Could you be a foster carer?
Tens of thousands of children in the UK are in need of short and long-term foster carers. You could be just the person they are looking for.
Fostering is richly rewarding – but the prospect of looking after a child who has been living in a difficult home shouldn't be undertaken lightly. Here's what you need to consider.
Am I a suitable candidate? Busting myths
Single people can foster
People of any sexual orientation can foster
People of any given religion can foster
There is no upper age limit to foster
You do not require formal qualifications, though you will receive training to ensure you have the skills you require.
Do I meet the assessment criteria?
There are things that will preclude you, however. Criminal, medical and background checks will be conducted, and you will have to provide character references from at least three (family and friends) people. The application process will take up to eight months, and includes an in-home assessment.
Am I old enough?
Legally you need to be over 21.
Am I able to be there for a child, physically and emotionally?
Foster parents need to be able to provide a safe and nurturing family environment. You need to be available around the clock (this does not preclude being flexibly employed, just that you will always be readily reached) or have a partner who can share the responsibility.
Is your family on board?
Anyone else living in your home, including your own children, need to be committed to caring for the foster child as well.
Do I have a spare room?
Foster carers need to be able to provide a spare room that is a clean, safe space suitable for a child to live in.
Do I have a say in the children I take on?
Yes, broadly. You will be approved for short-term, long-term, or respite care. You can decide which form of care you wish to provide alongside your social worker during the assessment.
Am I financially secure?
There are no pre-requisites for income when becoming a foster carer, but you do need to be able to provide a reasonable and healthy quality of life for any children you take in.
Will I be financially supported?
The UK government provides a support allowance for foster carers and this is revised every April. The allowance generally doesn't include a reward element and is to help cover the extra costs of looking after a child. Some agencies will pay above this though.