Frequently asked questions
If you’re thinking of becoming a foster carer, you’ve probably got plenty of questions. So we’ve put together the answers to some of the most common issues potential foster carers ask us about.
If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, please give us a call on 0800 077 8159 and our team will be happy to help.
What is fostering?
Fostering is when children and young people come to live with a foster carer because their parents are unable to care for them.
It’s a temporary arrangement that can last for anything from a few days to a few months or even years, and there are many different types of fostering placements.
Why do children need foster care?
Children need foster care for all sorts of reasons including as a result of family breakdown or illness. They could have become the subject of a child protection order after experiencing abuse and neglect or their parents may be ill and unable to care for them.
Whatever the reason, our foster carers offer these children a safe, stable home for as long as they need it. Find out more about why children need foster care.
What’s the difference between fostering and adoption?
Fostering and adoption are very different. Fostering involves caring for a child on a temporary basis and offering them the support they need to move on in life.
Adoption, on the other hand, is a permanent arrangement that involves taking on full legal responsibility for a child until they reach adulthood.
To learn more about the difference between fostering and adoption, read our What is foster care? page
What type of company is Fostering People?
Fostering People is a privately owned foster care agency. This means we work closely with local authorities to find suitable foster placements for looked after children they are unable to place with their own approved foster carers.
This could be because the local authority is facing a shortage of foster carers or the child has complex needs and requires a specialist placement. Fostering People is proud to implement the Mockingbird Family Model, an alternative method of delivering foster care.
For more information about Fostering People, read about Our history.
What is an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA)?
Why foster with an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA)?
Unlike local authorities, who are responsible for fostering, adoption and child protection, Independent Fostering Agencies, like us, focus only on fostering. This means that we can devote all our time to our foster carers and looked after children.
As fostering specialists, we’re better equipped to offer you the support, advice, guidance and training you need to provide the best possible foster care.
Find out more about fostering with an IFA.
Do I get any breaks or holidays?
Fostering can be difficult at times and, like everyone, foster carers sometimes need a break. That’s why we provide all our carers with regular respite or, if that isn’t appropriate for your current placement, we’ll help with the cost of a family holiday instead.
Will I receive any specialist training?
Yes, we believe fostering is a journey – and the more you know, the more you’ll get out of it.
That’s why we provide ongoing training opportunities for both our foster carers and our staff. Before you’re approved as a carer, you’ll attend a preparation course designed to get you and your family ready to foster. And once approved, you’ll take part in our comprehensive training programe.
Why does a foster child need their own bedroom? Can’t they share with my own children?
Everyone needs their own space. This is especially important for foster children, who may have experienced traumatic situations and are having to adapt to life in a new house with different people and routines. In a time of turmoil and uncertainty, having their own space can be extremely comforting for looked after children.
That’s why we’ll only place a child or young person in a home where he or she will have their own bedroom (unless they are a young sibling group).
How old do I have to be to become a foster carer?
Anyone over the age of 21 can apply to be a foster carer, although we would not normally approve anyone below the age of 25.
Am I too old to foster?
There’s no upper age limit when it comes to fostering. As long as you have the energy and enthusiasm to get involved in the more active elements of fostering, such as dropping children at school or taking part in outdoor activities, you can foster.
Can pensioners become foster parents too?
Yes, age is no barrier to fostering. In fact, many of our carers join us after they’ve retired or finished raising their own families.
What’s important is that you’re patient, compassionate and have the energy to meet the demands of fostering – whatever your age.
Do I have to be married to foster?
No, we have foster carers who are single, cohabiting, married and in civil partnerships.
If you’re in a relationship, we’d like it to be at least two years old. If you’re living with a partner, it should have been for a minimum of one year.
Can I foster if I’m gay?
Yes, we welcome carers of all sexualities. It doesn’t matter to us whether you’re gay or straight, male or female, bisexual or transgender.
What’s important is that you’re patient, compassionate and able to provide a safe, supportive environment for a child or young person.
Can I foster if I’m single?
Yes, you don’t have to be in a relationship to foster.
Our foster carers can be single, married, co-habiting or in a civil partnership. In fact, almost 28% of our carers are single.
Do I need previous childcare experience?
