If you have a spare room in your home, and a desire to make a difference in other people’s lives, then you can consider becoming a foster parent. A lot of children from all different backgrounds are in need of a loving foster home, and fostering them can be a rewarding and enriching experience that you can get a lot out of. Modern fostering allows all sorts of people, who have a space in their homes and want to help out kids in need, to become foster parents – so whether you are single or a couple, straight or gay, you may be able to start fostering.
Read on to learn about the process involved in becoming a foster parent, and how you can start to enjoy the benefits of fostering:
What are the requirements to apply to be a foster carer?
Becoming a foster parent starts with an initial enquiry, but it is important to know if you meet the prerequisites for being a foster carer in the UK before you start the application process: You need to be over the age of 21, and legally allowed to live and work in the UK. You also need to have a spare room in your home that can serve as a bedroom for a foster child, and so it needs to have space for a single bed, a small desk, and a wardrobe.
If you have birth children living at home with you already, it won’t affect whether or not you will be deemed suitable, but you do need to have a dedicated room for a foster child to use, as they are not able to share. Foster children need the privacy and security of their own bedroom, and so this is an important requirement.
If you meet these requirements, then you can begin the process of becoming a foster parent. Foster parents of all different ethnicities and backgrounds are needed, and other things like your marital status and sexual orientation will not be considered negatively in your application. There are all kinds of different families and different kids who need to be matched with good foster homes, so as long as you meet the legal requirements, you will be considered fairly.
What is the process for screening potential foster parents?
Once you have made your first enquiry about becoming a foster carer, there will be an initial meeting. This may be done online, or at your home. This is where you get to ask any questions you might have about different types of fostering, and what you can expect from the rest of the process. If you decide after this session that you want to go ahead with things, then what happens next will be a series of visits from a social worker. They will do a home assessment, carry out various background checks, and put together an assessment document called a Form F.
Even if you have raised birth children, there are some specific skills needed when supporting fostered children that they will provide training on. The goal is to give you as much support and as many resources as possible so that you can start your journey as a foster carer well prepared and confident. The visits will take place over a period that is normally around four to six months, though this can vary depending on your personal circumstances.
If these stages of the process all go smoothly and the social worker who has been managing your case thinks you are a good candidate, then the final stage is an independent panel, where you will be approved as a foster carer. There will have been work going on in the background to match you with a child who is a good fit for you, in terms of things like how long they are likely to need a foster home for compared with what you can offer, and their age.
How long do foster children need to stay?
There are different kinds of foster care that families like yours can offer. Some children, for example, whose parents have passed away, or are terminally ill and can’t look after them anymore, will need long term fostering. This means they will join a foster home until they are 18. Other types of foster care can be far more short term.
Some children may only need a placement for a couple of weeks while their family deals with a crisis of some kind. Others may have parents who have been deemed unsuitable for them to live with for now, due to things like addiction issues, but may be able to return to them in the future. What you are able to offer in terms of how long you can accommodate a foster child will be considered in your placements.
It is also usual to try to keep siblings together, so if you have space for more than one child, then sibling fostering may be something you’d be able to do.
Do you get help as a foster parent?
Foster parents get a huge amount of support from the agencies who they foster with. As well as having training, 24 hour support and people to talk to if there are any issues, you will also be given a generous financial package to help you to take care of the needs of the children placed with you as well as receive a reward for your hard work. The amount and how it will be paid are things you will be able to discuss in your initial meeting, but the intention is that people who are happy to bring children who need help into their homes should not be limited in doing so by their own budgets. If you have the space and you want to offer a home to a child who desperately needs one, then you will be given help to make sure looking after them well is financially viable for you.
With longer term fostering, you will need to do things like enrol your foster children into a local school. You will find that there is plenty of help and advice available from your agency to help you to do this, and that you can also get a lot of support by talking to the teachers there, who will be experienced in teaching children from all different kinds of families.
Becoming a foster parent can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. You can make a massive difference to a child’s life, build some great relationships, and have a lot of positive experiences. It can certainly be a better way to use that spare room than just to store stuff or host guests a few times a year. So, if you are thinking about becoming a foster parent, why not make that first enquiry and find out more?
Find your local fostering agency
Interested in fostering children in the UK? We train and support foster parents across England and Scotland, and provide positive family experiences to hundreds of children in foster care. All of our offices are rated as 'Outstanding' or 'Good' by Ofsted.
Find your local office by entering your postcode below.