Can I foster if?

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There are many myths surrounding who can foster meaning that many people rule themselves out as possible foster carers unnecessarily. Have a look at our 'can I foster if...?' question and answers below.

Click on the links below to be taken to the relevant section for your question. Have you got a question that isn't answered? Drop an email to info@fostering.net and we'll do our best to answer it.

Who I am
What I do
Where I live
My health 
Other

 

Who I am

I’m gay?
Your sexual orientation is not important to being a foster carer and will not stop you from fostering. What is important is that you can provide a young person with a safe, loving and stable home.

I’m transgender?
Yes, you can foster if you are transgender. Your gender does not, in any way, determine whether you are suitable to foster.

I’m not a British citizen?
British citizenship is not required to be a foster carer in the UK. However, most fostering services would expect you to be a full-time resident in the UK. Children from a wide range of backgrounds need fostering, so foster families come from all walks of life as well. If you are in the UK for a limited time, fostering services will take this into consideration due to the time and cost implications of approving people to foster.

English isn’t my first language?
There are a high number of children and young people in foster care who do not have English as their first language. Therefore, being placed in a family where English is not the first language can be beneficial to them. You will need a good level of spoken and written English to be able to communicate with other professionals, support children’s education and make notes and keep records.

I practice a religion?
It does not matter what your religion is, and this should not not affect your application to foster. Children should be placed with foster families that can meet their needs, including religious needs. However, you would need to consider how you feel about discussing issues such as alternative religious beliefs or certain ethical issues with a child, ensuring that you abide by the fostering service's policies.

I’m single?
You don’t have to be married or in a relationship to foster. There are loads of fantastic foster carers who are single, but you should be able to demonstrate a network of support.

I’m a single man?
When it comes to fostering, it doesn’t matter if you’re single or married. The role of a foster carer is to offer fostered children a safe and caring home and family for as long as they need it. If you can offer this, your relationship status and gender is not considered.

I have a new partner?
Having a new partner is not a problem. Best practice is to be open with your fostering service and inform them if there is a someone new who starts playing a prominent role in your life. If the person is involved in the care of the children or young people you are looking after in any way, they must be assessed and approved too. The fostering service’s duty to safeguard the children will always be paramount.

I’m under 21?
There is no legal lower age limit for fostering. Some fostering services set their own minimum age - often 21 in line with the law for adoption. There is an expectation that foster carers will have sufficient life experience to enable them to meet the needs of children placed with them, and age can be a factor in this. However, if a fostering service refuses to consider an application from a young adult of 18 or over based solely on age, they must be able to justify this under age discrimination laws.

I’m over 60?
Legally there is no upper age limit to foster, and there are many fantastic foster carers in their 60s or 70s. Fostering services are able to set their own upper age limit. What matters is that you are fit and able to care for and meet the needs of any child you are approved to look after.

I have a criminal record?
A criminal record does not necessarily stop you from becoming a foster carer. The law states that the only criminal convictions that prevent people from fostering are those that relate to an offence against children or a sexual offence. Minor offences should not count against you in your application to foster. All criminal convictions will need to be disclosed when you apply and the fostering service will obtain an enhanced disclosure and barring check. Any convictions or cautions will be explored with you by the fostering service.

I don't have my own children?
You don’t have to have your own children to foster. Any relevant experience of working with or caring for children is helpful (for example through work, looking after the children of relatives or friends), as is an understanding of child development. However, A lack of relevant experience is not an automatic bar to fostering.

I have no experience of working with children?
You will need to have some degree of experience dealing with children to foster. Although you need experience, this does not have to come from having your own children. If your profession involves dealing with children, such as a teacher or in a nursery setting or youth work, this can be deemed appropriate experience. Alternatively, your experience might come from family and friends’ children.
 

What I do

I have a full-time job?
A fostering service may have their own policy regarding foster carers working, but it is often possible to work part-time, particularly if caring for school-age children. Depending on the needs and age of children in your care it may also be possible to work full-time. Foster carers are expected to be available to care for children, attend meetings, training, support groups, and to promote and support contact between a child and their family. Fostering services would not usually consider it appropriate for a fostered child to be in full-time daycare while their foster carer works but may consider the use of afterschool clubs and other childcare arrangements for children if they are seen to be in the child’s best interests.

I don't have a steady income/certain salary?
Not having a steady income/certain salary will not restrict you from fostering, if you can demonstrate financial stability. Fostering is unpredictable - you may not always have a child living with you - and so the allowances and fees received from fostering should not be seen as the main form of income. You will need to think about how you will manage financially during such times when there is no fostering income.

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.

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.

 

Where I live

I don’t have a big house?
The size of your house will not necessarily be a determining factor in whether you can foster or not. What will be looked at is whether you have a spare room that is big enough for a young person to live in, and whether the accommodation is safe.

I don’t own my own house?
Not owning your own house does not bar you from fostering but you will need to demonstrate stability. There are lots of foster carers who live in rented accommodation. Most fostering services require you to have a spare bedroom to ensure the child you foster has the privacy and space they require.

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.

 

My health 

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.

I have a disability?
Having a disability does not prevent you from being a foster carer. 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. 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.

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.

I smoke?
Most fostering services have their own policies in relation to smoking which take into account the impact on the health of any children that will be placed with you and also the importance of foster carers as role models for young people in care. This may mean prospective foster carers who smoke are given support to stop smoking or are unlikely to be able to foster certain groups such as children under five and those with certain health conditions. It is important that you discuss this with any fostering service that you wish to foster for to make sure that you are aware of their policy. All foster carers should provide a smoke-free environment for children.

 

Other

I can’t drive?
To foster, it is important to be able to meet the needs of the child or young person that comes into your care. This might include getting them to school every day or taking them to contact appointments with their birth family. If you cannot drive, you will need to demonstrate that you have access to good public transport links.

I am unsure if I can make a difference?
Children and young people come into the care system due to a range of different reasons. Some children may have witnessed domestic violence, a parent’s depression, or drug or alcohol abuse. Others may have been abused or neglected. Therefore, a fostered child will need somewhere that they can feel safe and secure and that will likely have a positive effect.

I have a dog?
Having a dog does not stop you from fostering. Pets are very much part of normal family life and can even be seen as a huge positive to a foster family. However, every pet will be assessed as part of the process of becoming a foster carer, considering factors such as their temperament and behaviour. As a pet owner you should also take into account how you would react if a child harms one of your pets.

I own a snake?
Owning a snake does not bar you from fostering. Every applicant must fill out a pet questionnaire during their assessment which will be taken into account by the fostering service who decides on your approval.

I own a gun?
Owning a gun is not an automatic bar to fostering. For those applicants who live in rural areas, owning a gun is not uncommon. During your assessment, the fostering service will thoroughly explore all of this, check your licence to own a gun (and every other legal requirement concomitant with gun possession, including storage and so on) and make sure everything is lawful.

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