Who can be a foster carer?
Any adult can foster as long as they can demonstrate they have the time, emotional space and want to help children reach their potential.
Foster carers come from all backgrounds and bring a wide range of life and work experiences.
- You can be single and foster
- Your sexual orientation won’t prevent you from being a foster carer
- Your religion, culture and beliefs won’t prevent you from being a foster carer
- You can sometimes continue to work and foster
- There is no upper age limit to be a foster carer
- You don’t need any formal qualifications
What criteria do you have to meet to become a foster carer?
To become a foster carer in the UK you will need to meet the following:-
- Be at least 21 years-old (although by law you can apply to foster from 18)
- Have a spare bedroom big enough for a young person to live in
- Be a full-time resident in the UK or have leave to remain
- Be able to give the time to care for a child or young person, often on a full-time basis.
I haven’t had children of my own, do foster carers have to have had experience in raising children?
It is not a requirement that you have had children of your own as you will be provided with all the necessary training and support to look after your foster child.
I have a criminal record, does that prevent me from fostering?
Not necessarily but you will need to be up-front about any convictions you may have. The nature of your criminal record and when it took place will be assessed however, any violent crimes and offences against children or vulnerable people are likely to prevent you from being approved. During your assessment to become a foster carer you will undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
I live in rented accommodation, can I still become a foster carer?
Many people foster whilst living in rented accommodation, you just need to make sure you get consent from your landlord or agent.
Can I foster if I have a lodger/non-family member living with me?
Yes, if you give notice on your lodger prior to completion of the assessment process.
If the lodger or non-family member has lived with you for 12 months, will not be leaving the home and agree to be involved in the assessment process; they will need to complete the necessary checks and references.
Do I need to be able to drive?
It is preferred that you have a full driving licence and access to a car but it is not always essential as transport can be organised to take children to and from school or contact meetings.
Can I foster if I have pets?
Having pets does not prevent you from fostering, in fact, they can be an asset to a foster family. However, every animal is different and your pets will be assessed as part of the process of becoming a foster carer, taking into account factors such as their temperament and behaviour. As a pet owner, you also need to think about how you would feel and react if a child injures one of your pets.
Why do children need to be fostered?
There are many reasons why children and young people need to be looked after by foster carers, and every single case is different. The myth that families are always at fault and foster children are always difficult is untrue. Some people just need more help than others.
How long does it take to become a foster carer?
The length of the application process can vary from carer to carer. On average, it takes around 6 months to complete the assessment and be approved as a foster carer.
Do I get a choice of who I care for?
Yes. Before you start caring for anyone, the types of children who will fit in with your family and skills will be agreed. You will be able to choose which ages and genders would fit best with your family. When you are offered a placement you will be given details of the child and the decision is yours to make.
How long do foster children stay?
There are many types of foster placement lasting for different lengths of time and it will be agreed which types you would like to take on. The exact length of each placement will be unknown but the main types of fostering placement are as follows:-
- Short term foster care - A child will stay with you for anything from a few days to a couple of years while local authorities make plans for their future.
- Respite care - Respite care provides short-term placements for children with the same carer. Ideal for families, couples or singletons who work, respite care usually takes place on weekends or during school holidays in order to support an existing foster carer or family member.
- Family Link - provide regular short breaks for a child or young person with a disability. This may be for one weekend a month, but generally is a flexible arrangement to suit you, the child and their family.
- Remand fostering - Young people who find their way into the criminal justice system are sometimes, at short notice, placed with a foster family instead of being held in custody. The supportive family environment can significantly reduce the probability that they’ll reoffend again.
- Long term foster care - Sometimes, children need to live away from their birth family permanently but don’t want to be adopted, they therefore may stay with you until they’re adults.
- Emergency foster care - When a child needs a safe place to stay at short notice, they’ll be placed with you for a few days and nights.
- Fostering for adoption - If you’re thinking about adopting a baby or young child, they’ll stay with you for a trial period. If all goes well, they could be a member of your family for life.
What happens in the assessment process to become a foster carer?
The process takes a few months to complete and you’ll have a dedicated social worker to support you every step of the way.
Initial background checks - To begin with, we’ll need your permission to perform background checks (paid for by us) on you and your family, including:
- Criminal checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service
- Medical checks with your GP
- Background checks with local authorities
- Suitability checks with three referees (non-family members) provided by you
Home visits - Your social worker will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis throughout your assessment period. Together, you’ll work out what types of fostering fit your lifestyle best and what types of foster child you will be most helpful to.
Training sessions - As you progress with your assessment, you will be provided with full training to prepare you for life as a foster carer. You’ll learn about the fostering process, meet experienced foster carers and people who are involved in the assessment process. Further training is also available if you want to specialise in helping foster children who have more specific needs.
Panel decision - Once you’ve passed the background checks and training, and your social worker has collected all the information they need, your assessment report will passed to the fostering panel, they will make the decision to approve your application.
What effect will fostering have on my family?
Fostering is definitely a family affair, and everyone you live with should be committed to caring for your foster child. This means it’s your whole family who will be assessed when you apply, and it’s your whole family who can feel the benefit of changing a life for the better.
During your assessment process you will be given help to understand the potential changes you may need to make.
Can a foster child come on holiday with us?
It is encouraged to give your foster children the opportunities to experience as much as possible and going on holiday is a great way for them to feel like part of your family.
The decision as to whether your foster child is allowed to go ultimately rests with their social worker. But it’s rare for them to turn down the offer as it’s usually a beneficial experience for someone in care.
Do foster children stay at the same school or can they move to a school local to me?
Foster children do generally stay at their original school as it will provide them with consistency by staying in contact with friends and teachers they already know. If the foster child is a long-term foster child then a change in school can be reviewed.
Will I find it difficult when a foster child moves on?
After investing your time and energy into helping a foster child through a difficult time, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss them when they leave. More often than not, they’ll have gone through significant changes for the better and you’ll feel proud to have been a part of it. The NFCA is here to support carers when a foster child has moved on as everyone will have gone through the same experience and will understand exactly what you are going through.