Opening your home and your family to caring for a child or young person is a big decision and we know that you will need time to consider this very carefully. We have tried to cover some of the questions you may have but please contact us to discuss any aspect of fostering further:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is fostering?
Fostering is providing a home for children and young people when they are unable to live within their own family. There are a variety of reasons why children or young people cannot live with their own parents and need foster care which can include family breakdown, neglect, abuse, family ill health or relationship problems. All children and young people are ‘unique’ as is each foster home. Children and young people can live with Foster Carers for days, months or for years.
What is the difference between fostering and adoption?
When children are adopted all legal responsibilities for a child is granted to the adoptive parents, whereas with fostering all legal responsibility for a child and young person remains with the Local Authority and adult who have parental responsibility (usually birth parents). Many children and young people are not adopted but live with the same Foster Carers long term (until the young person reaches adulthood).
Who can become a Foster Carer?
People who foster are ‘ordinary people’ who do an ‘extraordinary’ role.
The agency will accept an application from anyone who is over the age of 21 and there is no upper age limit as long as you are healthy and energetic.
Any adults can apply to foster regardless of their gender, relationship status, sexual orientation, ethnic background or religion.
The most important qualities for potential Foster Carer are adults who are able to offer a secure home life, who are caring and have the time, energy and passion to care for a child or young person. A good sense of humour and a thick skin are also great qualities to have!
What support do Foster Carers get?
Everyone who applies to foster is allocated their own assessing social worker who will be with you from the start to the end of the assessment process. Once approved the agency offers Foster Carers an excellent support package which includes:
- A highly skilled, friendly and approachable staff team.
- Allocation of a key supervising social worker who will support you all the way and offer quality supervision.
- Access to a social worker 24 hours a day – 365 days a year – so you are never on your own.
- A responsive family support team which offers individual support to Foster Carers and individual time with children and young people.
- A wide range of events and group activities for our looked after children, Foster Carers and birth children throughout the year.
- Allocation of a foster carer mentor.
- Access to a psychologist.
- Training Department which is recognised as a National College for Education and Training. Training will be provided at every stage of your fostering career.
- Training and support for ‘children who foster’.
- Foster carer handbook which comprehensively covers policies, procedures and guidance, legal information and insurance details.
- Excellent payment and rewards.
- Respite payment/respite support for when you need some time off.
- Membership to Fostering Network.
- Expertise from across the Nest Stage Group.
What kind of children and young people will I foster?
Next Stage for Fostering provides foster placements for children and young people from birth until aged 18, although lots of young people continue to live with their Foster Carers beyond their 18 birthday. Nationally the majority of young people in foster care are over the age of 11, so in line with this, Next Stage for Fostering receive significantly more placement requests for older children and young people.
Foster placements are needed for children and young people who come from a wide range of backgrounds. Therefore, there is no typical child or young person or typical behaviours as everybody is unique. Some children and young people may present as quiet and withdrawn whilst others might demonstrate more challenging behaviours. All the information Next Stage for Fostering receive for children or young people who need placements, will be shared with our Foster Carers prior to the placement being agreed to enable the best possible match for the children and young people and our fostering families.
Every placed child or young person will have their own individual care plan which outlines their needs. This document helps Foster Carers and anyone else working with them to provide the best way of supporting the child or young person and Next Stage for Fostering will always be on hand to offer our full support.
All children and young people need kind, patient, resilient Foster Carers who can ‘stick in’ with them and offer them lots of reassurance and stability.
Do you need to have been a parent, cared for or worked with children and young people before?
No, although experience can help, your personal qualities can be just as important and the agency will offer you all the training and support you need.
Will fostering affect your own children?
Yes. Fostering involves the whole family and when you foster, your children and young people foster too. Any additions to a family will bring changes and the need for adjustments.
If you have children and young people living at home with you, you will need to discuss how another child or young person joining the family might affect them. Living within a fostering family can teach children and young people vital life skills, such as patience and empathy and many children and young people go on to become Foster Carer’s themselves. However, some children can find it difficult to share their parents and belongings, cope with some of the behaviours a looked after child or young person may display or say goodbye when a child or young person leaves your family.
Everyone living in the family will need to be involved in the assessment and the agency recognises the important role children and young people who foster play and offer support, social meetings, family fun days and training (if age appropriate).
All your family will play their part in making a difference to the lives of children and young people who join your family.
What impact will fostering have on my family and friends?
Extended family members and close friends can also play a vital role in the fostering task, they can support Foster Carers in making a child or young person feel welcome and valued.
