Foster care agencies help place children in safe, supportive families. There are different types of foster care depending on the needs of both the child and their family. In the United Kingdom, the categories of foster care are as follows:
• Emergency: When children need somewhere safe to stay for a few nights
• Short-term: When carers look after children for a few weeks or months, while plans are made for the child's future
• Short breaks: When disabled children, children with special needs or children with behavioural difficulties regularly stay for a short time with a family, so that their parents or usual foster carers can have a break
• Remand: When young people are remanded by a court to the care of a specially trained foster carer
• Long-term: Not all children who need to permanently live away from their birth family want to be adopted, so instead they go into long-term foster care until they are adults
• 'Family and friends' or 'kinship': A child who is the responsibility of the local authority goes to live with someone they already know, which usually means family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles or their brother or sister
• Specialist therapeutic: For children and young people with very complex needs and/or challenging behaviour
There are many different ways to become a foster carer. A private foster care agency, such as Fosterplus, can help guide interested persons through the process. You can apply to be a foster carer whether you have your own children or not; if you are single, married or living with a partner; if you are in or out of work; whether you live in your own home or rent; whatever your race, religion or sexuality.
If you are interested in fostering, you should contact a local Fostering service and arrange a meeting. At the end of this meeting you should have all the information concerning what exactly fostering involves. Having this information should help you decide whether you are right for fostering.
Once it has been decided you are suitable for fostering, The Criminal Records Bureau will check that you have not committed an offence which would exclude you from fostering. You will also have to undergo a health check to make sure you have no health problems. A social worker will then help you fill in an application form and you will be asked to attend a group preparation session with other people who are applying. Finally your application will be sent to an independent fostering panel, which will recommend whether or not you can become a foster carer. This can take up to six months.
All foster carers are reviewed every year by fostering service providers and receive the training they need to ensure they are suitable to continue fostering. They are also given a supervising social worker who visits on a regular basis to offer advice and support for foster carers and their families. Fostering can be a rewarding and enriching experience—both for the carer and the child. Your local foster agency can help you begin this extraordinary journey.