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All foster carers must be assessed and approved by children’s services before they can care for looked after children. Foster carers can also be assessed and approved by independent fostering agencies.
Types of approval and assessment processes:
- Approval as a temporary foster carer. This is for kinship carers – relatives, family friends and other connected persons only. An assessment will be carried out by children’s services. The social worker will need to find out key information about the kinship carer before the placement begins. If there is no time to find out this information before the placement starts (i.e. in an emergency), then it will be explored immediately afterwards. If approval is given, this will last for 16 weeks. This can be extended once by a further eight weeks, to a total of 24 weeks. The temporary foster carer must undergo a full assessment as a foster carer for the placement to continue beyond this. Otherwise, the child should be moved to another placement.
- Full assessment and approval. This is a two-stage process. It applies both to unrelated foster carers and to kinship carers who want to offer long-term care.
- Stage one – the fostering service will gather information about the applicant’s life. This includes information about current and previous relationships and criminal record checks. Personal references will also be sought.
- Stage two – this is a more detailed assessment of the applicant’s suitability to foster. Their ability to meet the child’s needs will be carefully considered.
After the assessment, the information will be presented to a fostering panel. This panel will provide guidance about whether the foster carers should be approved. The final decision will be taken by the agency decision maker. An applicant can challenge a decision regarding their approval. They can write to the local authority seeking a review. Or they can refer to the independent review mechanism.