1. There are different kinds of placements
FOSTERING seeks to provide a family life for children unable to
live with their own parent(s). Different placements exist,
including: emergency, for a night or longer, often
at short notice; short-term, for a few weeks or
months, while plans are made for a child's future;
respite, to give a short break to another foster
carer; long-term, for children who cannot return
to parents, but who do not want to be adopted, or for whom adoption
is not considered appropriate; parent and child,
for a mother and/or father and their child to provide short- or
long-term parenting support; unaccompanied minor,
for children from other countries, usually applying for asylum;
specialist placements, for
children with disabilities, learning disabilities or sensory
impairments, challenging behaviour or significant health needs;
remand fostering, for young people remanded bythe
courts into care; connected
persons/kinship/family and friends, for children
in local authority care to be looked after by people they already
There is a huge need for people who can take sibling groups. It
is possible to request to become foster carers for a particular sex
or age-grouping, which may be particularly relevant to fit in with
the needs of any birth children.
2. Applications can be made through a local authority or an
IT IS possible to apply to be a foster carer by contacting your
local council. Many councils also use independent fostering
agencies, particularly for hard-to-place children, to which you can
also apply direct.
When researching foster-service providers, ask about the type of
training and support that they give to their carers, what
allowances and fees they offer, and whether they are likely to be
recruiting foster carers for the type of placement(s) you are
You are free to choose which agency you register with, but you
can only be registered with one agency at a time. If you decide to
transfer, you must inform your current agency before a new
assessment process can begin. Foster-service providers can share
information; so any references already taken, for example, may not
need to be taken again.
3. You do not need to be married, or a homeowner
FOSTER CARERS can be married, single, divorced or cohabiting,
male or female, heterosexual, gay or lesbian. Homeowners, and those
in rented accommodation (with a secure lease) are equally eligible
to apply, so long as there is a spare bedroom available for each
child that a potential carer hopes to foster (occasionally, young
siblings are permitted to share a room).
No formal qualifications are necessary, but many providers
consider the following to be desired qualities: experience with
children and young people, and understanding, empathy, tolerance,
energy, sense of humour, an ability to work as part of a team, and
openness to training and development. Being able to communicate
effectively is vital: foster carers attend meetings and keep
written records related to their foster child, and may be required
to help maintain contact with a child's family.
Most agencies ask for at least one carer to be at home
full-time, or with flexible part-time employment. People on
benefits can also apply to foster (one bedroom for fostered
children is exempt from the "bedroom tax").
Foster carers are needed from various ethnic, cultural, and
religious backgrounds, and there is no upper age-limit.
4. Applications take up to eight months
UNLESS an agency is not currently recruiting foster carers for
the type of fostering an applicant is interested in, once someone
has definitely requested to be considered for approval to foster,
verbally or in writing, the application process begins.
In the first instance, potential foster carers attend a
group-preparation session with other applicants. Suitability for
fostering will then be assessed through a two-stage application
Stage one focuses on fact-checking, which includes: two personal
references; health status, checked by a medical examination;
suitability of accommodation; details of household members;
criminal records; previous applications to foster/adopt; and
details of current/previous relationships, etc. - this will include
a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (previously known as a
CRB), applicable to any other household members over 18.
By law, applicants must be informed whether they have
successfully completed stage one within ten working days of all the
relevant information being received - although agencies have
reported, for instance, waiting more than six months just for the
DBS check alone.
Stage two focuses on suitability to foster. A social worker is
assigned to work with each applicant, and will make six to eight
visits to assess his or her (and their family's, if relevant)
competence, lifestyle, and potential to care for a child
effectively. Safeguards checks are also undertaken, such as with
employers, the probation service, OFSTED, schools, adult children,
Stages one and two may be completed separately, or concurrently.
At the end, a social worker prepares a report to be presented to an
independent fostering panel (IFP), who will recommend whether a
person/family should be approved. The final decision, however, is
made by the fostering service through which the application was
made. The process from application to IFP recommendation should
take place within eight months.
An applicant can withdraw at any point in the process (case
records are required by law to be kept for three years). And an
application can be rejected by the agency at any time, if
applicants are deemed unsuitable. Applicants have differing rights
of appeal, depending on the stage at which the application has been
5. Support and training is ongoing
THE level of support received may vary, depending on the
foster-service provider. Some providers include: access to
networking groups, where you can meet other foster carers; support
structures for birth children; support to gain recognised
qualifications; short-break care; 24-hour access to a social worker
for advice and help with emergencies; and others. All foster carers
are required to have an annual review to identify any training that
is needed to helpsupport them in continuing to foster.
