Can I foster?

Foster carers work as part of a multidisciplinary team either directly with the Local Authority or with an independent fostering agency.  The priority of fostering however is of ensuring that each and every child in care is supported by foster carers who are loving, enthusiastic and passionate about changing children’s lives for the better and are willing to work as part of a team to ensure the child or young person has a safe and nurturing home for as long as they need it.

Without question fostering will have its challenging moments, especially at the beginning of your fostering career, however with resilience, patience, training and the support of the Local Authority or fostering agency you have joined, foster carers are able to utilise the skills they learn to manage any challenges they may face.

What Are the Requirements to Foster a Child?

Foster carers come from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds, including single people, couples, families, unemployed, employed, people aged over 65 and more. People of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations make amazing foster carers.

The fostering role is often easier if you have a support network of family and friends for times you may require unexpected or short notice support, but this does not need to be substantial, it is what you would access for everyday life.  It may be a family member or a trusted friend or neighbour.  The support network you choose will all have to undergo checks, similar to those you, as primary carer/s undertook.

It is of course hugely beneficial if you have a driving licence and use of a car.  However this is not always essential, consideration will be given to where you live and if you have good access to public transport to help get your foster child to school, activities and other events.

Foster carers will have varying important life experiences which are beneficial to becoming a successful foster carer, however the primary consideration is that you must be passionate about providing the best possible environment for the children and young people you are caring for. The priority criteria for fostering are as follows:

  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • Not being medically signed off as unable to work
  • Health issues which would impair your ability to adequately care for the young people placed with you
  • Having a spare bedroom for each foster child or young person to live in
  • Reside within the UK
  • Do not have a criminal conviction which would negate your application (see below)

Can You Foster and Work Full Time?

It may be possible to continue to work full-time in another job depending on the needs and ages of the children placed with you, but it is important that foster carers are able to fully support the children with attendance to school and all social excursions that are a normal part of the child or young person’s life.

Additionally, all foster carers are required to attend training, meetings, support groups as well as being available whenever needed for the foster children in their care.

It helps also if you wish to continue to work, that your job is flexible and willing to allow you to leave early for appointments for the children or at short notice in an emergency situation. It is often wise to discuss your fostering plans with your employer to gauge the support they will offer you. Many companies have specific policies regarding support for foster carers.

There are a number of placement types which would be more suitable for people who wish to continue to work full time such as ‘respite’ or ‘short-term’ fostering, or it may be more suitable to foster an older child who is able to make their own way to school or college and is more independent.

For more information on these different placements, please follow this link to our types of fostering page.

Can You Foster with a Criminal Record?

A criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from becoming a foster carer.

Part of the independent fostering agency or Local Authority fostering assessment process will include a police check or Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check on anyone in the applicants’ household over the age of 18. As part of the screening process applicants will normally be asked to disclose anything that may be on their DBS record so that this can be discussed at the earliest opportunity and does not later hold up the application process once it has begun. It is better to be honest about any convictions at the earliest stage of your enquiry to foster, so that it can be determined if the conviction will exclude you from becoming a foster carer.

During the fostering assessment, full consideration will be given in terms of the time period, circumstances and type of offence. Criminal activity such as offences against children, certain violent crimes, and sexual offences, will automatically disqualify an applicant.

The Local Authority or independent fostering agency will ask you this question during the pre-application screening process.

Can You Foster if You Smoke?

Fostering services accept foster carers who smoke or use electronic cigarettes, but it may prevent them from being offered some types of fostering placements, such as:

  • Mother and child placements
  • Placements of children under 5
  • Placements of children or young people with respiratory issues

The policies around smoking vary across each fostering service, however most fostering services strongly encourage foster carers not to smoke within the household as there is overwhelming evidence that tobacco smoke can have long term effects on the health of young people. Most fostering providers will offer support and guidance to help the foster carer to stop smoking as the health of foster carers and the young people in their care is a priority.

Can You Foster if You Are Disabled?

Yes, being disabled or having a chronic illness does not automatically prevent you from fostering. Your disability will be taken into account during the assessment phase to decide which placements would be suitable, or if said disability prevents you from being able to properly meet the child’s needs and welfare from an emotional, educational or physical standpoint.

It will be helpful if you can disclose your disability or chronic illness early in the process so the fostering service can advise on the best course of action.

Can You Foster if You Have Pets?

Owning a pet does not automatically disqualify you from fostering. The presence of pets in a foster household is often beneficial to foster children, giving them a therapeutic effect and teaching them about responsibility, trust and affection.

Having a pet that loves a foster child unconditionally can be priceless to a young person with a difficult past.

