What is fostering?
Fostering means caring for a child or young person when they are unable to live with their birth family.
There are many reasons why a child may require a foster family, so we offer different types of fostering placements which can last anything from a few days to several years.
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 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.
How long are fostering placements?
Fostering placements can vary in length. This will depend on the needs of the child in your care and the type of fostering placement you are providing.
A child can be placed with you for anything from one or two nights, to a year, up to several years.
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.
What is an independent fostering agency (IFA)?
An independent fostering agency - also known as an 'IFA' - is an independent organisation that's focused on recruiting, training and supporting foster parents, and caring for the children placed with them. Fosterplus is one of many independent fostering agencies caring for children and young people in the UK.
Local authorities use fostering agencies to place the children they are responsible for, with foster families who are able to meet their needs.
Should I foster with a local authority or an independent fostering agency?
This is an important decision you'll need to make on your fostering journey. While there are lots of similarities between local authorities and independent fostering agencies, there are some key differences too, and it's important to know that each agency and local authority will differ too.
Unlike a local authority, fostering is all we do, and so our role is to throw everything we have into providing the best support to our foster parents, their families and the children we care for. However, local authorities have a much larger remit which involves supporting children and their birth families, plus child protection too. Learn more about what we offer to our foster families below.
What training is provided to foster parents?
We offer a wide range of training to our foster parents for every stage of their career, including our preparatory training course that all fostering applicants attend, a variety of core training courses which you'll complete in your first year, and specialist advance courses too.
What support is offered to foster parents?
We build close connections with our foster parents and the young people we care for and are able to provide them with the support and services they need. This includes a dedicated social worker, regular support groups, access to Fosterplus management, a 24/7 helpline with a qualified social worker and more.
How do local authorities place children with families?
When a child comes into foster care, the local authority becomes responsible for their health, safety and wellbeing, and while local authorities have their own 'pool' of foster parents, sadly they generally don't have enough to cope with the rising number of children needing a foster home. That's where specialist independent fostering agencies, like Fosterplus, come in.
We work with local authorities across England and Scotland, and receive hundreds of referrals every day. Our dedicated referrals team review each referral and identify any foster families who could meet the child's needs. If all parties agree - the foster parents, their Fosterplus social worker and regional manager, and the local authority - then we'll work closely with the local authority to make arrangements. Wherever possible, this will also include initial introductions between the child and family.
Am I able to have any breaks or holidays while fostering?
Holidays will be always arranged with the best interests of the child in your care, and we will support you whenever you feel you need a break.
Fostering requirements differ in England and Scotland so foster parents in England receive two weeks paid respite, and Scotland foster parents receive a holiday allowance.
How do I apply to become a foster parent?
We've made the process of applying to foster as straight forward as possible. To start your journey, simply call our friendly team on 0800 3698512 or submit an online form and we'll be in touch.
How long does the fostering application process take?
The application and assessment process to become a foster parent takes around 4-6 months from the moment you first contact us up until approval.
Does it cost me anything to apply to foster?
A typical fostering application won't cost you any money, and costs of the assessment and checks will be covered by Fosterplus.
There are a few rare cases where you may need to cover costs. These include:
- If you've lived abroad, you will need to apply for a criminal record check in that county, which will incur a cost. Once you are approved, this will be refunded to you.
- If there are any small changes needing to be made in your home to meet safety requirements, you will need to pay for these.
- All foster homes need to have a gas certificate to ensure a child will be safe, so this will also be arranged and paid for by you if you do not have one.
How do I apply if I am already a foster carer and wish to transfer?
The first step is to speak with us so we can talk you through the transfer process and any children currently in your care.
Once you're ready, one of our experienced social workers will fast-track your assessment, so you can aim to be approved within 3 months.
What checks are carried out?
During your assessment, we’ll carry out various checks. These will include:
- An enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check.
- Local authority check.
- A medical.
- Health and safety checks.
- Personal and professional references.
These checks and references are a vital part of the application process in order to safeguard the children we care for.
Your assessing social worker will talk you through each check and support you every step of the process.
Will I be employed by Fosterplus?
No, foster parents are self employed. We will provide you with all the guidance and advice you need on finance and tax.
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.
What are the main requirements for fostering?
The main requirements to become a foster parent are:
- Being aged over 21 years old.
- Having a spare bedroom that's permanently available to a child.
- Having the the legal right to live and work in the UK.
- Being passionate about making a life-changing difference to children and young people.
You don't need any experience or specific qualifications, as full training is provided.
