Guide to the fostering application process

1. How long the application process takes

Becoming a foster carer with Bristol City Council is easier than you might think.

The process takes around eight months from when you first get in touch to let us know you’re interested in being a foster carer to when we welcome you to our fostering family.

This roughly breaks down as:

  • around 12 weeks from when you first get in touch to getting you onto our preparation course
  • around 18 weeks from the day you attend the preparation course to getting your application to our fostering panel
  • around 2 weeks from when our fostering panel goes through your application to officially becoming one of our foster carers

You can pull out of the process at any point, if you decide that fostering isn’t for you.

This guide explains the process step by step. If you have any questions about what we expect from you at any point of the process, please ask.

2. Get in touch to express your interest

If you think fostering might be for you, the first step will be to get in touch with us. You can do this by using our contact form or calling us on 0117 3534200.

We’ll answer any questions you may have at this stage, and we might ask you for some information too.

If we need to, we may arrange for a member of our team to visit you in your home so we can start getting to know you.

We won’t push you to make any decisions, and we won’t make you feel obliged to go ahead with fostering at any point of the process. 

This step takes about two weeks.

3. Come to an information evening

We’ll invite you to one of our fostering information evenings, which will be a great way for you to find out a bit more about what it’d be like to foster with us. There will be other people interested in fostering there too.

The evenings are usually monthly. If you can’t make the evening we invite you to, you can come to the next one.

The evening takes about an hour and a half.

What happens at the information evening

You can ask us any questions you might have or talk to us about anything you’re unsure about. You don’t need to ask any questions if you don’t want to.

It might help you to hear other people’s questions, as this could:

  • give you a different perspective on fostering
  • get you thinking about aspects of fostering you hadn’t thought about before

You will also hear from a foster carer, who will share their experience of fostering with us.

At the end of the evening, one of our social workers will be there to talk to you one to one.

If you’re interested in moving forward, we’ll arrange for one of our social workers to visit you at home and talk you through what fostering could mean for you and your family in more detail.

This step takes about two weeks.

4. We create your application portfolio together

The home visit is nothing to worry about. It’s an opportunity for us to get to know you better and start putting the necessary paperwork together.

During the home visit, if you decide to proceed and we agree this would be the right thing for you, we’ll ask you some basic details about yourself.

We’ll also ask you to sign some paperwork to:

  • express an interest in being assessed for fostering
  • give your consent for us to undertake some checks

After the home visit, we’ll do some checks, including criminal record checks. We’ll also be asking for a reference from your child’s school, if applicable.

During the home visit, we’ll also ask you for:

  • three personal references, for example from friends, relatives, co-workers
  • employer’s reference, if you’re working at the moment or have had a job in the past
  • a reference about your health from your GP
  • a reference from your health visitor, if applicable

This process will help us get a sense of whether fostering is the right choice for you. We’ll keep all your details confidential.

5. Come to a fostering preparation course

Once we’ve done our checks and have your references, we’ll invite you to a Skills to Foster course, run by foster carers and social workers.

The course:

  • will help prepare you for looking after a foster child
  • is a great opportunity to meet other people applying to be foster carers

The course usually runs over two Saturdays and one evening session.

If you’re interested in being a Short Break carer for disabled children, we run separate courses for this.

"The Skills to Foster course helped [us] realise what some children go through and how resilient they are. It was really useful to listen to real life stories from foster carers and consider things we wouldn’t have thought about before.

The facilitators are knowledgeable and encouraging."

Jules and Ahmed, fostering with us since September 2017

6. We get to know each other

We’ll arrange for a member of our team to visit you at home a few times.

The visits are nothing to worry about. They help us to get to know you and your family and better understand the skills you have. We’ll also answer any questions you might have about fostering, and make sure you have all the information you need.

Once we’ve visited you a few times, our family placement social worker will write a report and make a recommendation to our fostering panel.  

7. Our panel goes through your application

You and your social carer will meet with the fostering panel, so they can get to know you and ask you a few questions.

Our fostering panel  will then meet to talk about your application. They can then make a recommendation to the fostering team senior manager about whether or not fostering is right for you.

If the fostering panel have made a positive recommendation for you, your application will most likely be approved.

If it isn’t approved, you have the right to ask for an independent review.

8. Welcome aboard!

Congratulations, you’re now part of our fostering family!

We’ll send you a welcome pack with everything you need to know.

We can then start looking together to find the right children for you to welcome into your home.

We’ll also give you access to our dedicated website for foster carers, where you can get lots of information and support, and get to know the children needing homes in Bristol.

We’ll start sending you our Fostering Focus Newsletter, which is full of news, events, training and support groups that you can access even before you have your first foster child placed with you.

This is an exciting time for new carers, but we understand it can also feel daunting. Don’t worry, we’ll give you plenty of help and support, and we’re always here to answer any questions.