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Frequently Asked Questions

To be considered as a foster carer you will :

  • be passionate about making a difference for a child or young person
  • be over the age of 21
  • have a furnished spare room that is not used by anybody else
  • be committed to undergo training and development
  • be able to work in partnership with the team involved in caring for the child/young person.

No, you can rent your home from a private landlord, council or housing association. But you will need their written permission to say that you can use the house to foster.

No. Foster carers can be single or in a relationship.

As well as a DBS check (the Disclosure and Barring Service, previously known as CRB), we complete checks with Local Authority and the NSPCC. We obtain three personal references which will include a reference from someone in your extended family, adult children of the family who live away from home, employers, ex-partners (where applicable), and social media checks. We would also carry out a medical and financial assessment, and a health and safety check on your home. You will need to give your consent for all of these checks to be undertaken. Without it, we cannot proceed with your application.

Even if you are the main carer, anyone sharing your home will have some involvement in, and influence on, the fostering task. So yes, we will need to carry out checks on your partner and we would expect you both to participate in the assessment process and training. We will also need to carry out checks on all adult members of the household.

Not necessarily; it would depend on the nature of the conviction and when it occurred. At an early stage, every applicant undergoes the ‘DBS’ mentioned above. This is a government database check to check your suitability to be able to work with vulnerable groups, so we would expect you to discuss any previous or current convictions with us as soon as possible. We will then decide whether or how it might affect your application to become a foster carer. This information would remain confidential at all times.

You can state a preference; however, our procedure is to approve our foster carers to foster children and young people from the ages of 0-18 (or 5-18 if there is a smoker in the household). We identify a child/young person within that range who we believe you would be well suited to. We encourage you to be open-minded and willing to explore all ages and, preferably, genders as well. This means we can achieve the very best match between the individual needs of our children/young people, and the skills, experiences and home environment of our foster carers.

If we identify a suitable match between you and a child/young person, our Placement Officers will discuss their details with you and you can then decide whether you would like to be considered. To help you make an informed decision, we provide you with as much information about them and their background as possible, including any difficult behaviour and how to manage it.

Foster carers receive a fee while they have a placement and we require a carer to be available within the household to meet the child’s needs on a full-time basis. In some cases, it may still be possible to continue working but fostering must be your primary focus, and we expect you to be available to attend training, support groups, and children’s/young people’s meetings.

Certainly. You will complete a preparation training course called ‘Skills to Foster’ during your assessment, and once you have gained approval you will receive comprehensive on-going training and development.

You can call for help or assistance at any time, and this includes our out-of-hours, on-call service, staffed by our supervising social workers who are supported by a Duty Manager. You will also be supported by your supervising social worker who meets with you every month and is in regular contact with you by phone and email.
You will also be invited to our foster care support group meetings and will have membership of Foster Talk and the New Family Social (if applicable).

If a child has on-going medical needs, this will be explained to you before the placement is made and naturally you will receive all the assistance necessary. Our role is to support our foster carers and this may include providing specialist equipment or training.

Anywhere between 4 – 6 months. This is because various background checks including Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), home visits, risk assessments and family interviews are all required. Upon applying to be a foster carer with us, you will be assigned a Five Rivers social worker who will support you through the entire process. They will also attend a Fostering Approval Panel hearing with you where experts will review your application and hear from your social worker about your suitability to become a foster carer. If successful, the Panel will inform us that you have been approved and that you can await your first foster placement. Read more

The length of the assessment process is usually around four months, but can take up to six. Once you have been approved, our placement officers will be informed immediately and will start work on finding you a suitable placement. There’s no set timeframe from enquiry to your first placement, but typically once approved most of our carers have a child placed within six weeks.

Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) are privately owned companies that provide a fostering service to local authorities. Local authorities recruit foster carers to care for children and young people, and hold legal responsibility for them. However, if they do not have an appropriate placement with one of their own foster carers, they will ask independent fostering agencies, such as Five Rivers, if they can offer a suitable foster home with one of their foster carers instead. As an IFA, we are registered and inspected by Ofsted.

This can be the case, and if so you will find that Five Rivers provides you with a very high level of support. This includes 24/7 support, all year round. You also receive a professional fee as well as a generous fostering allowance to cover your costs. We also provide regular training and specialist support to enable you to meet the needs of the foster children and young people you look after.