It is a good idea to discuss your thoughts on fostering with your family and friends so that they can understand and support you and your family in your new career.
Do I need to own my home?
No. You can still foster if you live in rented accommodation. The Landlord must provide written permission for the property to be used for fostering.
Do I need a spare bedroom?
Yes. Any children or young people who are placed with you will need their own bedroom. Children and young people can only share a bedroom with their own sibling(s) and if this has been agreed beforehand with the Local Authority. Foster Carers must therefore have a spare bedroom before they apply to foster.
Do I need to be able to drive?
Being able to drive and having access to a car is extremely helpful in fostering as children and young people will often need transporting to school, leisure activities, appointments, contact with family, etc. Foster Carers also need to attend various meetings and training sessions. However, we do accept applications from adults who do not drive as long as you are able to satisfy the transport commitments outlined above.
Am I allowed to foster with pets?
Yes. A number of studies have concluded that the presence of animals in a family helps to support children and young people’s emotional, cognitive, social and physically development and a significant number of Foster Carers have pets. However, some children and young people cannot be placed with pets due to allergies or a wish not to live with animals.
During the fostering assessment a ‘Pet Assessment’ on each animal will be undertaken to ensure any pet does not pose a risk to children and young people. Also, that your pet(s) are well cared for, registered with a vet and are up to date with vaccinations.
Can I smoke tobacco and e-cigarettes and foster?
Yes. Next Stage for Fostering accept applications from adults who smoke, however research has shown that second-hand smoke is dangerous. Every time a person breathes in second hand smoke, they breathe in thousands of chemicals, children and young people are especially vulnerable because they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems.
As the majority of cigarette smoke is invisible, the opening of windows and doors does not remove its harmful effect. Therefore, all fostering households are expected to be smoke free and Foster Carers, family members and visitors to your home need to agree they will only smoke outside the home. It is also now a criminal offence to smoke in a vehicle that is carrying someone under the age of 18.
In relation to e-cigarettes users, until more research is available the agency will treat e-cigarette users the same as a smoker.
Following good practise guidelines, the agency will not place children under the age of 5 or children and young people with asthma, heart, mobility problems or glue ear within households where there is a smoker/e-cigarette user.
Can I foster with a criminal conviction?
Yes. A criminal conviction does not automatically rule you out of fostering.
An enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check will be carried out on you and anyone else in the household aged 18 or over. Each application will be considered individually but we are not able to progress an application where there are convictions for offences against children or other offences of a serious nature.
Do I need any qualifications to become a Foster Carer?
No. You do not need any qualifications to be a Foster Carer.
Our agency will support, inform and train you in any areas that may be identified to help you provide care to children and young people.
What training is available?
Although there is no formal qualification needed to become a Foster Carer all applicants, whether fostering for the Local Authorities or other Fostering Agencies need to attend a Skills to Foster Training Course which is part of the fostering assessment. Next Stage run this course over 2 days at our local office and convenient dates will be arranged with Applicants.
All Foster Carers also complete the Training, Development Standards for Foster Carers within the first 12 months of fostering, your Next Stage for Fostering Social Worker will work through these with you and fully support you to your successful completion of these Standards.
Next Stage for Fostering are proud of our training department which is classed as a National College for Education and Training. The training department run a comprehensive training programme to provide ongoing support and individual training and development plans for Foster Carers throughout their fostering career.
Next Stage for Fostering understand that attending training maybe an anxious time for some people therefore all our trainers are highly skilled at making sure the day is relaxed, fun and informative.
I work, can I still foster?
Yes. Although this will depend on what job you do, how many hours you work and how flexible your working arrangements are.
Your time and attention are the most valuable resources you can offer to a child/young person. Children and young people who are looked after may never have been read to, played games with, supported in completing homework, encouraged to participate in leisure activities and develop social skills.
You will also need to consider your availability to attend meetings, appointments for children and young people, transport to school and contact with family members, managing school holidays and absences etc.
All Foster Carers receive a professional fee when children and young people are placed with them which is there to provide an income.
Do Foster Carers get paid?
Yes. Foster Carers receive excellent pay and rewards. Weekly allowances vary from £310 to £510 per child or young person depending on their level of need.
Foster Carers receive one payment every fortnight when a child or young person is living with you, which consists of 2 parts:
- A child maintenance element payment is provided to cover the costs incurred when caring for children and young people e.g. food, clothing, pocket money, personal items etc.
- A professional fee for the Foster Carer. Our agency recognises Foster Carers as professional’s in the part they play in caring for children and young people.
