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What is fostering?

Fostering is a way of providing a nurturing and safe environment for somebody else’s child in your own when they are unable to live with their birth family. Quality foster care means to nourish, to rear, to promote and to cherish. When families foster, they need to provide a safe, secure and stable environment so that children and young people can recover from any potential traumas they have experienced. Foster care is about giving children and young people the opportunities to reach their full potential.

Why do children require fostering?

There are a variety of reasons that some children and young people cannot remain with their families of origin. For example, if the child or young person is experiencing abuse, their parents are drug or alcohol dependent, there is domestic violence within the family, or there has been a family breakdown or relationship difficulties. A foster family should give children and young people the opportunity to experience a positive and rewarding family life which enables them to rebuild their trust in adults.

Foster placements

Foster placements are needed for a range of timescales. Sometimes they can last for days, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. About 40% of children and young people return home to live with their own families within six months of living away. However, there are some children and young people that need longer term support. This can be provided through fostering, adoption, kinship placements, special guardianship, residential care or living independently.

Types of Fostering

  • Bridging placements are required when a child needs to be prepared for another placement usually a long-term one for example adoption.
  • Emergency placements are where children and young people need somewhere to stay at short notice.
  • Family and friends or kinship fostering provides children and young people with places to live with people they already know.
  • Long term fostering is for some children and young people who cannot return to live with their families so need homes to stay in until they are old enough to live independently.
  • Private fostering is where the parents make an arrangement for the child to stay with someone who is not a close relative and has no parental responsibilities for more than 27 days. Although this is a private arrangement there are special rules about how the child is looked after. The Local Authority must be told about the arrangements and undertake assessments to ensure the arrangements are safe and meet the child or young person’s needs.
  • Remand fostering – in England and Wales children and young people can be ‘remanded’ by the court to the care of a Local Authority and placed with a specially trained Foster Carer. Scotland does not use remand fostering as young people tend to attend a children’s hearing rather than go to court.
  • Short break foster care is where disabled children or children with special needs or behavioural difficulties enjoy a short stay on a pre-planned, regular basis with a new family, and their parents or usual Foster Carers have a short break for themselves.
  • Short term fostering provides children and young people placements from a few weeks or months’ duration while plans are made for the child or young person’s future.

Who can foster?

The age at which you can foster depends on the Authority or agency you work with; the minimum age for fostering under UK law is 18 years old. There is no upper age limit but you do need to be fit, healthy and have plenty of energy. You do not need to be married to become a foster carer. You can be single, divorced or cohabiting. Gender is not a prohibiting factor either. Both men and women can foster. Gay men and women can become foster carers. Other factors, such as whether you have a job or a disability will be considered during your application. Foster carers are needed from all ethnic origins with varying cultures and languages.

Specific requirements to foster

  • You do not need any particular qualifications or education to be a foster carer. However it is beneficial if you have previous experience of caring for or working with children or young people.
  • You need to like children and young people, and to be able to communicate well with them. You need to demonstrate an ability to be understanding and patient but to provide firm boundaries when necessary.
  • You will need at least one spare room. Children and young people who are fostered cannot share a room with any member of the fostering family. Sometimes they can share with their own brothers or sisters, but usually they will need a room of their own.
  • You cannot foster if you have convictions for offences against children. Other criminal history may also affect your ability to foster.

Why foster?

There are approximately 60,000 children and young people who are in the care of Local Authorities at any one time. The total number of children and young people who are looked after by the state in any year rises to approximately 300,000, and the numbers seem to be increasing each year. Statistics suggest that around two thirds of children and young people who need looking after are placed in foster homes, with the majority of the other third living with families and friends or in residential provision.

More foster carers are needed

There is a national shortage of foster carers in for children who are deemed ‘hard to place’.  ‘Hard to place’, according to statistics, means teenagers, disabled children, black and minority ethnic children and sibling groups. More foster cares are needed to ensure that all children and young people who need foster homes have an opportunity to benefit from living within a stable, safe and nurturing family environment. You don’t need to have any particular academic or vocational qualifications, but having experience of caring for or working with children or young people really helps. We believe that taking care of children and young people who cannot live with their own families is a very special job. Making a positive difference in the life of a child or young person is wonderful and very rewarding, but it can also be very challenging and demanding.

