Fostering is a way of offering children and young people a home while their own family is unable to look after them.
Fostering can be a temporary arrangement, and many fostered children return to their own families.
Children who cannot return home but still want to stay in touch with their families often live in long-term foster care, and have continued support from their local authority or health and social care trust.
Foster carers never have parental responsibility for a child that they care for.
Adoption is a way of providing a new family for children who cannot be brought up by their own parents. It's a legal procedure in which all the parental responsibility is transferred to the adopters.
Becoming a foster parent can take anything from 4 months to 9 months, depending on the availability of the applicants and the social worker.
How long the fostering process takes also depends on the number of interviews that need to be conducted.
For example if a couple are applying who have both had previous partners, and have grown up children, this will take longer.
Yes – Anyone applying to become a foster carer in the UK is required to have a medical.
You don't need any specific qualifications to foster.
When you are preparing to foster you will receive training to help you and your family identify and build upon the skills you already have.
You will be able to develop any new skills needed to foster through Affinity Fosterings' Skills to Foster course.
Once approved, foster carers in England are supported to achieve Training, Support and Development Standards (TSDS) for foster care.
Foster carers across the UK should have access to and will be expected to undertake relevant ongoing professional learning and development.
If you are approved to become a foster carer there are a various sources of ongoing support available to you.
The most important support will be from your supervising social worker.
This is a member of your fostering service team allocated to support you. They will meet regularly with you to discuss any concerns you have, offer you supervision, and arrange any training you feel you need.
Membership of FosterTalk provides access to a vast network of foster carers in a similar situation to you, and a range of information, advice and support services.
Having pets does not prevent you from fostering, in fact they can be an asset to a foster family.
However, every animal is different and your pets will be assessed as part of the process of becoming a foster carer, taking into account factors such as their temperament and behaviour.
As a pet owner, you also need to think about how you would feel and react if one of your pets was injured by a child.
There is no requirement to be a British citizen 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.
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.
In general, you cannot apply to become a foster carer with a UK-based fostering service if you are living outside the UK.
There are exceptions to this including family and friends, foster carers looking after a specific child and British Armed Forces families who are posted overseas.
You may wish to apply to become a foster carer in the country in which you are resident.
For more information about fostering overseas, see the International Foster Care Organisation (IFCO) website.
Your home forms an important part of your fostering assessment. It is unlikely that a fostering service would begin the approval process if you are moving.
You must be able to demonstrate that you can provide a suitable and safe environment for children before you can become a foster carer.
You or your partner having a criminal record is not necessarily a problem if you want to start fostering.
The Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (26) (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/581/contents/made) Prohibits from approval those who have criminal convictions or cautions recorded against them for specified offences, which are generally offences against children, sexual offences or certain customs offences.
Minor offences should not count against you in your application to foster.
All criminal convictions will need to be disclosed when you first apply to foster as the application process to become a foster carer includes an enhanced criminal record check. Non-disclosure of criminal convictions could preclude an individual from fostering.
Your health will be considered when applying to become a foster parent. Any long-term conditions will be taken into account.
The most important factor is whether you are physically and psychologically fit enough to cope with the demands of caring for a child – this may vary depending on the age of the children that you are approved to foster.
Previous mental health issues are not a bar to becoming a foster carer, in fact there is no diagnosis that can automatically prevent you fostering.
However you would need to discuss this with any fostering service that you applied to.
A medical report is always sought as part of the assessment process, and you would also need to consider the impact that the emotional side of fostering could have on your mental health.
A large number of children in UK foster care do not have English as a first language and being placed in a home where their first language is spoken can be very beneficial for them.
You will need a good level of spoken and written English to be able to communicate with other professionals, support your foster children’s education, make notes and keep records.
If you have any particular communication needs, a fostering service should be willing to discuss this with you.
It does not matter what your religion is and this should not affect your application to foster.
Children should be placed with foster families that can meet their requirements, including religious needs. We would expect that foster carers are able to support young people to attend their chosen religious place of worship.
Carers needing to attend their own place of worship need to consider alternative care arrangements for their young person who may not wish to attend.
Any prospective foster carers would need to consider how they would feel about discussing issues such as alternative religious belief or sexuality with a child, ensuring that you abide by the fostering service’s policies.
Most fostering services have their own policies in relation to smoking.
These policies take into account your 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 that prospective foster carers who smoke are given support to stop smoking or that they will be 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.
Yes, you can apply to become a foster carer if one of your own children has a disability.
The fostering service that you apply to will want to discuss how you would balance the needs of any children who are placed with you with the needs of your own child.
The will also need to understand what the impact could be on your own child of having other children in their home.
Fostering involves the whole family and it will affect your children.
The children of foster carers play a key role in the fostering household and should be included at all stages of the fostering process.
It can be tough for children who find themselves sharing their parents with children who have led very different lives. However, many children also say that they have enjoyed their parents’ fostering and learnt a lot from it.
Foster carers say it is important you continue to make time for your own children and ensure that they still feel they are special to you.
Research suggests that it is preferable to have a reasonable age gap – either way – between your children and those you foster. Some fostering services run groups that support sons and daughters of foster carers.
As part of the assessment to become a foster carer, it is usual to have discussions about the appropriate age range, the number of children you will be approved to foster, and any other considerations.
Ideally all placements of children will be well-matched and planned, but a foster carer has the right to turn down placements.
It is inevitable that, as foster carers, there will be some children who you find fit in better with your family. Some children will also take time to adjust to living in your home.
However, if there are significant concerns regarding the ongoing relationship with the child, then it is important to discuss this with your supervising social worker. You may find if things are not working out for you, then the child will also be feeling that this is not the right place for them.
It may be that with extra support or training, caring for that child or young person becomes easier and more enjoyable. However, sometimes, it may be best for a child to move to another foster family.
All foster carers receive a weekly fostering allowance which is intended to cover the costs of looking after a child in foster care, including clothing, food, pocket money, holidays, savings, birthdays, festival celebrations and activities.
Each fostering service sets its own allowance levels, and the amount varies depending on factors such as the age of the child and the experience of the foster carer.
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 the foster children it may 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 day care while their foster carer works, but may consider use of after school clubs and other child care arrangements for older children.
Most fostering services require you to have a spare bedroom, to ensure the child you foster has the privacy and space they require.
The exception is babies who can usually share a foster carer’s bedroom up to a certain age (usually around 12-18 months).