At Orchard Fostering, the assessment process is designed with the best interests of foster children and applicants in mind, to ensure a harmonious fit. To do this, it’s necessary to carry out thorough checks and references as well as provide prospective foster parents with all the information they need before embarking on this journey. We know that the process can seem daunting and there’s often questions you don’t even know you have before they come up. The assessment is thorough to ensure that each child is going to a safe, supportive and loving home environment. This is our priority, ensuring the safeguarding of every young person who comes through Orchard Fostering. That’s why we’ve decided to go through some common questions about the fostering assessment process (including the fostering panel questions) with one of our team.
Aisling has worked in Orchard Fostering since 2017 and has been the assessment team leader for two years, managing the recruitment and assessment of potential foster carers. Before this, Aisling worked as a link social worker, supporting approved foster carers navigating the journey of caring for children in care. We sat down to interview Aisling about the foster care panel questions and answers. Below she provides her expert advice on the steps to becoming approved as a foster carer and what to expect during a fostering assessment.
What are your expectations in a prospective foster parent?
“Apart from the practical elements (such as having a spare bedroom and adequate availability etc.), we require prospective foster carers to be compassionate, caring and dedicated. We’re looking for families or individuals who really want to make a difference to a child or young person’s life and who have lots of time, energy and love to give. It is also important that applicants have a flexible attitude towards situations and the ability to take on guidance and support. Similarly, it’s important that carers have a robust support network on whom they can rely in times of stress or overwhelm.”
What skills are needed to be a foster carer?
“To be approved as a foster carer you don’t need specific skills. We would like applicants to have experience with children and teenagers, to have compassion and to be able to provide a caring home for the child.”
Remember, at Orchard Fostering we offer fostering training and give support for both new and long-term carers. We also run community events for carers and children for carers to meet with other foster carers. We are always here to help for support and training.
What kind of demographic can apply to be a carer? E.g., single parents, single people, age, retired, LGBT, empty nesters, childless, parents with children.
“We welcome people from all walks of life, regardless of your relationship status, sexual orientation, or employment type. It is not essential that applicants have their own children, however some experience with children and/or teenagers is advantageous. Once you are able to offer a loving, safe and stable home to a child, then you will be considered eligible to apply to foster.”
I’m thinking of applying to be a foster parent, I don’t have my own house or a spare room. Will this hinder my application?
“It is a requirement that you have a spare bedroom for a foster child for a number of reasons. Some children who come into care or who have been in the care system for a prolonged length of time may have high levels of needs or may present with behaviours that would not be suitable to share a room with your own child. Due to some of the reasons children come into foster care, having their own bedroom and space is vital to ensure they feel safe. It is also about your own child being supported in the changes that occur in the household when a young person moves in and to prevent them from feeling displaced in their family home. However, it is not a requirement for you to be a homeowner; many applicants who apply and are successfully approved as foster carers rent their accommodation. In both situations, being a homeowner or renting, we look for evidence of stability in applicants, which is vital for children in care.”
On the Orchard Fostering blog we shared an interview on the fostering process from a foster carer’s perspective. Can you walk us through the fostering process from an Assessment Team Leader’s perspective?
“There are a few different stages within the fostering assessment. The first stage is the screening process, this involves people reaching out to us to express their interest in becoming a foster carer, or simply to get more information. Afterwards, there is an enquiry, where a member of our team will arrange a phone call with you to discuss fostering further and ask you a few questions. This is an opportunity for us to chat with applicants, answer any queries they might have and establish whether they are a good fit in terms of basic requirements (i.e. having a spare bedroom, good availability etc.,). If all parties are agreeable, an initial visit by a social worker is scheduled after this. This is a more in-depth screening process, which involves a visit to the home, meeting the applicant(s) and engaging in a more detailed discussion about their motivation, circumstances and experience. If the social worker feels that the applicants have a lot of strengths and could make good foster carers, and if the applicants wish to continue, the fostering assessment will commence.”
“The assessment commences as soon as possible after this screening process. The assessment process involves approximately 8 visits with the applicant(s) and everyone living in the household. It will cover topics such as motivation, lifestyle, relationships, parenting, childhood and identity etc. Then we will complete reference checks with personal referees, identified by applicants. It’s also necessary that Garda Vetting and police checks are completed for any previous addresses that applicants have had. Once the assessment is completed, a report of all of the discussions and visits undertaken is submitted to the local Foster Care Committee. This committee then decides whether the applicants should be approved as foster carers.”
What questions are asked during the assessment and how are applicants successfully approved as foster carers?
“We want to know as much about applicants and their lives as possible. This includes understanding their experience of childhood and being parented, and how this has shaped who they are. Similarly, we need to get to know each of them as individuals and understand their philosophies on life as well as their personalities. We also need to know what, if any, experience they have of caring for, or parenting, children. These questions will help us to get to know applicants better and will encourage them to be reflective of their life to date.”
At Orchard Fostering an initial phone call with the applicant is an early part of the process. Can you tell us a little about that?
“This is a very informal, relaxed phone call where we find out why applicants want to foster and to also ensure they meet the basic requirements. This is an opportunity for applicants to ask questions about the foster process and to find out more about our agency and what supports we provide.”
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of applying to be a foster parent?
“Give us a call any time to discuss it, to ask questions and allay any fears you may have. We are happy to clarify any queries you have or to provide additional information to you.”
If you’re interested in foster care, please reach out to Orchard Fostering today. We’re available on the phone or via email – you can also fill out a form directly on our contact page.