Who can foster?
We need more foster carers from all backgrounds, different religions, all heritages, all sexual orientations, all genders, different beliefs and various ages. Foster carers are not different, of a specific type or from one background, what they are, are ordinary people that perform an extraordinary job.
Talk to us about your desire to foster, you must:
- 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
- Have good spoken and written English
- Be able to give the time to care for a child or young person, often on a full-time basis.
You do not need to be a home owner, married or employed – talk to us about your situation.
Other factors which will be considered include:
- Your health – are you fit and able to foster for now and the foreseeable future?
- Your financial security – can you afford to foster?
- Your home – is it safe for a child or young person?
- Your friends and family – are there people who can support you to foster?
- Your past – whether you have lived abroad and any previous convictions.
- Your experience with children and young people – through family, work, or volunteering.
Foster carers come from all walks of life with a variety of experiences and backgrounds.
You do not need to have worked with children and young people and you do not require specific qualifications to apply to be assessed as a foster carer. What you will need to show is that you have the time, energy, enthusiasm and commitment to foster.
Your skills and ability will be assessed and enhanced by the pre-approval training and if successful your knowledge and capabilities will progress with the aid of specific training offered to develop and support you, so you’re prepared for the challenges and rewards of fostering. An advantage would be able to show you have some experience caring for children or young people through your family or volunteering.
You do not have to be well off to foster children
Although most foster carers become foster carers for altruistic reasons fostering is not a charity, finances become the enabler for people to provide care for children and young people. As an approved foster carer you would receive a weekly fostering allowance, intended to cover the cost of looking after a child or young person such as clothing, food and pocket money which varies with the child. You would also receive payment for any agreed special expenses involved in their care and F5 will pay a fee as a reward for your work as a professional foster carer. Foster carers get tax relief on the money they make from fostering, and their benefits will usually not be affected.
Fostering and adoption are different
Fostering is the provision of a safe environment for a child or young person when they are unable to remain in their birth families home. Fostering is taking a child into your home temporarily until they can return to their own family or move on to live with a relative or adopted parent or independent living.
The time spent in foster care for a child or young person can vary dramatically from emergency fostering, in which a child will usually stay for one or two days following an unexpected event, to short-term fostering where a child will stay while the care proceedings decide on a permanent home or long-term fostering, where the child’s home situation is unlikely to improve, and they may even stay until they’re ready to live independently. The length of time a child spends in foster care is dependent on the individual needs of the child or young person and will differ between children.
Adoption, on the other hand, legally gives a child a new family when living with their own family is not possible, the child becomes a full member of their new family. They take the surname and assume the same rights and privileges as if they had been born into the family including the right of inheritance. F5 are not an adoption agency, so we do not approve Adoptive Parents – visit www.first4adoption.org.uk to find an adoption agency in your area and explore the difference.
We need more carers from a greater diversity of ethnic groups
Children that come into care of the local authority are racially and ethnically diverse. The children in care reflect the diversity of the population of the Nation as a whole. The role of fostering requires all types of carers to reflect the types of children and young people who need an environment of safety and nurturing when they can’t live with their birth families. Fostering requires more foster carers from a greater variety of ethnicities to help promote the ethnicity and culture of all the children and young people in care of the local authority. All ethnicities have their own specific skills, knowledge and life experiences to bring to the role fostering and whereas good foster carers can mimic other cultures and promote their ethnicity it is more natural and more comforting for that role to be carried out by carers that are of the same ethnicity as the children and young people they are looking after.
Men can be foster carers too!
Traditionally women are care-givers. Often men who seek and devote their time to caring for children are viewed with suspicion, but men can perform a very important role. Some young people entering the care system have come from single parent families with no consistent positive male role model and can often benefit from the mentoring nurturing and care provided by a male foster carer. Positive male foster carers provide a role model which is not just stereotypically beneficial for a male child or young person but also female young people and children. This can have a restorative and therapeutic effect on many fostered children whose fathers may have been absent or abusive.
Depending on your circumstances you can sometimes foster and continue to work
If you wish to continue to work, it would possibly affect the type of fostering you would be approved for. Generally you or your partner (if fostering as a couple) would be expected to give up work if you were caring for a specific age group such as very young children and babies as they will require specialist care. You would also need to be flexible and can attend meetings and appointments at short notice. You may be able to continue your current employment if you were to foster older, school-age children and combine your work outside of the home with their care (a possible part time basis or even working from home) each fostering service provider will have a view on expected working commitments. Many people manage to successfully combine a job with their responsibilities as a foster carer, and if this is what you want to do you should not let it prevent you from applying to foster.
Applicants living with a disability are not prohibited from applying to foster
Every prospective foster carer goes through the same assessment process, which includes a medical check to check for any health or disability issues that would prevent them from being able to provide the best standard of care to a young person. In some circumstances the skill set and life experiences someone with a disability has gained can be a unique insight or experience to pass on to a child or young person.
The Assessment process including training and approval should take around 6 months
The National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011 state that the process should be decided upon within eight months. There is no denying that the assessment process is an intrusive and lengthy one, but foster carers will be promoting and nurturing the welfare of some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the country. Fostering service providers must ensure that they have the right people to foster.
When you apply to foster, you will be assigned a social worker who will support you throughout the process and carry out a thorough assessment. It is a two staged process with stage 1 performing checks such as DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) formerly known as CRB check while the second stage will require a report on your family life and experiences etc. Both stages can be completed simultaneously. The assessing social worker will complete a detailed report about you, with your input, which will then be presented to the fostering panel. Applicants are usually invited to attend the fostering panel when their application is heard so that they can answer any questions panel may have. The fostering panel will then make a recommendation to the fostering service as to the applicant’s suitability to foster, and agency decision maker for the fostering service will decide whether to approve you or not.
Not every child that enters the care system has special needs
However it is true that approximately 70% of the children that come into the care of the local authority will have special educational needs (SEN). Many of these children have had to be removed from their parents and family due to abuse and neglect which can have an impact on their education and some will have special needs, but they are regular children with similar needs and requirements as their peers and deserve the same opportunities. Children in care are nine times more likely to have special educational needs than other children (according to the Who Cares Trust?).
The term “special needs” simply refers to a child who has educational requirements resulting from learning difficulties, physical disability, or emotional and behavioural difficulties. Children that have experienced a disadvantaged background are generally at greater risk of needing extra support.
It is true that you can’t choose the specific children you foster as a standard foster carer
But you can specify the age and in some rare circumstances (due to family demographics or religious beliefs) the gender you prefer. You should bear in mind that the narrower the age range you specify will have an impact on the number of placements you may be offered simply due to the availability of children that meet with your criteria. There is an overwhelming need for foster carers to be support children and young people between the ages of 11 and 16, sibling groups, certain ethnic groups and teen moms as these groups tend to be in the greatest need. Having said this, the local authority may approach you to be a connected or family foster carer for a specific child. This is often and more commonly referred to as kinship foster care. The child or young person should already be a family member or known to you. You will still need to go through an assessment process and will be entitled to the same rewards and allowances as standard foster carers.