Foster carers come from all backgrounds and bring a wide range of life and work experiences. They receive training and support to help them develop the skills to meet the needs of children in care.
Just as there is diversity in fostered children, foster carers need to come from a variety of backgrounds and have different life experiences, skills and qualities to help meet the needs of children and young people in foster care. There are, however, some common criteria that most fostering services need from you:
- to be at least 21 years-old (although by law you can apply to foster from 18)
- to have a spare bedroom big enough for a young person to live in
- to be a full-time resident in the UK or have leave to remain
to be able to give the time to care for a child or young person, often on a full-time basis.
Claire, foster carer.
Other factors to consider
Other factors which will be taken into account will include:
- Your health – are you fit and able to foster for now and the foreseeable future?
- Your financial security – can you afford to foster?
- Your home – is it safe for a child or young person?
- Your friends and family – are there people who can support you to foster?
- Your past – whether you have lived abroad and any previous convictions.
- Your experience with children and young people – through family, work, or volunteering.
Crucially, any fostering service will want to know more about you. Do you want to work with children and young people who have often had difficult starts in life? Do you have the ability to support them, nurture them, communicate with them, advocate on their behalf and include them as part of your family? Are you willing to work as part of a team, develop your skills and qualities through training and learning and have the resilience to stay strong in times of difficulty?
Catherine, foster carer.
People often rule themselves out of fostering, buying into the many myths. Here are a few 'MythBusters':
- You can be single and foster – but you will need to demonstrate a network of support.
- You don’t have to own your own home – but you will need to demonstrate stability.
- Your sexual orientation won’t prevent you from fostering.
- Your religion won’t prevent you from fostering – but you will need to demonstrate how you can support a child of a different religion from yours or questioning their own faith.
- You don’t need any formal qualifications – you will be trained to help you develop the skills to foster and be supported to achieve the training and development standards in England.
- You can sometimes continue to work and foster, depending on the type of fostering you want to do and the needs of the children you will be caring for.
There is also no upper age limit to foster; some people foster well into their 70s. What matters is that you are fit and able to care for any child you are approved to foster. Being a foster carer is not easy, but can make a huge difference to the lives of the children who need it.
If you think fostering is for you, take a look at the process and some helpful questions to ask when applying to foster. Alternatively, read through our FAQs if you are still unsure if you can foster. You can also use our find a fostering service page to find one near you.
Still not sure? Have a look at our could you foster video, to see how you can transform a child's life.
STILL not sure if fostering is for you? Why don't you read more about what it's like being a foster carer Or how about some real-life foster carer experiences, courtesy of Lucy Stevens' ongoing series of blogs, as well as best-selling author Cathy Glass's accounts of fostering?
Paul and Michael, foster carers.
Convinced? Here's what you can do next:
If, after considering becoming a foster carer, you don't think fostering is for you, but would still like to help transform fostered children's lives, please make a donation to The Fostering Network. Your money helps make fostering the best it can be, and you can find out how here.