Fostering application terms & conditions
After you submit your application form, you’ll enter Fostering Rotherham’s assessment process. This will usually take between 4 and 6 months. We know sometimes life can get in the way, but where possible the fostering team will endeavour to complete your assessment before 6 months.
Please note that nobody has a guaranteed right to be a foster carer. While Fostering Rotherham is keen to recruit as many foster carers as we can, fostering decisions throughout application, assessment and final approval stages must focus on the best interests of children.
The fostering assessment process consists of two stages:
Stage One - information gathering which includes basic information about you and your family, your health, character references from people who know you, an assessment of your home and any pets you own, as well as whether you have any previous convictions and undertaking of Statutory checks (see information below).
Stage Two - this stage involves gathering more detailed information through assessment sessions about you and your family to enable us to determine whether you can safely care for, and promote the well-being of, looked after children. This also includes finding out about your life experiences, personality, values, attitudes, employment, leisure activities, interests and skills.
The Stage One and Stage Two information gathering can be completed consecutively ie. Stage One information is gathered first and then our fostering team will decide whether you can proceed to Stage Two. More often, we carry out information gathering and background checks for Stage One and Stage Two at the same time.
During the assessment period your assessing social worker will work with you to ensure you are able to demonstrate the skills and experience you have that are relevant to becoming a foster carer. We will also support you to develop your skills and fostering knowledge which are essential to providing the best possible care for a child.
Panel - Your social worker will be compiling a Fostering Assessment report based on the information gathered through assessment sessions. Sometimes it will also include your own words from homework that you might have completed. This report will outline your suitability to foster, and you’ll be able to add your feedback once it’s written. You’ll also be asked to attend the Fostering Rotherham Panel. This information is used as part of your fostering assessment report which is presented at a final fostering panel at the end of your assessment period. A Fostering Panel has a number of people involved , there will be a Panel Chair, and a Panel advisor, there is always a social worker who has been qualified for at least 3 years, it is likely that there will also be a registered foster carer for another local authority who also sits on panel Panel members l will read all the information once it is complete, talk with you and the social worker and make a further recommendation about your suitability to foster.
What are the statutory checks?
Rotherham Council has a legal obligation to carry out a number of checks that assess your suitability to care for children and young people. These cover a range of essential checks that look into different areas of your life and personal history. Everyone applying to foster is required by law to have these checks completed. We recognise that this can feel invasive and may be difficult for you. We would encourage you to discuss ANY concerns you have about these checks with us so we can advise you. Below is a detailed description of the checks that are completed.
Criminal records checks (DBS)
You and any other members of your household who are over 18 years of age will be required to complete an application for a Disclosure and Barring check. This is part of our safeguarding checks, which are made to ensure only suitable, safe people can foster children. A member of the Fostering Team will work with you to complete a Disclosure and Barring form. Part of the application needs personal ID to evidence your identity and location, such as a driving licence and a utility bill. If you have a conviction or caution on your DBS check then further risk assessments will be carried out. Information on your DBS does not necessarily prevent you from fostering.
Medical checks with your GP
We want to make sure you’re fit and healthy enough to look after children on a daily basis. We will ask you to complete a medical assessment, normally via your GP. The GP’s report will then be commented on by our medical adviser as to whether you have a health condition that prevents you from fostering. Your social worker will also work with you to determine the effect any conditions might have on your day to day physical and mental health.
Local Authority and Probation checks for your current and sometimes previous addresses
This is to confirm whether you or any other adult over the age of 18 in your household are known to the Local Authority. If you have lived in other areas of the country we will also need to contact the Local Authority where you lived previously. If you have ever lived abroad, we will need to carry out checks with the country where you resided. We will ask you to sign a consent form to enable us to undertake these checks. Local Authority checks usually means we will identify if you have received services from Children’s social care, youth offending, probation service and area health services.
Fostering Rotherham will request references from up to 4 people who know you well, 2 of which could be family members, who can comment on your character as well as your ability to care for children. They will need to have known you for a significant period of time. Some of the referees will be visited by the Fostering Social Worker, so they should ideally be within the local area. We ask for four references per household, and suggest you contact them first as you’ll need to give us their contact details.
Adult Children checks
If you have adult children, we will contact them in order to discuss their experience growing up with you, and if they have any concerns about you fostering. If the adult child is the child of only one of the applicants, please indicate which applicant. Please note we will reach out to adult children if they do or do not live with you.