Local Authorities and independent fostering agencies however will discuss your pets with you during the assessment and may undertake a pet evaluation by a qualified pet assessor in respect of some breeds of dogs, to ensure that there is no risk to children. The requirement for a pet evaluation will depend on the breed and temperament of the dog and will be discussed during the initial engagement with the fostering provider you choose and will go into greater detail during the Health and Safety inspection section of your fostering assessment.

The placement team will take your pets into account when finding a suitable foster child or young person for your household as some young people may have negative memories of animals in their past.

What Age Can I Foster?

While the legal minimum age to become a foster carer is 21, there are a number of considerations in respect of fostering that would need to be considered when a younger person applies to foster. Each foster parent has their own set of unique qualities that supports their ability to foster and helps them excel in their role, such as having the appropriate life experiences which would benefit the ability to foster, a previous knowledge of raising a child or young person or working closely with children with work and if you are either renting or own a property with a spare bedroom.

Being 21 or approximate age, would normally also restrict the ages of children who are placed with you, as you may find it challenging to care for a young person only a few years younger than yourself.

Is There an Upper Age Limit on Becoming a Carer?

Whilst there is no technical upper age limit on becoming (or remaining) a foster carer, the most important thing is that you are fit and have the energy and commitment to care for the child or young person placed with you.

During your fostering assessment, you may be asked to complete a medical examination with your GP to check that the demands of fostering will not have a negative impact on your own health.

The majority of foster carers are aged over 45, so there is always a demand for new carers as those who have been caring for some time start to retire.

Can I Foster if I am In a Relationship or Married?

Yes, applying jointly to be foster carers will open up a greater variety and number of placement opportunities as there will be two people who can care for the needs of foster children in placement.

All applicants however are required to be assessed using the same criteria, and you will both also need to attend the pre and post application training which is mandatory as part of the foster carer role.

If you are single when you begin fostering and then begin a relationship, your new partner will need to undertake a fostering assessment and checks before being able to live in the same household as the fostered child or young person.

Can You Be a Foster Parent if You Are Single?

Fostering is open to people of any marital of cohabitate status.

However, depending on the type of placements you wish to accept, as a single parent you may have to be open to dedicating yourself to working as a full-time foster carer (no other work commitments) to ensure that you have enough time to look after the children in your care.

This can be ideal for single parents who are otherwise unable to work 9-to-5 due to their own current childcare commitments. Fostering can provide great financial support when raising your own family, whilst at the same time providing the opportunity to care for a child requiring a safe and nurturing home.

Do I Need Experience or Qualifications to Become a Foster Carer?

While previous experience or child related qualifications are beneficial, foster carers receive comprehensive training to prepare them for every aspect of foster care before they receive their first placement.

Once you have your first placement, you will continue to receive support and undertake a range of mandatory training which is required to be undertaken within the first year of fostering.

All foster carers are also required to complete the Training Development Standards in the first year evidencing their growing knowledge and understanding of the policies in place around fostering.

Most fostering agencies have a range of additional specialist training which will help you become the best foster carer you can be and will enable you to progress your fostering career.

Can You Be a Foster Carer if You Already Have Children?

Having your own children before you become a foster carer has great benefits. The children of foster carers can play an integral role in helping foster children settle and form important relationships which often last a lifetime.

Your birth children will be considered as part of the fostering assessment. If you children are older and are living away from home, due consideration will be given to the possibility of them wishing to return to live in the family home and how this will impact of room availability. All persons who will routinely be in contact with the children in placement, such as birth children and the foster carers own family, will be interviewed during the assessment process.

Once approved as a foster carer, your children’s ages and genders will be considered when looking for a suitable foster child for your household.

Older children who no longer live at home and may have their own families are often good support networks to foster carers. (All people named as part of the support network would normally be interviewed and required to undertake a DBS annually).

Inviting a foster child into your home is an important decision not only for yourself and your partner (if you have one), but also for your own children and immediate family. The fostering service you decide upon, whether this is a Local Authority or an independent fostering agency should provide resources, groups, and support specifically for the children of foster carers to ensure they feel comfortable and included.

Can I Foster and Get a Mortgage?

Yes, foster carers are eligible for mortgages if you meet the lender’s general requirements. Lenders will normally support carers with both short and long-term placements.

Some lenders will calculate what they are willing to lend you based on 100% of your fostering income, however others may assess it by calculating your net profit after deducting the amount you spend on caring for your foster children.

Many lenders require that you have been fostering for at least 6 months or longer to show stability, so bear in mind that it may be more difficult to get a mortgage shortly after you become a foster carer for the first time.

Some lenders have specialist mortgages and may offer foster care specific products with added benefits.

Do You Have Any Further Questions?

Let us know a time that suits you and one of our approved foster agencies will be in touch to give you any information or support that you need.