Professional support services

Foster carers need to work in partnership with a range of people who are involved in the child or young person’s life, this often includes; the birth parents, extended family members, Social Workers, health workers, staff within education and a range of other professionals. Fostering is a huge commitment. It will have an impact on you and your whole family. Therefore, it is vitally important to find out as much as you can and take time to discuss the possibility with all of your family so that you can make the right choice at the right time for the right reason. Some key requirements of becoming a foster carer are:

  • You need to like children and young people
  • You need to have at least one spare room
  • You need to have lots of patience
  • You need to be able to be very flexible in terms of time availability
  • You need to enjoy working as part of a team
  • You need to be willing to learn
  • You need to have family and friends who will support you

Fostering unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people

The UK has always been a destination of choice for people fleeing war and persecution and the UK has a long history of welcoming and supporting families and children arriving here. Fostering an unaccompanied young person is one way of helping in this crisis. More and more refugees are entering the UK with many of the young people coming from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.  Most are boys aged between 15 and 17, although some are as young as 12. They arrive here alone and are often highly traumatised, with a high proportion suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. People who wish to foster an unaccompanied asylum seeking child should contact a fostering service in their local area, use our search for a fostering service to locate a local fostering provider.  Foster carers are subject to a full assessment of them, their family and their home.  The process can take several months and includes health and criminal records checks to ensure the safety of the young person and the carers own family.  Further details of the assessment process can be found here. More foster placements are needed in order to provide safe and stable homes and carers will need the resilience to deal with the reality of difference on a daily basis including ethnicity, language, culture and religion. There is no doubt that good foster care can make a positive difference to the lives of many unaccompanied young people. At its best, it provides warm family-like relationships that can be transformative for young people and foster families alike. Fostering is a challenging and worthwhile task and foster carers come to be seen as parent figures, confidantes and companions to the young people they care for. Fosterline Advisors can explain the processes involved in becoming a foster carer; this is a good first step if you are unsure of what is involved or whether it is right for you. Telephone Fosterline Freephone number 0800 040 7675. Other ways to help: Volunteer Families including young children and babies needing accommodation are generally housed by local authorities or housing association under government sponsored resettlement programmes.   Volunteers are allocated to each family to help them find their way around, learn English, access health and education services, and generally acclimatise to life in the UK.  If you want to volunteer, contact your local authority for details of programmes in your area. Organisations working to support refugee families include: Donate: The most effective way to help in the short term is by donating money to organisations who are working on the ground with refugees.

Different types of fostering provider

In order to better understand fostering, it’s important to understand that there are different types of Fostering Service Provider. Whichever you choose to register with is entirely your decision. The three main types of Fostering Service Provider are as follows: Local Authorities, Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA), and voluntary organisations. If you’re new to fostering, we recommend that you take your time to decide which type of Fostering Service Provider best suits your specific circumstances and requirements. Think about all the factors that are important to you. How much support will you receive? How competitive is the fostering fee that is paid? How warmly received are your initial enquiries? How much help did you receive for any queries? We recommend you talk to at least three different organisations in your area in order to compare this, which will help you to decide which path is right for you. Always ask your Fostering Service Provider about membership to FosterTalk.

How do I become a foster carer?

When you are ready, ask for a visit from the Fostering Service Providers you feel most positive about. An ‘initial visit’ to your home should be arranged with you and all your family members. It’s much better to have all the family at the meeting so that you can all ask questions and find out more. Fostering will affect everyone and so needs to be a joint decision. The ‘initial visit’ also enables the Fostering Service Providers to make an initial assessment of your situation to ensure that there is every chance of success for you, your family and any child or young person that you foster.

Training, support and fees

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Find out about the preparation process

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Assessment process to becoming a foster carer

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Learn more about becoming a foster carer

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Foster carer training

All Fostering Service Providers are expected to ensure that foster carers are trained in the skills required to provide high quality care and meet the needs of each child or young person placed in their care. As a foster carer, you are expected to attend all relevant training. This will include:

  • Pre-approval training – Skills to Foster,
  • Induction training – Working in Partnerships,
  • Ongoing core training – Safe Caring.

You should also be provided with the opportunity to attend:

  • Ongoing specialist training – Men who Foster, Working with Challenging Behaviour,
  • Professional vocational training – NVQ level 3.

If there are two adults in the household approved as foster carers you are both expected to complete the relevant training. Fostering Service Providers will usually organise training to facilitate your attendance so this may take place in the evening or at weekends.