6. Foster carers are paid
ALL foster carers are paid a weekly allowance to cover the cost
of caring for a child in their home, clothing, pocket money, etc.
In England, the Government sets the national minimum allowance for
foster-carers (2014/15 rates range from £119 to £209 per week,
depending on the age of the child, and where you live. Rates
Fostering is increasingly being seen as a "professional" role,
and, as such, all local authorities and independent fostering
agencies also pay foster carers a fee which takes into account
their skills, experience, or professional expertise; the child's
needs; length of fostering; and competencies completed.
Foster carers in the UK do not pay tax on their income from
fostering up to a maximum of £10,000 plus allowances (an amount a
week for each foster child placed with you: £200 for each child
under 11; £250 for a child aged 11 and over). For example, tax
relief on a child aged over 11 fostered for 52 weeks = £10,000,
plus 52 × £250 = £13,000, which equals a total of £23,000.
7. If you want to adopt…
APPLICATIONS to adopt a child must be made through the local
council, or through a voluntary adoption agency. Applicants must be
aged 21 and over. Voluntary adoption agencies provide their
services free, unless an applicant is wanting to adopt a child from
After panel approval to adopt, if a suitable match has not been
made within three months, an agency will refer an applicant to the
relevant country adoption register (Engand, Wales, Scotland), and
may suggest that applicants explore services such as Be My Parent,
the family finding service of the British Associationfor Adoption
and Fostering: www.BeMyParent.org.uk.
Possible matches of applicants and child(ren) are presented to
the adoption panel of the child's local authority. If a panel
approves the match, things will move fast: a series of
introductions and meetings will take place with the child, and the
child can move in usually within a period of about four to eight
weeks. The adoption order will be granted by the courts within ten
weeks to 12 months.
Adopters may be entitled to statutory adoption leave from work
for a period of 52 weeks (similar to maternity leave). The 2014/15
rate of pay is £138.18 a week.
Post-adoption support may be available through some
adoption-service providers. The Government is currently funding
pilots to try to develop centres of excellence in this area, to
limit adoption breakdown and support those who adopt.
If a foster carer decides that he or she wants to adopt a child
they are fostering, it is possible to ask to be assessed as a
possible adopter for that child.
8. The impact on birth children
THERE has been very little research done on the impact of
fostering or adoption on the lives of birth children. But, last
year, the Rees Centre, at the University of Oxford, published an
international literature review on the issue.
Its key findings were: being involved in the decision to foster
enhances birth children's adaptation; being informed about
fostering and each particular child reduces conflict; foster carers
need to provide some "protected" time for their birth children;
there is a need to limit sensitive information, particularly for
younger birth children; being given space to discuss problems is
important for birth children; children need to be prepared for when
For further information, visit
9. Getting the church on board
ADOPTION and fostering children involves ongoing challenges.
Often, children have experienced damage and trauma, and may display
challenging behaviours as a result.
Recent government research suggests that the rate of adoption
breakdown nationally is three per cent - much lower than was
previously thought. Adoption placements, however, can often run
into trouble in teenage years.
Home for Good advocates that the whole Church is called to be
involved with "caring for the orphan", and that individuals and
families must be supported in their decision to foster or adopt,
both in prayer and with practical action.
The book Home for Good: Making a difference for vulnerable
children (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013) provides a detailed
theology of adoption, as well as practical examples of ways in
which people can help, even if they do not foster or adopt
Care for the Family, in conjunction with Home for Good, is in
the early stages of developing peer-to-peer support groups around
the UK for Christians involved, or interested, in fostering and
adoption. Visit www.homeforgood.org.uk/about/
10. More information?
The Fostering Information Exchange Network is an online
knowledge-sharing forum for foster-carers and professionals.
Fosterline is a free, government-funded helpline and website
that offers confidential, impartial advice; information; support;
and resources on all aspects of fostering. Phone 0800 040 7675;
email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit
First4Adoption is the Government's information service for
people interested in adopting. Visit
The Fostering Network is a charity that provides information
about fostering, offers support and advice to its members, and
campaigns to improve foster care. Visit
The Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers is is the only
UK trade association that campaigns solely for independent- and
voluntary-sector fostering providers. Its website provides useful
updates on fostering news. Visit www.nafp.co.uk/.
The Government provides information on fostering through the
Department for Education. Visit
The Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies provides a list of
member agencies online. Visit www.cvaa.org.uk.