knowledge of relevant issues.
I HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD – CAN I STILL BECOME A FOSTER CARER?
This very much depends upon the type of offence and how long ago it happened. For instance, a minor offence that occurred many years ago will not necessarily stop you from fostering. It is also true that someone who has been involved in minor criminal activity can become an excellent role-model for children/young people, who might be starting to go along the same road. However, certain criminal convictions will preclude you from fostering, so please ring us and discuss – don’t just assume the answer will be ‘no’!
CAN I FOSTER IF I HAVE PETS?
Yes, in fact for certain children/young people pets can be a very positive element in how well they settle. Pets can ‘break the ice’ and help children/young people feel at home. During your initial assessment ALL4U Fostering will assess your pets to be sure we will be able to ‘match’ children/young people appropriately. Do check with us by phoning 01959-535025 if you want to discuss this.
I DON’T DRIVE – CAN I STILL BE A FOSTER CARER?
Ideally, we like our foster carers to drive, and have access to a car, but if you live in an area where public transport is good, you may still be able to foster, though the placements you take would need to be carefully matched, to ensure that those placed would be able to use public transport safely and appropriately. In rural areas lack of your own transport would be a problem.
WE ARE A SAME SEX COUPLE – CAN WE FOSTER?
Yes, you can. What we are looking for are people who can provide good parenting. The children/young people we seek to place come from a diversity of backgrounds, so we welcome diversity within our group of foster carers. For some children/young people such a foster home would be a good match, and would provide security and mentoring.
MY/OUR HOME IS RENTED. AS I/WE DON’T OWN IT CAN WE FOSTER?
In principle ALL4U Fostering has no problem with this, provided you have a secure tenancy, and your landlord is willing to provide a letter confirming he/she has no objection to you fostering whilst living on the premises.
CAN I/WE CHOOSE THE AGE OF THE CHILDREN/YOUNG PEOPLE WE FOSTER?
We would always prefer foster carers to keep an open mind about age. If you are too specific about the age range you want to work with it will mean the number of children you are offered will be limited. It could also preclude you possibly taking care of a sibling group when in all other respects they might be an ideal match for your family. We would encourage you to be as flexible as possible, and be assured that ALL4U Fostering will match any child/young person offered to you very carefully with your family circumstances.
I/WE SMOKE – CAN I/WE STILL FOSTER?
Due to the health risks associated with passive smoking we would not place children under 5 with carers who smoke. If you were approved for older children we would expect you to take steps to minimise the impact of smoking, such as never smoking if driving in the company of the child/young person you foster.
WHAT IS THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS?
Although the whole process of assessment can take up to a maximum of 8 months, ALL4U aim to complete this within 4 to 6 months. We appreciate that on occasions circumstances occur that mean the process is interrupted, for example, if illness or bereavement occurs. Be assured that ALL4U Fostering will be flexible and work with you to minimise difficulties.
Generally the process is as follows:-
STAGE ONE – You make an initial enquiry. You will be asked to clarify some basic details, e.g. do you have a spare bedroom. If your responses are positive, you will be offered a home visit, which will enable you to speak to a social worker, and ask questions about fostering and how ALL4U can support you. If this meeting goes well you will be asked to provide certain information, so that various checks can be made, and you will also be invited to attend a Preparation Training Course. This course will give you information about the key tasks of fostering, and is a mandatory part of the assessment process. If during Stage One the agency decides upon receipt of information applicants are not suitable to proceed they will be informed in writing of the reasons. The prospective applicants have no right of appeal, but can use the agency’s complaints procedure, which can consider whether or not the applicants case has been handled in a reasonable way, rather than reaching a conclusion about their suitability to foster.
STAGE TWO – You will be allocated a social worker, who will make a number of visits to your home to complete a document called a ‘Form F’. This document gives information about your background and the skills you could bring to the fostering task. When completed this will be presented to the Fostering Panel, who will make a recommendation re whether or not you should be approved as a foster carer. This recommendation will then be ratified by the Agency Decision-Maker, who will write to you confirming the decision. If at Stage Two it is decided by the Decision-Maker not to approve you as a foster carer you do have a right to challenge this decision within 28 days of receiving written confirmation of the decision. You could challenge the decision via the agency or seek a review via an independent panel. However, you cannot appeal to this panel if your approval has been turned down due to a conviction or caution, which bars you from working with children.
WHAT HAPPENS ABOUT HOLIDAYS?
Holiday and respite allowances are included as part of your fee allowing you to take decisions on an individual basis.
We would always encourage foster carers to include those they are fostering in family holidays – not to do so could be seen by the child/young person as a rejection. However, we appreciate that in certain circumstances a break can be very important for foster carers in ensuring that a placement remains stable. Careful planning is always needed on such occasions. If carers decide that they want to take their foster child/young person abroad with them on holiday it must be borne in mind that they may not have passports, and any journey abroad must have the direct permission of the placing authority and/or birth parents. Sometimes we recognise that a young person might prefer an activity holiday. In these cases ALL4U will discuss with the foster carers what options might be available.
All4U does not support foster carers arranging holidays in term-time unless there are exceptional circumstances. In these instances agreement would have to be sought from the placing authority and/or birth parents.
I/WE AM AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF A RELIGION – CAN I/WE FOSTER?
Yes, we welcome people from all cultures and faiths as this gives us the opportunity to help more children/young people from a diversity of backgrounds. However, we would expect you to be open-minded to the fact that those you care for may have no belief, or may wish to practice a different religion from your own, therefore, you will need to be open to respecting their views, and will need to make arrangements for their care at the times you attend worship.