By Cheryl Long, Recruitment Social Worker
As lockdown forced us to move many of our services and processes online, Team Fostering has had to think hard about how we continue to manage tasks that generally require us to be face-to-face. Recruitment of foster carers is a huge part of the work we do, and requires a lot of interaction between our recruitment team and our prospective carers, including an initial visit to the foster carers' home. We asked Recruitment Social Worker, Cheryl Long to explain how we've changed our approach:
"During these unprecedented times, we know that there are many children who still need a safe and loving home. Our priority at Team Fostering is always “putting children’s futures first”, therefore it is vital that we continue to recruit enough new foster carers to meet children’s needs.
In light of the instructions from the government regarding social distancing, we have adapted our foster carer recruitment and assessment processes completely. This means that we are still able to take enquiries from prospective foster carers everyday via our dedicated recruitment phone number. We also have a Live Chat function available on our website so that you can still reach us outside of office hours, or you can even message us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. However you’d like to get in touch with us, we’re here to help you on your foster care journey.
When you enquire about fostering with Team Fostering, we’ll give you a ring straight away to complete our initial screening call – this checks that you are suitable to become a foster carer and that you are able to meet our requirements, such as having a spare room, or being over 21 years of age. You can read more about our requirements here.
Often people making enquiries rule themselves out from fostering as they feel that they are ‘too old’, or that being single or in a same sex relationship will be a problem. None of the above would automatically rule you out from fostering with us and we always welcome enquiries from people from all walks of life.
Once we have completed our initial screening call with you, we will let you know if you are suitable to progress to an initial home visit. Normally we’d come and see you in your home, but as we are currently unable to see you face-to-face we’ve adapted to use technology and video calling systems including WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to carry out the initial home visit. We’ll ask you the same questions as we would if you were face-to-face with us, and it is always lovely for us to meet all the members of your household including your pets. This is your opportunity to let us know what you could offer a foster child and allows you to ask any questions you have about fostering with Team Fostering. We will ask you to give us a little ‘guided tour’ of your home too, so that we can see that your home is suitable for a foster child. Once we have discussed the visit with our recruitment team, we will let you know the outcome of the home visit within 24 hours.
Prospective foster carer Sandra recently had a home visit call with us and said:
“We were one of the first to have the face to face appointment via video call, it was strange during the first few minutes, but within a short while it was easy and comfortable, we chatted as though we were here together in person. The walk round my home to see the suitability was slower than face to face as I had to make sure the camera was showing everything. I think it helped though as we got on well and I was instantly at ease with the recruitment social worker anyway.”
Our recruitment team also feels that these new ways of working have some advantages:
“We find that prospective foster carers are able to quickly connect with us and when the initial awkwardness is over we find that they relax and we get a real insight into what they have to offer, with their family members, interests and home.”
As Sandra explains: “The video call was probably longer than a face to face, I couldn’t even tell you how long it actually was but found it easy. It was just like talking to a friend or family member that you couldn’t see due to the current situation.”
For me personally, it has been good to see the prospective foster carer’s pets in their home and on two occasions my own pet cat Marley has awoken from his slumber and joined in the initial visit by sitting on my knee and watching the different people on the video call. I think he likes to check out the lovely people that we meet too, but is not too keen on any dogs!
We have developed our systems so that you can proceed swiftly from your first fostering conversations with us to approval as a foster carer . This means that, at present, a large part of your fostering assessment will be virtual, we will offer our pre-approval training virtually, and follow this with virtual fostering panels, all using the same video-calling technology. Throughout this process, you’ll be assigned a recruitment social worker who will stay in touch with you every step of the way, answer any questions you may have and offer their support.
Whether you have been thinking of fostering for a while or have just started thinking about taking this step, this time of great change and reflection could be the right time for you to explore fostering with Team Fostering. We offer support at every step of your fostering journey so that you can offer the best possible care to children and young people when they need it the most. If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, we would be delighted to hear from you."
Team Fostering are always looking for new foster carers, especially now while many children are stuck in difficult home situations during lockdown – if you’re interested in making a difference to a young person’s life, get in touch to take the first step on your fostering journey.
If you’re considering becoming a foster carer, you can contact us in the following ways:
- send an online enquiry by clicking here
- call us on 0800 292 2003
- email us via firstname.lastname@example.org