There are also no requirements regarding background or family circumstances. Foster parents can be single, gay, married or straight and we encourage applicants from all ethnic backgrounds to join our fostering team.
What age do you have to be to foster?
You need to be at least 21 years old to foster in the UK, and there is no upper age limit - as long as you're passionate, caring and able to look after a child.
Do I need to have any experience to become a foster carer?
You do not need to have any experience to become a foster parent.
Our foster carer training programme will provide you with all the necessary skills and knowledge to care for a foster child.
You may also find that a lot of your own life experience or time spent parenting or with children can provide you with a lot of useful skills to foster.
Additionally, you will receive a full network of ongoing support - including your own supervising social worker, a fostering team of experts, support groups, 24/7 support line and online guidance and resources.
Do I need to be married to foster?
Not at all, and we’re happy to recruit single foster parents, male, female or transgender.
Can you foster if you are single?
Yes, you can foster if you are single.
Our foster parents can be single, married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership.
Can I foster if I have my own children?
Yes. Having your own children will provide you with valuable experience and transferable skills for fostering a child.
Your own children will be included and supported in the assessment process, as well as once you are approved.
Do you need to own your home to foster?
No, you don't need to own your home to foster. We have many families living in rented accommodation. You'll just need to have permission from your landlord to foster.
Can I still work if I am a foster parent?
Yes, it can be possible to work and foster.
We do advise the main foster parent to not be working, unless your role is part time or flexible enough to be able to attend meetings, training and be immediately available for a child.
Can you foster if you have a disability?
Having a disability isn’t necessarily a barrier to becoming a foster parent. Every individual is different and we’ll evaluate your application on its own merits. We’re also able to offer support to foster parents with disabilities, so please don’t be put off from applying.
Can same sex couples foster?
Yes, absolutely. You apply as a couple and will be assessed as a couple.
Can single people from the LGBTQ community foster?
Absolutely – we have many single foster parents and your gender and sexual identity doesn’t make a difference to your ability to provide a child with a safe, loving environment. Of course, you’ll need to undergo a full fostering assessment before becoming approved and having a child placed in your care.
Will I be treated differently as an LGBTQ foster parent?
No. You’ll have access to the same levels of training and support as everyone else, and the application and assessment process is the same too. So long as you fulfil our basic criteria to foster, you’re welcome to start things moving with our online enquiry form. After that, we’ll visit you at home to ask a few questions and answer any of yours. Then, if you want to take things further, you'll start your assessment, before going to panel to hopefully become approved. We’ll support you at every stage.
Will my religion affect my ability to become a foster parent?
We welcome foster carers from all religious and cultural backgrounds.
When matching a child with your family, we will always try to ensure the same cultural and religious background in order to provide consistency and best meet the child's needs.
Can I still foster if I have a mental health condition or take antidepressants?
Yes you can. We have many foster parents providing excellent levels of care to children, while managing a mental health condition or taking antidepressants.
As part of your assessment, we will complete a medical to ensure your health is stable and you will be able to provide the care a child may need.
Do you have to be able to drive to foster?
You do not have to drive or own a car to foster however, caring for a foster child involves taking them to necessary appointments, such as health appointments, school meetings and contact with their birth family. You will need to think about what transport options are available to you.
Can I become a foster parent if I smoke?
Yes, you are still able to foster if you smoke. However you won’t be able to foster any children under the age of five.
Our guidelines also require foster parents to avoid smoking in front of children in their care and never smoke in the home or car.
Am I still able to foster if I have a criminal record?
A criminal record won’t necessarily prevent you from fostering, but it’s important to be honest with us right from the start about any convictions you have so we can discuss these with you.
Can you foster if you have pets?
Absolutely - in fact, we find that animals can help children to settle into their new environment. We do need to check that they won't pose any risk to children though and our pet questionnaire will help us to determine this.
We cannot accept any applications from anybody who has a banned breed in the UK as part of the Dangerous Dog Act.
Finance and 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:
- Child's allowance - to cover the cost of a child in your care, including food, clothing and activities.
- Professional fee - to recognise and reward the professional work and ongoing development of the foster parent.
How much does a foster parent get paid?
Foster parents are paid between £18,182 - £28,738, for each child they care for. This depends on the type of placement, where you live and your experience.
We've created a handy calculator to see how much fostering allowance you are likely to receive with Fosterplus.
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.
Do foster parents pay tax?
Do foster parents have to complete a tax return?
Foster parents are self employed and therefore need to complete a tax return.
Your supervising social worker will be able to offer guidance on this where needed.
Are foster parents self-employed?