Do Foster Carers pay Tax and National Insurance?
Fostering is classed as self-employment and therefore Foster Carers are responsible for their own Tax and National Insurance, however, there are generous tax allowances available to help.
Money earned from Fostering would be as follows:
Personal tax allowance
The current standard rate is £11,000 per year which will apply if it has not been used for any other work undertaken during the tax year.
There is a fixed tax exemption of up to £10,000 per year (less if for a shorter period) which is shared equally among any Foster Carers in the same household. This means you do not have to pay tax on the first £10,000 income (after expenses) you make from fostering.
On top of the £10,000 exemption, you also get tax relief for every week (or part week) that a child is in your care. This means you do not have to pay tax on some of your earnings over £10,000.
|Age of child||Tax relief|
|Under 11||£200 per child|
|Over 11||£250 per child|
Example of how the tax is worked out:
Laura is a Foster Carer for a 14-year-old for the whole of the year and for an 8-year-old for 10 weeks of the year. She does not have to pay tax on the first £25,000 (or £36,000 if also using a standard personal allowance) she earns:
Tax exemption = £10,000
Child 1 (52 x £250) = £13,000
Child 2 (10 x £200) = £2,000
Total = £25,000
The important thing to remember is that each individual’s financial circumstances are different. For more information, visit the Government website: www.gov.uk/foster-carers/help-with-the-cost-of-fostering
Is there a shortage of Foster Carers?
Yes. The Fostering Network (the UK’s leading fostering charity) estimates fostering services across the UK need to recruit at least a further 9,070 families in the next 12 months alone, in order to ensure all fostered children/young people can live with the right family for them.
National statistics reported by Ofsted for 2014/2015 showed the number of ‘looked after’ children and young people has increased steadily over the past 7 years and is now higher than at any point since 1985. During the reported year 85,890 children and young people lived in fostering placements at some point.
What is an Independent Fostering Agency?
Whilst most Local Authorities have their own ‘in house’ fostering service they do not have enough Foster Carers to meet the numbers of children and young people they need to place in Foster Care. Next Stage for Fostering and other fostering agencies work in partnership with Local Authorities to provide additional Foster Carers.
Whilst Next Stage for Fostering is an independent fostering agency, we differ from many large independent fostering agencies as we are owned and run by the people who founded the agency. We do not aspire to be the biggest but we do aspire to be the best! We pride ourselves on running a local, friendly, family-feel, highly professional agency. We are passionate about the importance of knowing all our Foster Carers, their families and the children and young people they look after.
Next Stage for Fostering has a clear vision and is committed to providing a high standard of support and care to Foster Carers. We aim to make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people, Foster Carers, their families and our local community.
I am already a Foster Carer, can I transfer to your agency?
Yes. Next Stage for Fostering recognises that Foster Carers have the right and freedom to choose which fostering service they are approved with and we welcome applications from existing Foster Carers.
If you currently have children or young people placed with you, the agency will work closely with Local Authorities and other professionals to enable a smooth transfer for Foster Carers and any children and young people in placement.
Please contact us and we will arrange everything that needs to be done.
How long does it take to become a Foster Carer?
Next Stage for Fostering aims to complete assessments within 4 months of receiving your application. The National Minimum Standards for Fostering require all assessments to be completed within 8 months.
Who decides if I am suitable to be a Foster Carer?
Children and young people in our care can be extremely vulnerable, our agency must ensure they are placed with people who can offer them security and safety. Fostering Agencies are required by law to follow a process called an assessment and undertake checks on all potential Foster Carers and their household members.
The assessment process is carried out by an assessing social worker who will be allocated to you. Once the assessing social worker has completed your assessment it will be presented to a Fostering Panel.
The Fostering Panel is chaired by an independent person, who will along with other panel members review your assessment, meet with you and your assessing social worker and make a recommendation on whether you would be suitable to become Foster Carers.
The Next Stage for Fostering Agency Decision Maker reads the recommendation from the Fostering Panel and makes the final decision whether to approve you as Foster Carers.
This might sound a scary process but our assessing social workers are highly skilled and we will also allocate you a foster carer mentor who has been through the same process as you are going through. Both will be with you every step of the way!
How do I become a Foster Carer?
You can apply via the contact us page
Telephoning 01204 201203
A member of our team will answer any questions you may have. Following this communication, if you and our Agency feel happy to move to the next step we will arrange for a member of our team to visit you in your home. Following the outcome of this visit, if everyone is happy, a full fostering assessment is carried out.