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How to become a foster carer

Family of four lying on the grass in a park with their legs raised

What do you think of when you think about your childhood? You might recall experiences of closeness and nurturing. Maybe, instead, you know what it's like to feel afraid, with the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Foster carers can set up a new life for traumatised young people. You have the opportunity to give them a second chance at childhood.

Keep reading to find out about how to become a foster carer, whether you could foster a child and how you'll be supported when you foster with us.

The steps to become a foster carer

There are six main steps to becoming a foster carer. The process takes around six months, or less if you are transferring from another fostering agency.

Here's how it works.

Step 1: A social worker visits you at home

Once you've let us know you're interested in fostering, one of our social workers will visit you at home to get to know you. We'll tell you more about the different types of fostering and discuss what arrangement would be best for your family.

Step 2: We run some background checks

Like every fostering service, we need to do some safeguarding and reference checks. These include:

  • safeguarding checks on you and anyone over the age of 18 who lives in your home. This is usually a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for criminal convictions and police cautions
  • three personal references from people you know
  • a doctor's note to confirm you are fit and healthy to foster. We cover any related costs of this.

Step 3: Attend a three-day training course

Our training courses give you the skills and knowledge you need to foster.

We also offer one day children's courses for any children in your family who would like to gain a better understanding of fostering.

Step 4: Take the fostering assessment

Your fostering assessment will start a few weeks after your training course. It involves a social worker preparing a report.

The report will cover:

  • your childhood, job and relationships
  • your previous childcare experience
  • your capacity for parenting
  • your references
  • any other safeguarding we might need to do about you or your family, such as checks with schools and the probation service

If you have children, our outreach team will use this time to help them understand fostering and become comfortable with it.

Step 5: Meet with the Fostering Panel

You will meet with the local Fostering Panel to talk about the assessment. Your social worker will accompany you and the Panel will aim to determine if you are suitable for fostering.

The Panel is made up of independent social workers, a therapist and a medical advisor, as well as members of the community and people with experience in fostering and adoption.

The panel will make their recommendation on the day you visit and they will tell you why they have or have not recommended you for fostering.

Step 6: You're approved to become a foster carer

The Head of Service at Essex Fostering has final approval. They usually make a decision within two weeks of the recommendation from the panel. 

If you are approved to become a foster carer, your supervising social worker will prepare you for the arrival of your foster child. Your foster child might be with you in just two weeks.

By this time, most people feel confident to get started with fostering, but we're on hand to support you every step of the way. You can sign up for more training courses and we always have people on hand to help, from social workers,to psychologists and mental health coordinators. Plus, you can join a whole network of foster carers in Essex with our Oasis Network, so you always have people to talk to and ask for advice.

Learn more about the support you get with Essex Fostering and find out what you can earn by fostering.

Get in touch to start your fostering journey

If you have a question that's not covered here,, please get in touch. We're always happy to answer any question about fostering, or just have a friendly chat.

You can join of our online information events at any time in your fostering journey. You'll be able to chat to some of our foster carers and social workers, and learn about the children who need a home.

Request a call back

or to talk to our friendly recruitment team call 0800 801 530