The council is urging residents to become foster carers and ‘make a huge difference to local children’.

Foster Care Fortnight 2019 runs from May 13 to May 26 and Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) has been spreading the message about how residents can support the borough’s young people.

Members of BFC’s fostering team set up in The Lexicon today (Wednesday, May 15) to let locals know about the opportunities available to them.

Ofsted rates the service BFC provides for looked after children as ‘outstanding’ and the authority needs more carers in Bracknell to ensure young people don’t have to move out of the area to find a foster family. 

Sarah Crawforth, recruitment officer at BFC told the News: “Nationwide the fostering network needs around 8,000 new households. 

“Generally there is a shortage and Bracknell is no different to that. 

“We are ‘outstanding’ in looking after children because we look at what is best for the child - we are always looking to put the child first.”

Fostering is “hugely rewarding” experience for many carers and the council provides support for those who look after children through training, guidance, respite relief and more. 

Local Berkshire:

Carers are also supported financially - for example, someone looking after an eleven-year-old child for all 52 weeks of a year would receive almost £20,000 in tax-free allowance.

Free use of Coral Reef, Bracknell Forest leisure centres and the Look Out Discovery Centre is another perk carers receive.

Local Berkshire:

Foster carers become eligible to look after children through a six-step process, which starts with the authorities gathering basic information on applicants.

Crawforth added: “The first step is to have an eligibility check online so we can see if you’re eligible to foster - the main criteria is if you have a spare bedroom and time to devote to a child.”

Residents interested in fostering should be over 21 years old and don’t need to be in a relationship or own their own home.

After basic information is submitted, members of the fostering team then visit applicants’ homes, before an application form is filled in and a social worker is designated to potential carers. 

Local Berkshire:

The assessment stage is the longest part of the process as social workers carry out checks on applicants, which includes DBS checks for those over 16 and living in the candidate’s home, contacting referees and a medical examination. 

A preparation course called ‘skills to foster’ gives applicants the chance to learn more about what’s involved in fostering before a social worker writes an assessment report outlining what type of placement would be best for carers. 

After this, a fostering panel will make a recommendation on the candidate’s suitability to foster but the final decision comes down to the council’s agency decision maker. 

Once the application is approved, social workers and foster carers work together to match children with a foster family.   

An information morning is being held at St Michael’s Church in Warfield on Saturday morning (May 18) where residents can find out more about being a carer. 

You can find out more about fostering by visiting the council’s website here.