Background Checks and References

As part of your application to become a foster carer, you will undertake a comprehensive fostering assessment, which will include a number of sessions with a dedicated social worker who will guide you through the entire application to foster process. You will need to go through a number of background checks to ensure you are suitable for the role, this will include employment, past relationships and any DBS inclusions. In addition to the checks the fostering agency will ask you to provide a number of references from people you know.

Why Do Fostering Agencies Need to Complete Background Checks and Gather References?

Background checks and references are an essential part of a foster carer’s application process. By law, fostering agencies are required to carry out rigorous background checks on all their applicants to ensure that they meet the requirements and are suitable to safeguard any children or young person in their care.

Foster Carer Background Checks

Disclosure & Barring Service

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) allows the fostering agency to acquire a copy of an individual’s criminal record. DBS checks are required for the foster carer, as well as anyone within their household who is over the age of 18.

Due to the nature of fostering, agencies will require the highest level of DBS check (enhanced). An enhanced DBS check include cautions, warnings, reprimands and spent or unspent convictions. A DBS check may also be required for adults outside the foster carer’s household who will have regular contact with the foster child.

Local Authority Checks

The fostering agency will contact the foster carer’s Local Authority where they currently live and all other Local Authorities where they have lived for the previous 10 years, to request a check of their child protection and vulnerable adults records. This will provide information about any involvement with services for children or vulnerable adults over the last 10 years or, from when you have first had children.

The check includes information about you as the applicant/s, however, will also include any information regarding your own children (if applicable).

Medical Checks

In order to become a foster carer, you must be medically fit to foster. As part of the assessment process, potential foster carers will need to undergo a medical assessment with their GP. A report from your GP is then sent to an independent medical advisor to sign off. This is to ensure that the applicant does not have any medical conditions that may impact their ability to care for children or young people.

Pet Assessment

If there are any pets within the household, the fostering agency will need to do a pet assessment. Whilst having a pet within a foster family can be rewarding and beneficial for the foster child, the fostering agency needs to check if the animal is suitable and safe to be around the child.

This includes checking if any pet dog is on the list of banned breeds in the UK under the Dangerous Dog Act.

Citizenship Check

This ensures that the prospective foster carer has either British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Applicants who have limited leave to remain in the UK will not be able to foster children and young people.

Home Assessment

To ensure that the home of the potential foster carer is safe and suitable for a foster child, the fostering agency will conduct a home risk assessment. This will review the home for safety, security, hazards and general maintenance.

Foster Carer References

As part of your fostering application, you will need to provide several references to the fostering agency. Some of these will be personal references from the foster carer’s family and friends, but others can be from previous significant partners of the foster carer/s. 

References the fostering agency can request include:

Family & Friends

Fostering agencies will require references from your family members and friends. These references will be from people in your life that have known you for years and are close to you. Family references could be from a parent, sibling, aunt or uncle, but not a biological child.


A reference from the employer of the potential foster carer is required with a fostering application. They will also need references from every employer in which the potential foster carer worked with children or vulnerable adults. Some fostering agencies may also require references from previous jobs, including any roles that were voluntary.


Personal references are required from any previous significant partner. A significant partner is typically defined as a relationship that lasted over two years, having lived together or had children/parented together. If contacting a previous partner is not appropriate, the fostering agency will work with the prospective foster carer, to gain a reference from another person who knew them during that time.

The fostering agency may also request references from:

  • Children from a previous relationship.
  • Previous fostering agencies (if transferring).
  • School/Nursery references for foster carer’s own children (if appropriate).
  • Where an applicant has previously enquired or been approved to either foster or adopt.
  • References with Health Visitors if they have a child who is aged 0-5 years.
  • Permission from their landlord in order to foster at the property if they live in a rental property.
  • An overseas check will be carried out if they have lived or worked overseas within the last 15 years. The applicant would carry out the check with the country they lived/worked in and there’s guidance available for each country.
  • A check will be carried out with the armed forces for any applicant who has ever been in the Army, Navy or Air Force.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fostering Assessment Checks and References

Yes, if you have a partner living within your household, they will need their own checks. If you have anyone else living with you (for example your child) that is over 18 years of age, they will also need their own checks.

Your assessment will be conducted by a qualified social worker. The social worker will either work for the fostering agency or be independent.

The longest part of the fostering assessment process is fostering checks and the gathering of references. While it will depend on how quickly the checks and references can be completed, the process usually takes around four months.

Sometimes approaching a past partner or another person in your life is not appropriate. In these circumstances, your fostering agency will work with you to get another reference from someone else who knew you during that time.

There is usually no cost to the prospective foster carer for any of the checks carried out by the fostering agency. If there are recommendations following a health and safety risk check of your home, the cost to make the improvements usually falls to the prospective foster carer.

You will still have to go through a Home Assessment if you rent your home, however, the fostering agency may need to contact your landlord to seek permission for you to foster within the property.

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.