If you're considering becoming a foster carer, the process of becoming a foster carer is far more straightforward and inclusive than you might think. The most important, and time consuming, stage of the process is deciding if fostering is right for you.
There are a few common myths which dissuade many would-be foster carers from taking the first step. Misconceptions such as thinking you can't foster if you're single, gay or if you don't own your own home. If you're between 21 and 70 (although some fostering services will consider anyone over 18) and have a spare room then you can usually be considered for fostering.
If you fall in to that category then you need to decide if you have the requisite skills and personality to be a successful foster carer. Traits like patience, the ability to listen and a great sense of humour are essential as are communication skills, consistency and energy. Fostered children and young people are looking for someone who can offer them love, safety, security and support.
What type of fostering?
There are many different types of fostering that people choose; all come with challenges and rewards, and the more people learn about fostering the more they realise which type of fostering they and their family would be most suited to.
It might be emergency and short term placements which could be taken at short notice, while longer-term plans are being considered.
Or you could be needed to offer a break to the family of a child with disabilities, or part-time care to children so they and their family can have a break, before difficulties escalate to a point where they can no longer manage. A child could come and stay for anything from a few hours each week to a couple of weekends each month.
Then there are long-term fostering placements which allow children to stay in a family where they can feel secure, often while maintaining contact with their birth family. There is a particular need for this type of foster care for teenagers and sibling groups.
In addition to all of the above types of fostering there is a wide range of specialist schemes which focus on working with children with particular needs. These include parent and baby placements, therapeutic foster care and fostering young people on remand.
An additional 9,070 fostering families are needed in 2016 to ensure all children and young people have the best possible placement at the first time of asking.
The approval process
If you decide you'd like to be a foster carer there is a thorough process to complete before being accepted as a foster carer.
This process begins by visiting The Fostering Network website and choosing a fostering service to approach. After some initial conversations, perhaps with more than one service, you will make an application. This is followed by an assessment, a pre-approval training course and background checks. A report is then compiled and submitted to a fostering panel which will make a recommendation as to your suitability to become a foster carer. The fostering service to which you initially applied will then make a final decision as to whether or not to approve you.
If successful, you will then be waiting to have your first child or young person placed with you - and that's when the journey really begins.