It would be helpful, but it’s not essential. Our foster carers come from all backgrounds and not everyone has experience of working in childcare.
We’ll work with you to help you identify your transferable skills and offer you the training and support you need to prepare for your fostering journey.
Do I need any special qualifications?
No. We provide ongoing training during and after approval to help you develop your fostering skills.
Can I foster if I have a criminal record?
A criminal record won’t necessarily prevent you from fostering, but it’s important that you’re honest with us right from the start about any convictions you have. In return, we’ll be honest with you and tell you how they could affect your application.
If you have any convictions related to offences against children, you won’t be able to foster.
Can I foster if I have kids?
Of course! Having your own children is a great way to gain the experience you need to become a foster carer.
If you do have your own children living at home, we’ll carefully consider their needs when matching you with looked after children and young people.
I’m disabled – can I still foster?
Having a disability won’t necessarily prevent you from being a foster carer. We consider all our applicants on an individual basis.
Like all carers, you’ll be asked to complete a medical check before being approved to foster with us. This is so we can ensure you can meet the needs of foster children without putting your own health at risk.
I can’t drive, does this mean I can’t foster?
No, you don’t have to drive to foster, although it can make life a lot easier. If you don’t drive or have access to a car then it’s important to think about how you’ll help the children in your care get to school or attend meetings with their birth family.
I’m a smoker, can I still become a foster parent?
Yes, although you won’t be able to foster any children under the age of 5. As a foster carer, you’ll be setting a strong example, so we’ll ask that you avoid smoking in front of the children in your care and never in your home or car.
Can people from any religion or faith become foster carers?
Yes, we welcome carers from all religious and cultural backgrounds. Where possible, we try to place looked after children with foster carers from the same cultural or religious background so they can meet their unique needs.
What are foster children like?
We care for children of all ages, genders and backgrounds. All foster children have faced difficulties and some will have social and behavioural issues.
We tailor our support to meet each child’s individual needs and help them to move on with their life. Visit our Why Do Children Need Foster Care? page to find out more.
Will foster children have difficult behaviour?
Children come into care for all sort of reasons. As a result, they behave in very different ways.
Some may act aggressively, whilst others will be withdrawn. Every child has a different way of dealing with their past experiences – and we’re here to help. Our ‘Why Do Children Need Foster Care? page will help you find out more.
Can I foster more than one child?
Yes, you can. In fact, many of our carers offer more than one placement type and may, for example, be caring for a child on a long term basis at the same time as offering respite foster care.
Your ability to offer multiple fostering placements will depend on your own circumstances and the individual needs of the children in your care.
Remember – you’ll need to have a spare bedroom available for each child unless you foster siblings of the same gender, where it will sometimes be possible for them to share a room.
Can I choose which age range or gender I would prefer to foster?
All of our foster carers are approved to take children aged betweeb 0 – 18 of both genders, however our carers have a preference within that for a given age range or gender depending on their family circumstances. It’s important to remember that if you are going to be releying on your fostering income you need to be open to a wide range of ages of children. As those that specify a younger child only may have to wait longer for a suitable placement.
Can I choose the ethnicity of the child I foster?
Where possible, we try and match carers with children from the same ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
How much will I know about a child before they’re placed with me?
We’ll give you as much information as possible about a child before the placement begins. In short, whatever we know, you’ll know too.
Can I choose how long I want a child to stay with me?
There are many types of fostering including short-term, long-term, respite and emergency. Different carers prefer different placement types and we’ll do our best to help you decide what’s right for you.
The length of time a child will stay with you will vary depending on their individual circumstances – it can be days, months or even years.
How much do foster carers get paid?
Our foster carers do a fantastic job, which is why we reward them for their hard work with generous fostering payments.
The exact amount you’ll receive will vary depending on the type of placement and the individual needs of the child. On average, our carers receive at least £360 per week for each child in their care.
On average our foster carers receive over £400 per week per child for a child over the age of 10.
Visit our fees and allowances page to find out more.
What does the fostering allowance cover?
Your weekly fostering allowance is designed to cover everything from maintenance, clothing and pocket money to leisure activities, travel and birthday expenses. It also includes the usual school expenditure, such as day visits and family holidays. And there’s an additional element that recognises the skills and time you bring to the role.
Find out more by visiting our fees and allowances page.
