Choosing to provide for the community is an exciting, yet daunting prospect. We want you to feel confident when choosing to become a foster carer, as we know that it’s hard to know where to start.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from people who are looking to become foster carers. If you have any further questions, please click the button below

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General

Do I need a spare bedroom?

Yes, fostering requires you to have a bedroom allocated to a child or young person placed in your care.

Do I need to be married to become a foster carer?

Anyone can apply to foster, regardless of their marital status. We encourage applications from a range of backgrounds, whether you have children or not, or whatever your race, religion or sexuality.

I work, can I still foster?

We encourage our foster carers to have financial stability; this can be part-time if you are single, or if you are a couple, we ask that one of you is available at all times. Whilst some children will need extra care, it can sometimes be possible to take on full time work, depending on their needs and age. You will be expected to attend meetings, training, support groups as well as promote contact between the child and their family. You may want to discuss this with your employer to enable flexibility.

If you choose to continue in full time work, you could offer your services as a part time carer, such as respite care. This can vary from a couple hours to a few weekends a month, and offers their own family or full time carer a chance to take a break.

Will my family’s religious status affect our fostering application?

We encourage applications from all religious backgrounds so that we can closely match children to homes that are suitable. You will need to consider however that if a child were placed in your care with a differing religious view, would you be comfortable talking about alternative religious beliefs or sexuality, as you will be bound to support them as part of your foster care role.

I don’t own my own home, can I foster?

Our foster carers come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and this includes their accommodation. We only ask that you can provide a spare bedroom in your home. Owning your own home isn’t essential, provided you aren’t in rent arrears and your tenancy agreement allows it. It really helps if you have your own car.

Do I need any qualifications?

You don’t need any qualifications to become a foster carer, though we do ask that you have some experience of working or caring for children. If you haven’t managed this yet, we encourage potential carers to reach out to their community on a volunteer basis to get a firm idea of what is involved when looking after children.

When approved, foster carers will continue to get training on a monthly basis, either online or through workshops available in-house. Freedom Fostering offers approved foster carers, other authorities and private fostering agencies the opportunity to gain a QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) diploma -Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young Peoples Workforce.

Will a police record stop me from fostering?

Not necessarily. Currently, the law states that the only criminal convictions that prevent you from becoming a foster carer are those that relate to an offence against children or a sexual offence. Whilst minor convictions should not count against you in your application, all will need to be disclosed during your application process as it includes an enhanced criminal record bureau check (CRB).

Am I too old to foster?

We love to have foster carers with life experience, and this is reflected in our lower age limit of 21. With that in mind, as long as you are physically and psychologically fit, there is no upper age limit. Your only limitations are your enthusiasm and energy levels!

It is important to ask yourself if you are able to cope with the demands of a child in your care. Older people make excellent carers and many young people find it easier to relate.

I smoke, will this affect my chances of becoming a foster carer?

If you or anyone in your house smokes, you cannot have a child under the age of 5. If you are placed with an older child, then you must agree to smoke well away from them. Alternatively, we’ll point you in the direction of support if you’d like to stop smoking.

Do I have to be a British Citizen to foster a child?

There is no requirement to be a British citizen to foster a child in the UK. We endeavour to provide a varied range of foster carers to reflect the children in care. If you are in the UK for a limited time, we will take this into consideration during your initial application.

Do I have to speak English to a high standard to be a foster carer?

You will need to have a sufficient level of written and spoken English so that you can communicate with the professionals surrounding the child. However, there are lots of children that come into foster care that do not have English as their first language, so being placed in a home where their first language is spoken can be very beneficial to them.

How long will the application process take?

Typically, the application process will take between three to six months. When you apply to foster, you will be assigned a dedicated Social Worker who will help you to work through the process. You will also be provided with pre-approval training in-house to prepare you for what fostering may throw at you.

Can I foster if I have pets?

Almost 50% of households in Britain include at least one pet, and as pet lovers ourselves we know how important they can be within a family. Having a pet will not prevent you from fostering, but each one will be assessed as part of your application, to include factors such as behaviour and temperament.

It’s always important to consider how you would feel if your pet was injured by a child in your care.

How often will I have a child placed with me?

You are more likely to have a child placed with you if you are open to different age ranges, genders and races. If you are found to be a match with a child, you will be contacted directly. Placements information will also be made available on the Bulletin Board in our Carer section.

What type of support will I receive?

Every foster carer receives a dedicated Social Worker as a first point of contact. Every month, your Social Worker will meet with you to discuss any problems you are encountering. In certain situations, you may find that you receive more visits as a support measure.

I serve in the military?

There is nothing to stop you from fostering if you serve in the military. However, your local authority would investigate certain elements to make sure you would be able to cater to the needs of the fostered child. For example, if you are required to relocate on a regular basis, it could be difficult to provide the fostered child or young person with the required stability. Alternatively, certain types of fostering may be more suitable, such as respite, short-term and emergency.

I still live with my parents?

You can apply to become a foster carer when you live with your parents, but during the assessment the fostering service will explore who would be the ‘main’ foster carer. If anyone else will be involved in caring for the child or young person, they will have to be assessed and approved too, to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of the looked after child.

Race & Fostering

Studies show that children grow up best in a foster family that can help a child to develop an awareness of as many aspects of their culture, religion and ethnic origin as possible.  This can help the child to have a positive sense of their own identity and heritage.

Many foster carers do look after children of a different ethnicity to them, but you, your fostering service and the child’s social worker will think carefully about how the placement will meet the child’s sense of belonging and needs arising from their culture, religion and ethnic needs.

