Can I foster? A beginner’s guide to fostering

Can I Foster

What You Need and What You Don’t

For too long, people have seen fostering as something that only a handful of people can do. For example, foster carers have to be married, heterosexual and offer a level of care that some saw as being beyond their means.

Over the years, the ‘rules’ have changed, just as attitudes have. Children in need of foster homes come from a range of diverse backgrounds. And that means foster carers are needed from all walks of life.

What is fostering?

Being a foster carer means looking after a child or children in your own home because they are unable to live with their birth family. There are many reasons why children are taken into care but what it normally means is that the home environment is considered too chaotic or that a child is ‘at risk’. Some children are taken into care when there is evidence of neglect or abuse.

There are other reasons too, some more complex than others. But foster carers are the people who make a difference to a child’s life.

What you need and don’t need to be a foster carer in the UK

You need…

  • To be over the age of 21 years – the legal requirement is 18, but most fostering agencies and local authorities stipulate foster carers need to be 21 or over. There is no upper age limit. It is a common myth that someone is ‘too old’ to foster. For some children, ‘older’ foster carers are the stable adults that they are looking for.
  • A spare bedroom – every child needs their own space and that’s is why at least one spare bedroom is required in order for you to foster a child.
  • To give time – children who live in foster care can sometimes have complex needs, and this means that they need foster carers who have time to dedicate to them. Generally, this means being a foster care is a ‘full-time’ position, but there are a few exceptions.
  • To be a British citizen or permanently live in the UK
  • The right outlook – you will need to be full of energy, have patience in abundance, be resilient and committed to helping children who can sometimes find it hard to accept help.

You don’t need…

  • To be married or in a relationship – some people think that they need to be married or in a relationship to foster but this is not the case. You can be single to foster (and adopt) and you can also be part of a same-sex relationship too.
  • Need formal qualifications – and neither do you need experience in childcare.
  • To be a parent – some people think that to be a foster carer, you need to be or have been a parent. But this is not the case!
  • To be in work – foster carers need to give their foster children time and so this means that full-time employment can be difficult to manage alongside the role of a foster carer. As a skilled carer, you will be paid a weekly allowance.

Regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability, your application to be a foster carer will be welcome.

Apply to foster today

To apply to foster, you need to fully understand what fostering is (and isn’t!). And that means starting a conversation with a fostering agency. With only a handful of basic, legal criteria to meet, the barriers to fostering are few and far between.

If you decide to continue, you can begin the application process, and within months, you could be providing the stable and loving home environment a foster child desperately needs.

Visit the Foster Care Associates website for more information on becoming a foster carer.

*This is a collaborative post 

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