Frequently Asked Questions

About fostering

How long is short term fostering?

Short term fostering - or Interim fostering in Scotland - can last up to two years.

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.

Find out more

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.

Find out more 

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.

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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.

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

Fostering process

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 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

Fostering requirements

Can same sex couples foster?

Yes, absolutely. You apply as a couple and will be assessed as a couple.

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 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.

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.

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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 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.

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?

Finance and fostering

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.

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 self-employed?

Yes, foster parents are self-employed and will need to complete a tax return each year.

Do foster parents pay tax?

Generally, foster parents who are caring for one child and have no other source of income will not pay tax, thanks to 'qualifying care relief' - a special tax rule for foster parents.

Find out more about tax and fostering 

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Can't find what you're looking for?

By phone

One of our team is available to talk to you over the phone to answer any of your fostering queries.

0800 3698512

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Have a live chat online with one of our dedicated fostering professionals

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Your local team

Find contact details for your local office team. We’re always happy for you to pop-in and chat.

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