Deciding to become a foster carer doesn’t happen overnight. There are long discussions to be had at home, questioning if you will be good at looking after a child that could be traumatised. Considerations about whether the spare room would make a good place for someone to grow up. Worries about the impact on the rest of the family. These are all real and reasonable things to think about. You have to make sure that your family and your home are ready to welcome a child or young person.
As a fostering agency, we also spend a substantial amount of time supporting people who we think would be amazing foster carers and checking that they meet the rigorous standards children and young people in care deserve. As an Ofsted outstanding agency, we are proud of the high level of support given to all of our amazing foster carers.
The first thing is for you to send us an email (you can do this through the “Call Back” Request on the website pages or give us a call). Most of the time it will be Nikita who will call you back. She is incredibly knowledgeable (as are all of Affinity Staff) and will answer any questions that you might have about fostering with Affinity.
If after this discussion, you and Nikita both decide that you’d like to go further in the process, she’ll arrange for one of our Senior Supervising Social Workers to come and visit you in your home.
Our Supervising Social Worker will talk through what being a foster carer entails, check your home is suitable (we are not looking for perfection just a safe and welcoming environment), and answer any questions you may have about fostering, most people have lots! They’ll also discuss the training and support that Affinity offers, and our competitive foster carer rates (usually called a fostering allowance). Because our social workers have realistic and manageable caseloads, it means that it won’t be a flying visit. We want to make sure that you feel comfortable in applying to become a foster carer and that we think you’ll fit well in Affinity Fostering. That level of support will continue through your time with Affinity or as we are commonly known, the A-team! However, it’s important to remember that these chats are under no obligation and if at the end you decide the timing isn’t good, or that fostering isn’t right for you, then no problem.
If you and the social worker both agree that you’d like to carry on with the process, you’ll be invited to fill in an application form and return it to us. Hurrah! The Affinity team will be there to support you in filling in the form, as there is lots of information needed, and throughout your application.
The fostering application form is a relatively detailed but not too daunting document, which you’ll need to make sure you fill in accurately. You can ask for this form electronically or by paper. Our team are always on hand to help you if you have any questions or worries about it. It requires a lot of work and information, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Firstly, we’ll let you know we’ve received the Application form. It is then reviewed and signed off by a senior manager at Affinity, then the real process of becoming a foster carer begins. We will let you know your application form has been passed to the next phase and allocate you an Independent Social Worker who will complete an in-depth piece of work with you and your family. This is called a Form F assessment. This will take some months to complete but is essential in all foster carer applications across the country, no matter who you apply to foster with. You can read more about the Form F process here
The Independent Social Worker will guide you through the process and will visit you quite a few times to ensure they have all the information they need to complete the assessment on your behalf. It is important to remember that everything you share in the Form F assessment is held in the strictest confidence. We respect the information that you provide and would never abuse that trust. Aside from being a document and process that we legally have to ask you to complete, it also provides us with the information needed to ensure that our vulnerable children and young people will be provided with a safe and stable place to live. The form is in-depth, asking for information including any ex-partners you have, children who may live away from home, and family court proceedings you may have taken part in amongst other things. You will also be asked to provide references who would be happy to be contacted regarding your application.
As we’ve already mentioned, it is vital that you are honest throughout the application and in all your checks. If you do withhold information, it could mean that your application is ended.
There is an 8-month government set timeline between the submission of the fostering application form and the latest date we can complete the process. Predominantly Affinity complete assessments within 4-6 months.
If your Form F assessment has gone well and it seems you have what it takes to be a great foster carer, you will then be offered some special foster carer training in preparation for becoming a foster carer. This training may take place during your Form F process, it just depends on the timing of the next course. The final step is an interview with our panel, that you and your assessing Independent Social Worker attend.
We understand that it is a long process, as it should be. foster carers are looking after other people’s children, and we must ensure their safety and maximise their potentials. However, Affinity will be there through every step of the process, ensuring that you receive the support, information and training you need to foster successfully.
If you’re interested in providing a safe space for a child or young person or are an existing foster carer who is looking to move agencies, Nikita would love to talk to you.