Do foster carers pay tax?
Thanks to generous tax relief from HM Revenue & Customs, foster carers pay very little (if any) tax and National Insurance. As a FosterTalk member, you’ll have access to free tax advice and suppor
Will I be paid in between fostering placements?
No, we don’t pay a retainer fee in between fostering placements.
We can aim to leave as little or as much time in between placements as you wish. If you’d like continuous fostering placements, you may want to consider caring for teenagers as well as younger children.
Read our fees and allowances page to find out more.
Can I still go out to work if I become a foster carer?
Yes you can, although many foster carers prefer not to. We offer generous allowances so that the main foster carer doesn’t have to work. This means you can be constantly available for the child in your care, and able to attend meetings and continue training.
Other carers prefer to work part time and make themselves available at short notice, such as if their child falls ill at school. We have carers who continue to work and others who’d rather stay at home. We’ll look at this with you and consider your individual circumstances.
How long will it be until I receive my first fostering placement?
We’ll start the process of matching you with a foster child from the minute you’re approved as a carer with us.
The length of time between getting approved and having your first placement can vary from carer to carer, but we’ll always try and find the best possible fit based on your approval criteria and preferences. We expect to place your first child with you within 4 – 8 weeks, but this may vary based on circumstances.
How long do fostering placements last?
Every foster placement is different – some last for days or weeks, whilst others can last for months or even years. Although it’s not always possible to know exactly how long a child will stay with you, we’ll give you as much information as possible before and during the placement.
Our guide to different types of fostering placements will give you a good idea of what to expect.
What types of foster placements are available?
Every foster child has different needs, which is why we offer a range of fostering placements. This includes short term, long term and respite fostering, alongside more specialist types of placement.
Visit our types of placement page to find out more.
Can I choose the kind of fostering placement I have?
Yes, during the assessment stage you’ll be able to give us a preference.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’re more likely to have continuous placements if you’re willing to offer more than one type of fostering. Read our types of placement page for more information.
Will I meet the children before the fostering placement begins?
In most cases, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the child you’ll be caring for.
However, this isn’t always possible – especially if a child is placed in an emergency.
Where this happens, we’ll share as much information as possible with you before you decide whether to accept the placement.
What checks are carried out as part of the application?
To help find out whether fostering is right for you, we’ll carry out a number of checks on you and your home. These include:
- Police checks
- A standard safety check on your home
- Employment references
- School references
- Financial stability checks
- Health checks
- Personal references
How do I apply to be a foster carer?
Applying to be a foster carer begins with a telephone call to our friendly fostering team on 0800 077 8159. We’ll chat to you about the process and what’s involved, and talk you through what happens next.
Visit our fostering process page to find out about more about applying to foster with us.
What does the fostering process involve?
There are a number of steps involved in becoming a foster carer.
It all starts when you call our fostering line on 0800 077 8159. We’ll chat to you about what’s involved and arrange for one of our fostering advisors to visit you at home to go through the process in more detail. If you decide you’d like to apply to foster with us, we’ll give you an application form.
Find out more about what’s involved on our fostering process page.
Does it cost me money to apply?
Applying to become a foster carer is free in the main.
However, if you have lived outside of the UK we ask the applicants to pay for their own police check with that country and we refund this if they are approved.
Can I apply online?
No, you can’t apply online but you can enquire with us by filling in our online enquiry form. We can then give you a call at a time that suits you and begin the application process.
How long does the fostering process take?
The length of the application process can vary from carer to carer. On average, it takes around 4 – 6 months to complete your assessment and be approved as a foster carer.
Visit our fostering process page to find out more about what’s involved.
Who will be assessing my application to be a foster carer?
When you apply to foster with us, you’ll be allocated a supervising social worker. They’ll guide you through every step of the application process and work with you to create a detailed report called a Form F. This will then be presented to a fostering panel who will make the final decision on your suitability to foster.
Visit our fostering process page to find out more about the assessment and fostering panel.
I’m already a foster carer, how do I transfer to Fostering People?
Transferring to us can be easier than you think. That’s because we’ll work with you and your current fostering agency or local authority to make your move as easy and stress-free as possible.
It all starts when you call our fostering line on 0800 077 8159.
Visit our transferring page to find out more.