If you have been married previously, have had a significant relationship, or have had a child with another person who you are no longer in a relationship with, we will need to contact them. This is a simple check to confirm the length of relationship and suitability to work with children. We do not ask ex partners for extensive character references.
It is important to note that we understand that some people may not feel comfortable with this due to the circumstances of this relationship. If you do not feel it would be appropriate or safe for us to contact a previous partner, please discuss this as soon as possible with your Fostering Social Worker. In such circumstances, it may be more appropriate to contact alternative people who can comment independently on this relationship and this period of your life.
If you have worked with children and/or vulnerable adults in the last five years, we’ll contact your employer to ask about your role and suitability to foster. Please note, this is a check we’ll carry out whether this was your job or a volunteer role. You’ll also need to discuss work with children and/or vulnerable adults with your assessing social worker.
If you’re currently employed, it is important that we have a current employer reference, regardless of what your job is, so we can evidence your ability to work well with others. If you have changed your job in the last 12 months we will seek a reference from previous employers.
Education/health visitor checks
If you have your own child/ren living with you who are of school age, we will contact their school to check out their attendance records and any concerns that they may have. If you have a baby or pre-school child in the house, we will contact your local Health Visitor to check any concerns that they may have. This is important as you will be looking after children and promoting the importance of education.
Armed forces checks
If you have served in the armed forces, we carry out checks with SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association). They are able to provide information if you have been stationed in other parts of the world.
Fostering/adoption agencies checks
If you have been, or are currently, approved by another fostering/adoption agency (or have applied to them), we will contact them so that they can comment on your time as a carer, your approval, or your application.
Childminders bring a wealth of experience to the fostering task force, but fostering is difficult to do alongside childminding. Foster carers sometimes need to attend emergency meetings and are expected to always put the needs of the fostered child first, before the childminded children. Fostered children can also become confused or upset by the fact that childminded children return home each night to their parents. Please note that for this reason we cannot approve current childminders for anything other than respite foster care. If you have been a childminder in the past then we will complete a check with Ofsted regarding your registration.
Fostering Rotherham will also need to make an assessment on the following:
Suitability of your Accommodation: we need to ensure that you are able to provide a safe and suitable home for a fostered child to live in. We will undertake a Health and Safety Assessment of your property.
Financial Viability/Mortgage/Landlord Checks: we may also contact your mortgage company, landlord or housing provider to check that payments are regularly paid and that your home is secure and there is no risk of eviction.
Pets: we have to check that any pets owned by prospective foster carers are assessed as being suitable and safe to be around children and young people. We generally do this ourselves but may ask for a vet assessment in some circumstances.
We ask everybody in assessment to attend our Skills to Foster Training. This is a 3 day course, delivered online or in person, that will give you a detailed insight into the role of the foster carer. It’s also a great way for us to get to know you, and assess your suitability to foster.
The above information and any other information that we feel relevant will be taken into account when considering your suitability to become a foster carer (and the suitability of your household) with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The information (and analysis of it) has to be included in a written report to the Fostering Panel along with recommendations regarding any terms of approval. You will see the report and be able to discuss it with your assessing worker, adding your own comments.
Sometimes during assessment, information comes to light indicating that you are unsuitable to foster. If this happens we will discuss this with you and provide written information for you. If this happens whilst you are in Stage 1 of the process and you disagree with the decision, we will give you the opportunity to meet with the assessing and social worker and Team Manager to share your views. If the decision is still to close the case and you are unhappy with how you have been treated you can make a complaint through RMBC’s complaint process.
If you have completed Stage 1 of the assessment and are within Stage 2 then a ‘brief report’ would be compiled outlining the work done and the reasons for considering you unsuitable either on a short term or long term basis.
The brief report would need to be sent to the Fostering Rotherham Panel and you will be provided with a copy of the brief report. At this point you would be given 10 working days to send your views to us. The Panel will consider your response and make a recommendation to whoever makes the final decision. At any time during Stage 1 or Stage 2, you can withdraw from the process if you no longer wish to be assessed to foster or if now isn't the right time. If you withdraw, a brief report would not be heard by the panel.
We hope that you will be happy with the application process to become a foster carer. We try to make it as straightforward as possible. We want to be open and honest with you and will keep you informed throughout your application process.
We welcome feedback and suggestions. We sincerely hope that you will have no concerns over the way your application has been handled. If you do wish to make a complaint for any reason, it can be submitted via Rotherham Council's complaints process.