Posted: Sunday 5th September 2021
So you’ve been to panel. You’ve been approved as a Foster Carer. And you are waiting for the phone to ring....and you know it will ring because Local Authority Foster Carers are never empty for long.
But what do you ask when the phone does ring? If your partner answers the phone, will they remember to ask the same questions as you?
It’s important to ask lots of questions so that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision for your family. Your fostering assessment will have set an approval range (your comfort zone), but the fostering team might still call when they are searching and need a placement for a child slightly out of your usual age or approval range.
It’s important to find the right match. It is ok to say no to a foster placement. But it can be hard to do.
A lot of information will be included on the placement paperwork that you receive when the child comes with their Local Authority social worker, but it also helps to ask before they arrive.
15 questions to ask when the fostering team call about a new placement. Free printable to download.
1. The basics.
Name, age, gender. What do they like to be called? When is their birthday? (Are they 2 but nearly 3?)
Is it more than one child, a brother and sister? How many, and can the siblings share a room? Do you have enough space in the spare bedroom, in the car?
2. Where are they coming from?
Are they coming from home, have they just been removed from their family? Are they moving from another Foster Carer? Why are they moving from there?
What do we know about their background history? Is this a traumatic move for them? Have they moved foster placement many times? Is there anything that triggered the move?
3. What school do they go to?
Are they in school? Do they attend full time school? What’s your plan for the school run? Do they use school transport?
Most children will remain at their current school and if you foster with the Local Authority, the child’s school should still be in your local county, but unlikely to be your local school just down the road.
Reducing the amount of change and upheaval for a child is beneficial, but how are the logistics going to work for the school run and pickups. Are young children already attending a nursery setting, will that continue?
4. What are they bringing with them?
Do they have many belongings? Are they bringing a full suitcase of clothes or just the clothes on their back? What do they have and what might they need? Do you already have everything you need for that age range or are you going to need a quick dash to the shops?
5. How long are they staying?
This will make most Foster Carers smile as they know that when we say “just a few days” it can easily stretch to a few weeks or even a few months. It’s helpful to get a rough idea of how long a child might be staying.
Can you be more open to something if it’s short term? Do you have any important dates coming up that you might need to change plans if this child stays? Would there be permission for this child to go on holiday with you for these dates?
6. What are the contact arrangements?
Will they see their mum and dad? Are mum and dad still together? How often and when is contact? Do they have other brothers and sisters in care? Do they see them? Do I need to transport or supervise contact?
7. Professionals involved?
Who is the child’s Local Authority social worker? Who is bringing the child?
8. Development and behaviour.
What age of car seat do I need? Are they big/small for their age? Are they at the development stage for their age? Bedtimes and routine. For older children, do they smoke? Known to use substances? Is there any behaviour towards males, females, other children or pets that we need to be aware of?
9. Babies – this needs a whole section for itself!
Has mum had any prenatal care? Due date? Was there any parental substance misuse? Is baby withdrawing?
Once the baby is born or tiny babies.
What milk do they have? Are they on baby formula or weaned? Dummies? Parents washing powder? Routine? What size nappies are they in?
Health, any issues from the birth?
Have all tests been done ready for discharge, heel prick etc? Has baby been weighed ready for discharge (really important.. sometimes staff are quick to discharge!!) Basic stuff like what hospital to collect from, time of discharge meeting, who I need to report to at the hospital etc.
And definitely think about extra equipment you may need and ask for it! Have an equipment checklist for the different age groups you are approved for. It’s a good idea to be prepared with a well-stocked garage (with car seats, high chair, pushchair, cot…) for various ages so you are ready for a new arrival.
10. What area is the child and their wider family from?
Will the child need to visit that area regularly to meet up with family? As a foster carer with a Local Authority, the children are likely to be from your local area (you are unlikely to have to travel for 3 hours!). If you foster with a private agency the children could be from further away.
Are there any areas I need to avoid? Am I likely to bump into the wider family if I go to a certain shop, or am I best to avoid going shopping in certain locations. Is there any risk from the wider family, is this an anonymous placement and why?
11. Likes and dislikes. Personality
Do we know anything about them? Do they attend any groups or after school activities? Where and when? We hear a lot of the difficult things about children, unfortunately looked-after children have everything negative written down, and we are so busy making you aware of the past challenges and problems that we often forget to tell you the good stuff. Little things might help you to make them feel more comfortable when they arrive.
Do they like dogs, cats, pets? Are they used to pets?
13. Any allergies or medical needs? Food.
Any dietary needs? What do they like to eat? Medical information will be in the placement paperwork but worth knowing in advance. Are they up to date with vaccinations, health visitor appointments, dental care? What living situation were they in, was it hygienic? (are they likely to have nits?) Are they taking any medication?
Do they go to a church? Is English their first language?
15. Support needs
Do you need any support with this placement? What do you need to help the child with?
15 questions to ask when the fostering team call about a new placement. Free printable to download
To help with those first phone calls, here is a handy printable sheet to have next to the phone.
When the fostering duty worker is looking for a placement, there is often a mild panic and desperate hunt for the right carer who is available and says yes. Often information is limited but we share what we know. If you manage to get answers to most of these questions you’ve done really well. The Local Authority social worker who knows the child best, will often be the one who brings them to your house, along with the paperwork, so there is a chance to learn more then, but often the priority is get the child settled and happy.
Although you might not get all the answers, it’s important to know what you are saying yes to. Ask as much as you can, so you know if this child is the right match for you and your family. The less that children move from foster carer to foster carer, the better it is for the child.
Now you have some of the answers, do you feel confident to say yes? Or do you need to discuss with your partner or family first. Can you call the fostering team back? Who do need to speak to when you do call back? What’s the best number to call? What time are you likely to be able to confirm your answer? And when is the child likely to arrive? Are you on a short list of possible foster carers? Or are you the only person on the list so far, to care for this child?
Free Printable - Questions to ask about a new foster placement. Have this pdf next to the phone.
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