Your questions

In this section we aim to answer some of the frequently asked questions regarding being a foster carer with a local authority. Remember, you can request an information pack by clicking here to find out more. If you still have a question that we haven't answered below, please email info@youcanfoster.org  stating which council you pay your council tax to, so your question can be forwarded to your local fostering team.

Why do children need foster care?
Children are unable to stay in their own family homes for a number of reasons. This may be for a short time while family issues are resolved or could be because of a family illness where there is no other support available to the child’s parents. Unfortunately, many of the children and young people are likely to have experienced some trauma and will need your understanding and patience to help them with this. What they all have in common is the need for a secure and safe environment in addition to care, kindness and stability.
How long does the application process take and what is involved?
Most local authorities aim for it to take six months from your initial enquiry to being approved as a foster carer. Sometimes, it can take longer than this though. You can read more here on the application process.
Are foster carers paid?
Yes - foster carers receive a generous weekly allowance. The amount you receive will depend on the age of the child you are looking after and your skills and experience. Different authorities have slightly different rates for their weekly allowance. Some fostering teams also pay a holiday, birthday and Christmas/festival allowance on top of the weekly allowance. Others build this in to the weekly amount. The allowances are generally tax free. Sometimes there are exceptions and these will be explained to you by your local fostering team, should it ever apply.
Will I get help with equipment?
We will help you with equipment you might need for a placement. For example, most local authorities help with the provision of beds, bedding, baby equipment and storage for clothes and belongings. This may vary depending on where you live and your local authority can advise you about this. Most Local Authorities help with beds, bedding, storage for clothes and belongings and baby equipment. This may vary depending on where you live and your Local Authority can advise you about this.
Do I need a spare room?
Local authorities have different guidelines about this. Most prefer the foster child to have their own bedroom, but some will consider room-sharing dependant on the ages of the children and you having enough other living space. Your own local authority will advise you on this.
What kind of home do I need?/ I live in a flat. Can I foster?
It does not matter if your home is a detached house, a semi, terraced or a cottage. A flat is fine with some authorities. What is always needed though is enough space for children to play both indoors and outside. Children will need a space to do homework and keep their clothes and belongings. Not having your own garden will not automatically stop you from being able to be a foster carer. If you can show that you will be having plenty of outings to a local park or other play areas this will be taken into consideration.
Do I need specific qualifications?
You don't need any particular qualifications to apply to be a foster carer. However, you’ll need to have the skills and ability as well as the time to be able to care for children or young people. When it comes to fostering, we need enthusiastic, committed and caring people. You won't be on your own though and we'll provide you with comprehensive training and lots of regular support. This will including us working with you to complete a ‘Skills to Foster’ course before you become an approved carer. You’ll develop new skills and have the opportunity to gain extra qualifications, if you want to. All Foster Carers must also complete Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care within 12 months of approval. This is important but not too difficult and we'll be there to help you.
Are there any age limits?
We encourage applications from people over 21 and there is no upper age limit. But it's important that you have the experience and stability in your life to be able to support a child, as well as the physical health and energy to keep up with them. Your age will help us to figure out the age group of the child you’d be most suited to look after.
Do I need a medical check up?
It's important that you’re able to cope with any physical and emotional challenges that fostering may present and you’ll need to undergo a medical check up as part of your assessment. This is a legal requirement under the Fostering Regulations. Many conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, may not stop you from becoming a foster carer, but it's important you're in good health. You need to have good mental health too so that we know that you are able to look after a child.
Do I have to be in a relationship or married?
No! We welcome applications from people who are single, living together, married, divorced or separated, straight or gay. If you’re single, it’s important that you’ve other support networks of family and/or friends in place. Each foster child needs as much stability as possible in their foster placement, so it's important to consider your own long term plans. It might help you to read Shahida’s story here. If you’ve only been in a relationship for a short time and are considering fostering as a couple, we’d suggest that you are in a stable situation (living together) for at least 12-18 months before you start the fostering process. Fostering will have an impact on your home life, so it's important to be settled before starting the assessment process.
Can I foster if I have children already?
Yes you can. A lot of foster carers already have their own children and know that they’ve done a good job raising their own, so want to give other children a good start in life. You might want to read Queenie and Mark’s story here. You’ll need to think about the difference that fostering will make to your own children and talk to them about it. Usually a local authority will try not to place a foster child too close in age to your own children. In most cases, if you’ve a child under two years old, we’d suggest you approach us once they are a bit older. This is because as a foster carer you’ll need to devote a lot of time and energy to your foster child and it may be a struggle meeting the needs of your own child at the same time.
Can I foster if I work full time?
Most foster carers who work full time are short-break foster carers, meaning they look after a child or children at weekends only. If you want to do short term or long term fostering, you’ll need to consider your working hours and getting a child to and from school, as well as caring for them during school holidays. You’ll also need to be able to attend all the training sessions, as well as have the time to regularly meet with your family placement social worker.
Does it matter if I have criminal convictions?
A criminal conviction doesn’t automatically rule you out of fostering. An enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check will be carried out on both you and anyone else in the household aged 16 or over. Each application will be considered individually but we’ll not progress your application where there are convictions for offences against children or other serious offences.
Can I foster if I smoke?
Different local authorities have different guidelines for this. A smoker living in the house may mean that you can only foster a certain age group and you’ll need to make sure no one smokes inside the home.
I don't drive. Can I still foster?
Different authorities have different guidelines. If you don't drive or have access to a car then it is important to think about how you will get children to and from school, or to any meetings with their birth family.
Will the child change school?
Usually we try and keep children in their own school to minimise the disruption to their lives and their education, part of your role would be to take the child to and from school. If you are caring for a child on a long term basis then usually a transfer to a local school would take place, if this was agreed by everyone involved and helped the particular circumstance.
Can I apply to my local authority if I already foster for an agency?
Yes and Fostering Network has recently produced a new protocol for anyone who wants to transfer to their local authority. This sets out what you need to do and what you are entitled to receive. You can take a look at Fostering Network's website here for details.