Yes, foster parents are self-employed and will need to complete a tax return each year.
How many years do I have to pay National Insurance?
You’ll need 35 qualifying years to get the full new State Pension.
What if I haven’t been paying National Insurance?
You can make back payments of Class 2 National Insurance for up to six years previously, however, we’d recommend speaking to an advisor before making a decision, as you may reach the qualifying number of years before retirement to be entitled to a full state pension.
Do foster carers need to register for Class 2 National Insurance?
No, once you’ve registered as self-employed, you’ll automatically be registered for Class 2 National Insurance contributions.
What does Class 2 National Insurance cover you for?
Class 2 National Insurance provides foster carers access to a range of state benefits, including;
- Basic State Pension – so you can claim your basic state pension once you reach retirement age.
- Bereavement Benefits – if you take a break from fostering after your husband, wife or civil partner has died.
- Maternity Allowance – if you decide to take some time out of fostering while you expand your own family.
- Contributory Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – if you are sick and not able to foster as a result.
However, your benefits may be affected if there are gaps in your National Insurance record, which is why you may want to decide to make voluntary contributions to your Class 2 National Insurance. This works out at around £2.95 per week and buys you into a full year of state pension and benefits.
If you decided to pay voluntary contributions, you will pay once a year with your tax bill. If you haven’t paid it but would like to, you’ll need to get in touch with HMRC directly, as they will not chase you for this.
What if I decide not to pay Class 2 National Insurance voluntarily?
Foster carers who decide not to pay Class 2 National Insurance voluntarily may have the option to claim for National Insurance Credits for carers. However, to opt-in for these credits, your profitable income will need to be below the earnings threshold.
You can apply for National Insurance credits for parents and carers online or by post. You will simply need to fill in a form and submit a letter from your fostering agency on headed paper confirming that you are a foster carer. This adds one year to your National Insurance contributions record. You will need to re-apply every year for your National Insurance credit to be applied to your record.
However, you wouldn’t want more than half of your total National Insurance record to be made up from credits, as this could affect your benefit entitlements. Don’t forget, you may have used credits to cover the gaps in your contributions record if you had time off work to look after your own children. We’d advise you seek advice from an accountancy firm like Williams Giles to work out what’s best for you.
Can foster carers claim benefits?
Payments from fostering are not counted towards income when calculating whether you are eligible for means-tested benefits, such as income support, child tax credit, housing benefit and more.
You will also have access to the contributory benefits should you need them, if you have enough qualifying years of National Insurance contributions.
Can foster carers get income support?
Yes, foster carers looking after a child under the age of 16 may be able to claim income support. While you wouldn’t be expected to look for work, you would need to attend “work focussed” interviews every 6 months to 3 years to review your claim. If a child in your care leaves, you will need to switch to Job Seeker’s Allowance.
If you’re looking to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance, you’ll be expected to look for work for the number of hours that your fostering duties allow, but a minimum of 16 hours will apply. If you’re waiting for a foster placement and have no children of your own, you must be available for 40 hours a week.
Can I still claim housing benefit while fostering?
Housing benefit is means-tested and so if your household income is below the threshold (your fostering income should be disregarded), then you should still be able to claim for housing benefit.
Can foster parents claim child benefit?
Child Benefit is means-tested, so will be dependent on your income and can only be claimed on your own children, not any children you have in placement.
Why transfer to Fosterplus?
There are many reasons to join Fosterplus.
Foster parents often choose to transfer to us because of our 25 years of experience; expertly matching children with the right families to ensure stability and longevity of placements, and greater outcomes for the children we care for.
Our strong, long-term connections with commissioning partners, coupled with our positive reputation, enable us to provide regular placement opportunities for our foster carers.
We go above and beyond in the support we offer your family; providing an experienced and passionate team of social workers, 24 hour support line, regular support groups, online services and get-togethers with other foster families.
The training we provide during assessment, and throughout your fostering career, is highly extensive and includes a wide range of topics and specialist areas to develop your skills and knowledge as a foster parent.
Lastly, we offer a competitive fostering allowance to our foster carers, as well as membership to a rewards programme offering discounts and benefits at many high street retailers.
How do I transfer to Fosterplus?
If you'd like to transfer to Fosterplus, the first step is to give us a call on 0800 3698512 and speak with a member of our team. Alternatively, you can complete our online form and we'll give you a call back.
We'll talk you through the process of transferring, answer any questions you may have, and discuss any children who are already in your care.