Age & Fostering

There is no official upper age limit for fostering, though you will have to be at least 21 years old before you can be considered.  A fostering service will expect you to be mature enough to look after someone else’s child, and to work effectively with the child’s family, social workers and other professionals involved in their care.  They will also expect you to have a level of stability and security in your life, and to have the health and stamina to be able to care for young children.

Grandparents can make excellent foster carers because of their parenting and grandparenting experience, although the fostering service will want to know that you are fit and well enough to undertake the task.

Disability & Fostering

Although fostering services encourage all types of people to consider fostering, it is important to fostered children to have a stable family life without any preventable disruption, such as a foster carer becoming seriously ill due to a long-term health condition.  For these reasons, all prospective foster carers have a full medical examination carried out by their GP.

Being overweight, for instance, shouldn’t affect your chances of becoming a carer, as long as it doesn’t cause you to have serious health problems or impact on your ability to provide good care for your child.

A disability will not automatically rule you out to foster a child.  Many disabled people foster children, and some may feel that their experiences mean they they have gained skills that are ideal for fostering, such as strength and determination, or the ability to advocate for a child.

Your social worker will discuss your impairment with you, including the impact, if any, that is has on your lifestyle and possible implications for parenting.

Can I foster if I am on benefits?

You can still foster if you are receiving benefits. As a foster carer, you will receive fostering payments when a child is placed with you. Generally, fostering payments are completely disregarded as income when calculating welfare benefits or only taxable income from your fostering is regarded as income. Given that there is a generous tax scheme in place for foster carers, many foster carers’ taxable income is zero.

Can I foster if I have a chronic illness?

A fostering service is looking to ensure that people who apply to become foster carers are physically and psychologically fit enough to care for children and meet their needs. A fostering service will seek a medical report as part of the assessment process. Medical information is only one part of your assessment, and there is nothing in the fostering regulations or standards that would direct a fostering service to turn down an application based on any named illness, disability, past or current medication or treatment.

Can I foster if I have mental health problems?

A fostering service will seek a medical report as part of the assessment process, and any relevant mental health problems may appear as part of your medical information. Medical information is only one part of your assessment, and there is nothing in the fostering regulations or standards that would direct a fostering service to turn down an application based on any named illness, disability, past or current medication or treatment. Fostering services must treat applicants fairly, without prejudice, openly and with respect.

Single Foster Care

All sorts of people become foster carers because children and young people have different requirements.  Some children may thrive in a bustling two-parent family with other children, while others may need the individual attention of just one adult who can devote their time to them.

Fostering serviced are looking for people who can provide the stability, love and encouragement that individual children need and there is no ‘ideal’ foster family – however much you may see stereotypes of foster families in TV dramas.  That includes people who are single or living with a partner (cohabiting), as well as people who are married and divorced.

If you are in a relationship (lesbian, gay or heterosexual), the service will want to make sure that the relationship is stable, so that you can provide security and continuity for fostered children.

if you are fostering alone, it’s very important to have a good network of friends and/or family.  This is essential because you will need to call on people to help out if you are ill or have to drop everything to be somewhere for the child or young person.  You will also need people you can turn to for friendship, emotional support and a chance to unwind, when things aren’t going so well.

Financial Matters

Do I get paid to look after a foster child?

You will get a fostering allowance which is intended to cover the costs of looking after a child in care, such as clothing, pocket money and food.

Do I pay tax and national insurance?

Foster carers are classed as self-employed for tax purposes. There is a simplified income tax scheme for fosters carers called ‘qualifying care relief’ which determines how much tax, if any, is due.

Where foster care is the only source of self-employed income, and taxable profit is low, a foster carer may apply for the Small Earnings Exception.

Further information about tax and national insurance is available on HM Review and Customs website at this link:

HMRC Helpsheet

Will fostering impact on my welfare benefits?

If you are currently claiming benefits, it is likely that you will continue to be able to do so if you become a foster carer. This is because they are approved rather than employed, which has an effect on means tested benefits. Foster carers may be able to claim working tax credit as the fostering payments are not regarded as income.

I’ve previously had financial problems, can I still foster?

You will need to provide evidence that you are financially secure enough to provide a stable home for a child, and can manage the fostering allowance paid to you. Previous financial issues should not deter you from applying.

Being a Foster Carer

Will fostering affect my children?

Taking on a foster child is a family decision, and as such, any existing children should be considered at all stages of the process.

Parents must understand that bringing in a child from a very different background can prove to be tough for children living in the home. On the flip side, lots of children have said that they enjoyed the experience and benefited from the time involved in fostering.

Research has shown that it is preferable to have children with a moderate age gap. It is important to maintain dedicated time to your children to ensure that they feel special.

Can I have preferences in who I can foster?

During the assessment, we will talk to you about children that could be placed with you; age range, number of children etc. We aim to place all children in a planned and well-matched manner, but you will always be given the opportunity to turn down any placement.

What if I feel the placement isn’t the right fit?

We can’t guarantee that every child placed within your home is a perfect match. Some children will find it harder to adjust, whilst you may find others fit well.

If there is a real problem with the child, it is important that you raise this issue with us, firstly through your social worker. If you are finding that the placement isn’t right for you, then the child may well be feeling the same.

We will always help to provide extra training and support, and with this you may find that caring for the child may become easier and more enjoyable. We are realistic in believing that this isn’t always the case, and will place the child with another foster family where appropriate.

How many children can I foster at one time?

British law states that you can foster three children at one time, though this does not apply to sibling groups. An exemption from the local authority must be given for exceptions to the usual fostering limit.