People from all walks of life can foster children. You may be married, in a civil partnership, or single. Foster carers come from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Foster carers can rent or own their homes. Some foster carers successfully combine some working hours along with fostering too.
However, it’s essential to understand that fostering is a privilege, not a right. There are some prerequisites that all prospective foster carers must offer. Some of these may feel strict or unnecessary, but all exist because the best practice has found these to be necessary to ensure secure and stable fostering placements.
To foster, you must offer this.
The essential requirements for fostering are much more dependent upon practicalities and personal attributes than qualifications, of which no formal certificates are required, although any theoretical learning that bears relevance to any aspect of fostering and the needs of children and young people in care will undoubtedly be advantageous. Your location and individual needs of fostering agencies may vary, but you should be able to offer all of the following:
- A spare bedroom as space for your foster child to have time alone in
- Be at least 21, but more usually 25 years of age
- A car owner/driver if reliable public transport isn’t available
- The time in your life to commit to parenting a child in care
- Hold a British passport or permanent UK residency/settled status
- No convictions for assault or any crime involving a child
Fostering fee and allowance.
Fostering is not a ‘job’ in the most commonly understood sense. Financial support is provided to all foster carers, and usually comes in two parts:
This is paid to you to meet all of the needs of children entrusted into your care, for example, meals, clothing, healthcare, pocket money, savings, entertainment, the pursuit of hobbies, and for holidays, birthdays and special occasions, and to cover an increase in the cost of household bills, and;
A fee element.
This is paid to you in recognition of your valued role, to spend as you wish. There may be differences to this in Scotland.
While fostering agencies of any type may pay more than these minimum allowances, rarely do people become foster carers who are motivated by income alone. One foster carer of 15 years, who has looked after almost one hundred children and young people once put it to me in words that describe it best:
“I don’t do it for the money, but I couldn’t do it without the money.”
Having shared this remark with other approved foster carers, all have agreed with this. No one goes into fostering to get rich.
Each year, the Government sets the current minimum weekly allowance that foster carers get to cover the cost of caring for a child. For more information, click here.
Consider your options before committing.
Additional financial support may be offered, so it is worth exploring a few within your area to ensure you apply to be assessed by an agency that is going to meet your needs as a carer if you are approved.
Some may provide continued fee payments following the end of one placement and the start of another, or an extra amount paid to cover the cost of foster children joining you on holiday.
Others may offer an annual loyalty award, or increase your fee with experience, or the achievement of a relevant qualification.
And increasingly fostering agencies will pay a ‘finder’s fee’ to their foster carers who encourage a friend to come forward to foster.
Whether approved as a foster carer with an independent fostering provider or a local authority, in both cases, you will not become an employee of the agency. Foster carers are classed as self-employed, and there is a guide about what this means for you on the Government’s website.
Flexibility helps ensure continuity of placements, and your income.
One of the most sought-after qualities in new foster carers is personal adaptability and the enthusiasm to learn and develop within your fostering career. For example, your application to become a foster carer will be given priority if:
- You would like to look after sibling groups
- One adult is at home all the time for small children or can be available for older children
- You can bring and collect children to their existing schools
- You can care for older children including some who need your help to return to school
- You can facilitate contact between looked after children and their birth families
Fostering agencies place a high emphasis on learning and development, and with good reason. I have worked with around 20 fostering agencies, and all have well-established training, development and support groups in place to help you acquire new skills and share your experience of fostering for the benefit of others.
When you foster, everyone else does too!
There is often a strong ‘family feel’ within fostering agencies and building a network of other carers can be a valuable support in addition to your supervising social worker. Fostering agencies provide round the clock support, so you are never left on your own.
A final point to end on here is that all members of your household must be fully supportive of fostering if it is to be successful for you and the children that are placed with you. Remember, partners and children will be ‘fostering’ too!
Further information about fostering:
- Amazon – Books about fostering
- Children & Young People Now – Fostering articles
- CoramBAAF – Fostering section
- Fostering Now – Facebook
- GOV.UK – Fostering section
- IMDB – Films and movies with a fostering theme
- Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers
- NSPCC – Guidance for Foster Carers
- The Fostering Network
- The Guardian Social Care Network – Fostering articles
Sponsored links to fostering agencies:
To book a sponsored link on this page for your fostering agency, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details of rates and availability.