The Training, Support and Development Standards (TSD)

In England, all foster carers are required to complete the Training Support and Development Standards within 12 to 18 months of becoming approved as a foster carer. Following the closure of the Children’s Workforce Development Council in April 2012, responsibility for the training, support and development of foster carers passed to the Department for Education. This includes the TSD standards for foster carers, including online resources, such as training materials and case studies, and the TSD workbooks. The Training, Support and Development (TSD) standards form part of a foster carer’s induction in the role. They provide a national minimum benchmark that sets out what foster carers should know, understand and be able to do within the first 12-18 months after being approved. You can present your evidence in a range of ways. The most important thing is that you evidence all of the standards under each of the headings. The TSD standards are used as Ofsted inspection criteria and in 2011 they became part of the National Minimum Standards too. Supervisors play a key role helping foster carers complete the TSD standards within the required timescales. All approved foster carers in England must complete the TSD standards. Foster carers may be unsure of what’s expected of them and sometimes feel overwhelmed, especially if they’ve not undertaken any qualifications in recent years. There are a lot of useful case studies and examples on line, and your fostering service may set up a group for foster carers completing their workbooks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Family and friends carers (kinship carers)

As family and friends (kinship) carers, you may often take care of children at short notice and in difficult circumstances, therefore the deadline for them to complete the standards has been extended. Those who are new to fostering a family member or a friend’s child have up to 18 months to complete the standards. A shorter version of the TSD standards workbook is available to use with family and friends (kinship) carers. This may also be used with Support Carers. If you’re a foster carer about to start the TSD standards, or you’d like help completing the workbook, talk to your supervising social worker who will be able to support and guide you. The TSD standards workbook takes you through each section of the standards. Further information and frequently asked questions.

Islamic adoption & adoption fostering guide

The Penny Appeal Adoption and Fostering team have collaborated with over 60 Islamic scholars from across the UK to compile an Islamic Adoption and Fostering Guide. The booklet covers the faith’s perspective and virtues on adoption and fostering. Tailored specifically to the Muslim community, the guide is designed to highlight the position of the Muslim faith for those who are unsure about becoming foster carers or adopters. You can read a copy of the guide here.

Assessment of pets

Having pets does not prevent you from fostering, 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, and where they eat and sleep. You may be restricted to the ages of children you can foster depending on the type of pet you have. As a pet owner, you also need to think about how you would feel if one of your pets was harmed or injured by a child. This would be addressed as part of the assessment process. For further information click here.

Find a fostering service

If you’d like to take the next step into fostering, don’t forget, there are a number of different types of Fostering Services Providers operating in most regions. Choose the one that is right for you. Focus on the key elements of support, training and assistance in your fostering career. Why not search online? If you type “fostering” into your internet search engine, you’ll be presented with a wide range of Fostering Service Providers in your region. Fosterline Logo Alternatively visit the interactive mapping service on the Fosterline website or telephone 0800 040 7675. Fosterline is a national advice line and website for foster carers or people interested in fostering, where you will find lots of advice and information to help you, including a mapping facility to find a fostering service in your area. Fosterline is delivered by FosterTalk and funded by Department for Education.

How do we help?

We offer independent, impartial support and advice to foster carers across the UK. Our aim is to make a real difference to the lives of foster carers which, in turn, helps them make an even bigger difference to the lives of the children in their care. Already fostering? Become a member of FosterTalk for just £44 a year and receive a wealth of benefits including:

  • Legal support and insurance
  • Fostering, counselling and medical helplines
  • Personal finance and tax advice
  • Education advice
  • A quarterly fostering magazine
  • Hundreds of discounts on high street shopping and family days out.

We work with foster carers, social workers and fostering experts to develop our services. So when you join us, you know you’ll get the support you need to make the most of your fostering journey. Interested in joining FosterTalk? Find out more about becoming a member here. Thinking about fostering? If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer but haven’t yet started your fostering journey, we can still help. Fosterline is a free, confidential helpline offering advice on fostering issues, which includes answering questions from potential carers. Would you like to know what fostering involves, how long it takes to become a carer or what training and support you’ll receive? We can help. Simply call Fosterline on 0800 040 7675 from 9am-5 pm, Monday to Friday. Calling outside of office hours? Leave a message and an advisor will call you back the next working day. For more information on Fosterline, please visit Fosterline is delivered by FosterTalk, and is funded by Department for Education