This advice and guidance page describes the process for becoming a foster carer and/or adoptive parent.
Last reviewed May 2021.
To become a foster carer, you must be at least 21 years old, a UK resident or have indefinite leave to remain, able to take care of a child or young person often on a full time basis. To find out more about how to do this if you are a resident of Reading Borough you can contact Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) – Reading Fostering Service Tel: 0118 4693020
There are also local and national fostering agencies PACT- Parents And Children Together (Reading), Barnados, BAAF, Adolescence & Children’s Trust……
The process for becoming a foster carer will be the same whether you go through your local authority or a fostering agency. Visit www.gov.uk/foster-carers for information on how to beome a foster carer.
Once you have been accepted, foster carers are reviewed every year by the local authority or fostering agency. If you need training in a specific area then they should be able to provide that training. You will have a supervising social worker who will visit regularly to offer advice and support.
There is a help and support line for foster careres Foster line Tel: 0800 040 7675; www.fosterline.info
Once you have been accepted there are different types of foster care that you can consider:
- Emergency – When children need somewhere safe to stay for a few nights with short notice.
- Short term – Looking after children for a few weeks or months while the children’s plans for the future are being made.
- Short breaks – for children who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who will regularly stay with a family while their parents or usual foster carers have a break.
- Remand – When young people are remanded by a court to be looked after by a specially-trained foster carer.
- Long term – This is an option for children who do not want to be adopted but cannot live with their birth family, they will instead go into long term foster care.
- Family and friends or kinship – A child being looked after by the local authority will live with someone they already know, usually a family member. Contact Reading Family Placement team for more information Tel 0118 937 3740
- Specialist therapeutic – For children / young people with very complex needs and or challenging behavior.
For more information on financial help for fostering and the benefits you can claim while fostering go to www.gov.uk
Adoption is when someone offers a new family home to children who cannot be looked after by their own parents. This is a legal procedure all parental responsibility reverts to you and not the birth parents. Once adoption has taken place it cannot be reversed apart from exceptional circumstances. The child is your legal responsibility and becomes a full member of your family and usually takes the families name. This differs to foster care when responsibility for the child is shared between the local authority and the foster carer.
You may be able to adopt a child if you are over 21 (no upper limit) and either:
- in a civil partnership
- an unmarried couple (same sex and opposite
- the partner of a child’s parent
You do not have to be a British Citizen; you must however have a fixed address in the UK and have lived in the UK for at least a year. There are different rules for private adoptions and those of children looked after by the local authority.
You can either go through an adoption agency attached to the local Authority or through a voluntary adoption agency, you can contact as many agencies as you want, each will offer different things. Once you have chosen an adoption agency The adoption process is now a two stage process, approval normally takes around six months. Visit www.gov.uk/child-adoption
Stage One - Registration & Checks
Once you have chosen an adoption agency you will need to complete a Stage One Plan. This will set out the responsibilities and expectations for this stage of the process for both you and the agency.
You will need to provide various pieces of factual information along with the names of three referees who can give a personal reference one of which can be a relative. You will be asked to attend a full medical examination and you and any adults living with you will have to have a police check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), you cannot adopt if you or any adult living with you has been convicted of a serious crime. There will be opportunities to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters, you will learn about the children waiting for adoption and meet experienced adopters. Depending on your experience with children you may be asked to complete some tasks if the agency feels you would benefit from this. Once all the references have been collected and the agency if happy for you to proceed you will then be asked if you want to move onto stage two. If the adoption agency is not happy for you to continue they must give a reason in writing. This stage normally takes about two months.
Stage Two - Assessment & Training
If you agree to carry on, you will be asked to a complete a Stage Two Plan detailing how the assessment process will be completed, which will include details of assessment meetings, dates for training sessions and a proposed date for the adoption panel. A social worker will be assigned to work with you, and form their meetings with you will compile a report based on what you have discussed. The report will be sent to the Adoption Panel on your suitability to adopt. You will be able to see the report and comment before it is sent, you will also have an opportunity to meet with the panel to assist them with their recommendation. Stage two normally takes four months however you can ask for extra time during the assessment if you need it. The process above is a brief outline, for more details on the adoption process please view first4adoption or www.gov.uk
If you do not agree with the adoption agencies decision you can appeal, if you want to contact another adoption agency you can, however you will have to start the whole process again from the beginning.
Local Adoption Agencies Thames Valley Adopt and PACT. National agencies BAAF, Barnado’s etc.
The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) www.first4adoption.org.uk/adoption-support-fund
Children who live away from their families with people who are not closely related to them may be privately fostered. Private fostering arrangements are often made directly between the child’s parents (or person with parental responsibility for the child) and the people who look after them, without any initial involvement from Children’s Services. This means children living in private foster care could be vulnerable to harm or abuse. Local Authorities have a legal duty to safeguard the health and welfare of children living in private foster care (in Reading, Brighter Futures for Children have this responsibility). However we cannot meet our statutory responsibilities if we do not know that a private fostering arrangement exists.
A private fostering arrangement is where a child under the age of 16 years (or under 18 years if they are disabled) lives with, and is cared for by, someone who is not their parent or close relative for 28 days or more. This is usually as a result of a private agreement between the child’s parents (or someone else with Parental Responsibility for the child) and the carers, and without any initial involvement from Children’s Services. In this case a “close relative” means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt. It also includes half-relatives, step parents and people who are related to the child by marriage.
To find out more about Private Fostering please view BFfC Private Fostering Guide for Working With Children 2020