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What is foster care?

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About fostering

Fostering means opening your home to provide a safe, loving family environment for a vulnerable child. Foster homes are needed because there are times when it’s not possible or safe for them to stay with their birth families.

There are many reasons why a child may enter foster care, such as a sudden change of circumstances – like the illness of a parent – or because they’re at risk of abuse or they’re not being cared for appropriately at home. There are other reasons too, including asylum-seeking children who arrive in the UK without their parents, or simply because a parent becomes unable to cope. Wherever possible, the plan is to get children back with their birth parents, but this can take time, and sometimes it's sadly not possible. So the length of time a child will stay in foster care varies hugely, from one night to many years.

Around 35,000 children come into foster care each year in England and Scotland. Quite often, these children have had negative past experiences which may result in anxiety, anger and emotional problems, including difficulties in trusting adults. It’s this that makes fostering such a challenging and rewarding role. Challenging because you’re helping children and young people overcome bad experiences and uncertainty. And rewarding because you’ll see them achieve and reach their potential. Even though foster parents aren’t the legal guardians, they still act as parents – offering support and encouragement and helping children grow into confident adults.

There are different types of fostering, ranging from emergency and long-term through to specialist areas, such as working with children with disabilities. You can learn about the different types of fostering here.

Download our Guide to Fostering

Discover everything you need to know about fostering by downloading our brochure.

What is foster care

How fostering works

When a child is identified as being at risk, local authorities may become responsible for ensuring their safety and wellbeing. The first thing that happens when a child comes into care is an assessment carried out by a professional, such as a social worker, who then recommends a care plan. Quite often this includes finding them a safe and secure foster home.

As an independent fostering agency, we are completely focussed on fostering and have developed our services to help foster parents achieve incredible outcomes for the children in our care, including excellent training and the support of a large professional team. We’ve supported local authorities for years, and they trust us to do a good job.

Role of a foster parent

The most important responsibility of a foster parent is being able to provide a safe, secure and loving home, but there are others too. Day to day, this means getting them to school, taking an active role in their education, including homework, and helping them learn practical living skills, as well as giving them opportunities they might not otherwise have had – such as holidays or sporting activities.

Emotionally, it means building their self-esteem, encouraging a sense of identity, and helping them to work with and trust others, as well as to maintain contact with their birth families wherever possible. And it also means keeping records of each child’s experiences so we can all monitor their progress.

Become a foster parent

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The difference between fostering & adoption

We're often asked 'what's the difference between fostering and adoption?' and while there are some similarities - both involve caring for a child who's not able to stay with their birth family - there are some important differences too.

The main difference is around legal responsibility for the child - when you foster a child, the legal responsibility remains with the birth parents / local authority. Whereas when you adopt, you'll have full responsibility of the child.

Other key differences include;

  • Length of time you'll care for a child - when fostering, you can care for a child for as little as a day or two, and up to 18 years until they reach independence. With adoption, you'll care for the child as you would your own birth children and they'll be part of your family forever.
  • Age of children - Children who are looking to be adopted are generally younger (under 6), whereas with fostering, the young person is likely to be over 6 or in foster care with siblings.
  • Allowances - foster parents receive a weekly fostering allowance to cover the cost of caring for a child and provides them with a professional fee. This financial package is not available to adoptive parents.
Who can foster?

Who can foster?

We welcome people from any background, culture, religion, marital status or sexual orientation. You don’t need qualifications, or even experience - although it's beneficial. The only initial requirements are that you're over 21, have the legal right to work in the UK and have a spare room.

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foster care allowance calculator

Allowance calculator

With Fosterplus, you’ll benefit from an attractive fostering payment for when a child is in your care, together with other benefits and rewards. As well as helping with the costs of caring for a child, this package also rewards your professionalism and hard work.

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Why choose us?

We’re focused on finding stable, loving homes that give young people a sense of continuity. Everything we do is geared towards this idea of continuity, and it’s something that our foster parents experience too – with stable teams and consistent support and training.

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Frequently asked questions

Who can become a foster parent?

Almost anybody can apply to become a foster parent - the only initial requirements are that you're over 21 years old, you have the legal right to work in the UK and that you have a spare bedroom that's always available to a child in your care. Of course, you'll also need to be kind, caring and dedicated to making a difference to a child.

Other than that, we welcome applications from people from all backgrounds, religions and ethnic groups. You can be gay, straight, bisexual or transgender, single, married or cohabiting. We also support foster parents with disabilities and health conditions, who are able to meet the needs of children in care.

So if you've ever wondered whether you could foster - we can't encourage you enough to take the first step and speak to our friendly team.

Start your journey   Who can foster?

How do you become a foster parent?

The first step is to have a chat with one of our friendly advisors - either complete our online form or give us a call on 0800 369 8512. We'll speak to you about the role, take a few details and answer any of your questions.

When you're ready to progress, there's a standard application and assessment process that you'll need to go through to become an approved foster parent, including home visits, background checks and references, training and attending a fostering panel. You can find out more about each step below.

How to become a foster parent

How long does it take to become a foster parent?

It takes around 4-6 months to become a foster parent. This can often be shorter if you're already fostering and looking to transfer to a different fostering agency.

What are the different types of fostering?

We offer many different types of fostering so we can continue to meet the ever-changing needs of children and young people in foster care. These include short-term or interim care (up to 2 years), long-term or permanent care (more than 2 years and until the child turns eighteen), emergency, respite and more.

We also provide foster care placements that are considered specialist, including parent and child fostering and caring for children with disabilities or those seeking asylum. Learn about the different types of fostering below.

Types of fostering

Do foster parents receive an allowance?

Yes, foster parents receive an allowance for the time a child spends in their care. This is split into two parts:

  1. Child's allowance - to cover the cost of a child in your care, including food, clothing and activities.
  2. Professional fee - to recognise and reward the professional work and ongoing development of the foster parent.

Find out how much you could receive using our finance calculator

Are foster parents paid when they're not caring for a child?

Foster parents receive a generous fostering allowance for each night that a child spends with them. However, from time-to-time, they may experience short periods of time where they're not caring for a child.

As part of the fostering assessment, we work with applicants to understand how they'll manage during times where they may not receive an income from fostering.

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Ready to take your first step into fostering? We're here to support you on your journey...

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