If you are thinking about becoming a foster carer but have questions that you need answering, our frequently asked questions is a great place to start. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, please contact us and our team will be happy to help.
You can choose to foster with your local authority or trust, or with an independent agency. Each offers different levels of pay, support, training and development. Local authorities and trusts have a pool of foster carers which they match with their own children. There’s a shortage of foster carers so local authorities and trusts work with us to find new Foster Homes for their children.
Local Authorities are ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of all children in public care. They need to find the best way of looking after these children to make sure that they receive the best possible standard of care. IFAs such as Anchor Foster Care provide a fostering service to Local Authorities and we work in partnership with them. We have our own foster carers, social workers, therapists and education staff who work hard to ensure that the needs of the carers and children are met to high standards.
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. Once an adoption order has been granted it can’t be reversed except in extremely rare circumstances. An adopted child loses all legal ties with their first mother and father (the “birth parents”) and becomes a full member of the new family, usually taking the family’s name.
It is important to highlight that fostering is very different to adoption and so you will need to think very carefully whether it is fostering a child or adopting a child that you would like to do.
Anyone above the age of 21 years can apply to be a foster carer. There is no upper age limit. Many people apply for fostering in the years up to retirement and following retirement. Prospective carers should be able to meet all the requirements of the fostering task. Anchor Foster Care encourages people from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds to join their team of foster carers.
No. 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, and develop new skills needed to foster. Once approved, foster carers in England are supported to achieve Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care, and foster carers across the UK should have access to and will be expected to undertake relevant ongoing professional learning and development.
We prefer one foster carer to be at home on a full-time basis, available to the child if needed. There is also an expectation that attendance at training and support groups will be part of the role of a carer. All foster carers must make time to attend training.
Your health will be considered when applying to foster and any long-term health conditions 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 for.
Your health will be considered when applying to foster and any disabilities 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 for. We recruit carers with disabilities, such as deafness, to provide appropriate support for deaf children.
Foster carers who smoke are unable to foster children under 5 years of age or those with medical conditions. This is due to the impact on the health of children and the importance of foster carers as role models for young people in care.
Past mental illness is 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 us before applying. 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 previous criminal conviction would not necessarily disqualify you from fostering; it would depend upon the nature of the conviction and when it occurred. It is standard for us to check police records at an early stage in the application process so we would need you to discuss any convictions with us as soon as possible so that we could decide how a conviction might affect your application. This information would remain confidential at all times.
No. 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. The nature and timing of any offences will be considered by the agency. 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.
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 needs, including religious needs. However you would also need to consider, if a child was placed with you that did not share your religion, how you would feel about discussing issues such as alternative religious belief or sexuality, ensuring that you abide by the fostering service’s policies.
There is no requirement to be a British citizen to be a foster carer in the UK, however you must have permission to live and work in the UK. Children from a wide range of backgrounds need fostering, so foster families should come forward from all cultures and ethnicities.
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.
A large number of children in 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 professionals, support children’s education and make notes and keep records. If you have any particular communication needs, a fostering service should be willing to discuss this with you.
No. Foster children need their own rooms to ensure their right to privacy and space. The exception is babies who can usually share a foster carer’s bedroom up to a certain age (usually around 12-18 months).
Yes. As long as you have a secure tenancy agreement, you can foster in council and privately rented property.
No. Every child in care should have their own room, except some same-sex siblings. Exceptions may be made in liaison with the Local Authority but this is not common.
No. You should not move your own children to share a bedroom if they do not already do so. If your own children are young and already accustomed to sharing a room, that’s fine. We will take into account the current ages of your children when considering the bedroom space that will be available in the future.
It is unlikely that a fostering service would begin the approval process if you are moving as your home forms an important part of your assessment. You must be able to demonstrate that you can provide a suitable and safe environment for children before you can become a foster carer.
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.
You can apply to become a foster carer if one of your children has a disability. The fostering service that you apply to will want to discuss with you how you would balance to the needs of any children that are placed with you with the needs of your own child and what the impact could be on your own child of having other children in their home.
Fostering involves the whole family and 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’s 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. Anchor runs activity forums to support sons and daughters of foster carers as well as foster children.