Once you are happy to proceed, one of our experienced social workers will begin your fostering assessment - with an aim to welcoming you as a Fosterplus foster parent within 3 months time.
Is it easy to transfer fostering agencies?
How long will it take to transfer to your agency?
For foster carers who are transferring to us from another agency or local authority, we aim to complete your assessment within 3 months.
We know how much thought goes into transferring fostering agency and so ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible; supporting you and any children in your care throughout the entire transfer process.
Will I have to complete another Form F to transfer?
All fostering agencies operate individually and so Form F assessments are owned by the respective agency and cannot be transferred.
When you transfer to Fosterplus, we will complete a new Form F. However, we do take into consideration that you are already a foster parent, and ensure that your assessment is fast-tracked and as streamlined as possible.
Can I transfer with my current foster child?
Foster parents often transfer to us with children already in their care.
If you are transferring to Fosterplus with a child in placement then a protocol meeting will be held between ourselves, the local authority responsible for the child and your current fostering agency. This is in order to plan the transition and make sure that everyone is in agreement with how the foster child's needs will be met.
Do I need to inform my current agency that I am planning to transfer?
There is no need to inform your current fostering agency or local authority when you're thinking of transferring. The process is completely confidential so they will only know once you have decided to proceed with transferring and give notice to them.
Once you have attended panel for approval, you will then formally resign from your current agency.
What happens to my fostering allowance when I transfer?
We know that being paid is not the reason people foster. However we recognise that it is important to be able to meet a child's needs financially as well as be rewarded for your hard work. Therefore, when you transfer to Fosterplus we will aim to match, and possibly increase your fostering allowance payments.
How long will it take for a child to be placed with me?
We will start considering you in our referrals process as soon as you are approved as a foster parent.
The length of time you will wait for your first foster child to be placed can vary and will depend on your circumstances, approval criteria and your preferences.
Many foster families welcome their first child within just a few weeks.
How many children can I foster?
The number of children you care for will be discussed and determined during your assessment. This will depend on your personal circumstances, such as a spare bedroom for each child, and ability to care for more than one child.
The types of placements provided for children, and the number of children being placed, will be dependent on the their needs and circumstances.
How does the matching process work?
Fosterplus receive a large number of referrals from the local authorities every day looking for foster families to care for vulnerable children across the UK.
Our matching process is highly complex and our referrals team will consider a lot of factors when looking to match a family with a child.
The main considerations during our matching process include:
- Duration of the foster placement required
- Foster parent availability
- Type of fostering placement
- Approval criteria of the foster family
- Age of the child
- Whether the placement is for 1 child or siblings
- Gender of the child
- Ethnicity, cultural and religious background
- Any health requirements
- Educational needs
- History of the child and family situation
- Behaviours presented by the child
- Skills and experience of the foster parent
- Specialist training completed by the foster parent
- The family dynamic, including birth children, and whether this would be a positive match
With such a detailed process to consider, we ensure that our team get to know and understand our foster families so that we can make the best match possible.
What types of children are in foster care?
There are many different children who require foster care. They can be any age from a baby up until 18 years old, and can be from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
The children in care are all unique, and will have different needs and require different types of foster placement.
Will foster children have difficult behaviour?
Every foster child or young person is unique. We care for children of all ages and backgrounds, with varied pasts and experiences.
All foster children have faced some form of difficulty, whether through neglect, abuse or tragedy, and this can affect a child behaviourally, academically and socially.
We train our foster parents in managing different behaviours, and provide full, constant support to you as a family so you are able to care for the child and meet their needs.
How much will I know about the child before the placement starts?
The amount of information we receive about a child can vary but we will always give our foster parents as much information as we can prior to a placement starting.
Can I choose the children I care for?
Successful matching for children and foster families is crucial to us, so we work extensively to get to know our foster parents and their skills, capabilities and preferences.
You will work with your social worker during assessment to identify the types of placements you could offer, including number of children and age range.
Once a referral is received for a child, if we think you might be able to offer a suitable home for them, we will contact you to discuss as soon as possible.
After we have discussed the referral and provided as much information as possible, the decision will fall to you on whether you wish to be considered. You will never be put forward for a referral without your agreement, and we will always respect your decision.
Can a foster child share a bedroom?
Every foster child must have their own bedroom, unless it is agreed that they are part of a same-sex sibling group who are able to share.
Can't find what you're looking for?
One of our team is available to talk to you over the phone to answer any of your fostering queries.
You can get in touch by filling out our online enquiry form with any queries that you may have.
Your local team
Find contact details for your local office team. We’re always happy for you to pop-in and chat.