Five Rivers is an Independent Fostering Agency that operates as a Social Enterprise. This means that any surplus we make is reinvested into the services we provide. In addition to fostering, we also offer Crisis Intervention, Residential Child Care, Assessment & Therapy, and Education services.

Payments vary according to the type of placement, and we discuss the financial details with you when we first visit you at home. You’ll receive a professional fee for your services, as well as an allowance to cover the extra costs you will incur; for example, food, clothes, basic travel and household bills. Read more about foster care pay and allowances.

As foster carers are deemed to be self-employed for tax purposes, the amount of tax you may pay will depend on your personal circumstances. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to take professional advice and get the help of an accountant to deal with your tax return.
Each year, Five Rivers provides you with an annual statement of payments and expenses to assist with this.

We’re constantly monitoring official Covid-19 advice and adapting our processes accordingly. In the main it means that we’ve had to remove face-to-face contact and home visits between prospective foster carers and Five Rivers’ social workers and instead implement online solutions. As and when restrictions ease, we plan on reintroducing home visits but this is to be decided at a later date. We know that there is a foster carer shortfall across the UK so we are doing all we can to maintain recruitment efforts and ensure we can support as many vulnerable children and young people as possible. All of our most up-to-date Covid-19 advice and guidelines can be found here.

The main difference between the two is legal and this is because children placed in foster care are still under the care of the relevant local authority, whereas adopted children become the legal responsibility of their adoptive parents. This means that while adoptive parents can make substantial life decisions on behalf of their children, for example medical or academic choices, foster carers do not have the authority to make such decisions and instead need to obtain permission from the birth parents or local authority. Another key difference is the time commitment. While some foster placements can be long-term and permanent, it is often a temporary solution while plans for the child’s long-term future are made and implemented
Another factor to take into consideration is that you will receive a high level of support to help you in your role as a foster carer. Adoptive parents do not receive the same level of support and do not have access to the resources of a fostering agency to call on when they need help and advice.

There are four main points to consider; the level of training and support provided, the financial benefits, the type of placements you’re likely to take on and what type of fostering agency you choose.

  •  Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) tend to offer increased training and support packages. We have a robust programme of training which includes a ‘Skills to Foster’ preparation course as well as ongoing training and development for all our foster carers. Our social workers are on hand to support foster carers through the application process and throughout their fostering career.
  •  You’ll probably earn more with an IFA as they tend to offer higher placement fees compared to local authorities. Our foster carers receive a professional fee as well as a regular allowance to cover costs such as food, clothes and increased household bills.
  • In terms of placements, Local Authorities are more likely to place babies and children but sometimes have trouble finding suitable foster carers for older children. This is where agencies like Five Rivers come in as we have a varied database of foster carers available to support a variety of children and young people.
  • Five Rivers is a Social Enterprise which means significant funds are reinvested back into the organisation, allowing us to provide higher levels of support than is available to Local Authority foster carers. This helps us be the very best we can be for our staff, our foster carers and the children and young people we look after.
While experience can be useful, it’s definitely not essential. The most important attributes are relevant transferable skills and a passion for helping children and young people. Obviously, there are some practical requirements as well like having a spare room, being over 21 and having the time to commit to a child. But everything else is based on you as a person and your ability to look after a child.
Absolutely not. You’ll never be expected to take on a placement that you are not 100% comfortable with. And this applies to all Five Rivers foster carers. During the application and assessment process, your personal circumstances, relevant skills and physical capacity will all be taken in to consideration to establish which type of placement you’ll be most suited to. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with your social worker to talk through the different types of foster care and which would be your preferred option.
As a parent and child foster carer, you’ll be consistently observing the parent and monitoring their relationship with the child; are they in tune with their emotional and physical needs? Are they able to stick to a suitable routine in terms of feeding, naptimes etc. Regular reporting on the situation and any developments or concerns will be a key part of your role. This will be reviewed at weekly meetings with your supporting social worker who will be on hand throughout the whole placement to provide you with guidance and feedback. Your reports will help determine whether the child should remain in the parent’s care or removed and placed in the care system for their safety and wellbeing.

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Do you feel you have the energy and true commitment to make a positive difference to a child’s or young person’s life?

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