All foster carers receive a weekly fostering allowance which is intended to cover the costs of looking after a child in foster care, such as clothing, food and pocket money. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales this will be at least the minimum levels in place in each country. Visit the following link for more information: https://www.gov.uk/foster-carers/help-with-the-cost-of-fostering .We also pay a Professional Allowance on top of the fostering allowance, in recognition of your time, skills and experience.
Both allowances and fees are set locally. For a complex placement, we pay an allowance of up to £746 per child, per week. The amount you receive will depend on the number and specific needs of children that you care for. Where the placement is not classed as standard, the additional allowance is agreed with you first.
Your weekly allowance for each child fostered is intended to cover living costs such as food, clothes, basic travel, pocket money and savings for the child or young person. A more detailed breakdown of this is contained within Anchor’s carer’s handbook.
Our carers work on a ‘self-employed’ basis. Foster carers receive very favourable tax treatment on income derived solely from fostering. Under new tax relief introduced in 2003, foster carers whose gross receipts from foster care do not exceed an individual limit will be exempt from tax on their income from foster care. We provide tax and financial advice sessions to carers, delivered by a specialist. Individual and more general advice on taxation is available from a number of sources including the Inland Revenue. https://www.gov.uk/foster-carers/help-with-the-cost-of-fostering
We aim to complete the assessment process in six months. It may take longer, depending upon the complexity of your personal circumstances and the speed with which checks and references are received. Once your approval /appointment has been recommended by the Fostering Panel and confirmed by the Agency Decision Maker you can complete your mandatory training and begin taking placements.
As part of the assessment process, we carry out a criminal records check (DBS), as well as checks with the Local Authority, the Health Service, the Education Department and a register which lists those prevented from working with children. We
We also need to carry out a standard safety check on your home, which is done during the ‘Initial Visit’ to your home.
We regard all couples living together as partners in the fostering process so we would require that you both have the necessary checks and training and that both take part in the assessment process. Even if you are the main carer, anyone sharing your home will have some involvement in and influence on the fostering task. We will also need to carry out checks on all adult members of the household.
As part of the assessment to become a foster carer, we will have discussions about the appropriate age range, the number of children you will be approved to foster, and any other considerations. Placements of children must be well-matched with you and your children in order to be sustainable in the long term. As foster carers, you have the last say on which placements you accept.
We discuss every placement with our carers and it is your decision as to whether to take a young person. We will provide you with as much information as possible about the young person and their background, including any difficult behaviour, contact with birth families and plans for the child or young person where known.
You do need to be aware that sometimes we receive very little information about the children, especially in an emergency. We always, however, seek to find out quickly as much information as possible.
As part of the assessment process, social workers will discuss with you the different types of fostering and help you to decide which types of placement would suit you best. However, you do need to be aware that it is not always possible to know at the beginning of a placement exactly when a child will move on.
We would normally expect carers to undertake these tasks. Occasionally, if you have a particular problem, Anchor would endeavour to make alternative arrangements to support you.
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 is a real problem with a child, then it is important to discuss this with your 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.
If you are approved to become a foster carer there are various sources of ongoing support available to you. The most important will be your supervising social worker, a member of the team allocated to support you from your fostering service, who should meet regularly with you to discuss any concerns you have, offer you supervision, and arrange any training you feel you need. Membership of The Fostering Network provides access to a vast network of foster carers in a similar situation to you, and a range of information and advice services.
Ask your fostering service about membership of The Fostering Network when you apply to foster.
If a child has ongoing medical needs, this will be explained to you before the placement is made and you will receive training and information on an assessment of both the child’s and your needs.
Anchor aims to support foster families during an allegation but there will be disruption.
We've written a fuller piece on how we manage allegations, to ensure our foster carers and staff have as much information around the subject as possible. Please read the full article by clicking the following link: https://www.anchorfostercare.co.uk/anchor-foster-care-carers/fostering-and-allegations
Legislation provides a time frame in which to complete the assessments. We always aim to do this as quickly as possible but are reliant on responses from other parties in respect of statutory checks that we are required to undertake. The process can take up to six months.