Frequently asked questions for foster carers
The decision to move from your current agency to NFA is a decision that you as a foster carer have every right to make and you should not feel pressured by your current agency to remain with them. If you need advice on transferring to NFA we are happy to help and advise you to make this as smooth as possible.
Once the decision has been made the foster care assessment process will start.
If there is a child in placement with you the first consideration is for their stability and welfare. The Local Authority will hold a protocol meeting within 28 days to discuss the effect of the transfer on the foster child or children in placement. We would then meet with your current agency and the child in placements’ social worker to discuss and agree transfer arrangements and how to manage this process so that the child/children in placement with you is not disrupted.
If you have not been able to provide your Form F from your previous agency, an assessor will be allocated to you to begin a new Form F assessment, including taking new references. Throughout this process you will be supported by an experienced Social Worker. In readiness for your approval at panel all parties will be made aware that your current approval will end and that you may be approved by the National Fostering Agency.
If there are no children in placement, the process is more straight forward. Contact us and we will guide you through the transfer process.
More information can be found in the NFA Protocol for Movement of Carers between Agencies.
There are three ways to start the application process, you can register your interest online by using the “Register Online button” you can request a call back by using the “Request a Call Back” button online or contact us by telephone 0845 200 4040 and we’ll send you an information pack with application form.
Once we’ve received your enquiry or application, one of our local Supervising Social Workers (SSW) will contact you by telephone to discuss your interest. If you both agree, an appointment will be made to visit you in your own home. This is called an Initial Visit, during which a series of basic standard questions will be asked.
After this visit, if it is felt by you and the SSW that you have the basic requirements to be a foster carer, a report is passed to the Regional Manager who will reach a decision based on this report. If the Regional Manager’s decision is to proceed, you will be allocated a SSW to start the Fostering Assessment process, which is usually completed in six months but more often between three to four months.
We do our best to process all applications as quickly as possible, usually in six months but more often between three to four months.
The assessment process usually takes around three to four months, and involves a thorough look at your life. The Supervising Socal Worker is highly skilled and experienced in undertaking these assessments and will support you every step of the way.
At the beginning, we will require your consent to undertake checks on you and your family with the following agencies:
- Criminal Records Bureau
- Local Authorities and other agencies
We pay for you to have a full medical check with your own GP.
We ask you to provide three referees (non family members) who can comment on your suitability to become a foster carer.
We invite you to attend the three-day ‘Skills to Foster’ training course, which will give you the opportunity to learn more about the fostering process, meet an experienced foster carer and meet local people who are also in the fostering assessment process.
A Supervising Social Worker will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis to enable them to collect all of the information for the assessment report. Once completed, this report is checked by the NFA Quality Assurance department, prior to be presented to the Fostering Panel. You’re invited to attend the Panel, where a recommendation will be made.
Although this process sounds like a big commitment, most people who go through the assessment have told us they found the experience very satisfying.
Once approved as a Foster Carer with the National Fostering Agency. The duty teams will begin their search for a placement for you. Where a potential match with a child is being considered, brief details of your suitability will be provided to the local authority by the duty teams.
Most people can foster, but when we consider applications we look closely at the following areas:
- Your legal and personal references
- Your ability to work in partnership with the agency
- Your ability to work as part of a professional team
- Your family lifestyle
- Space in your home, including sleeping arrangements
- Your health and background
- Your parenting skills, attitude and personality, including any experience of caring for children
- Your ability to provide a caring and nurturing environment.
Things that are less important to us are your income, age, marital status and employment status.
There are many reasons why children need to be looked after by foster carers. These reasons do not always mean that the child’s family is at fault, or that the child is ‘difficult’. Three broad categories explain why children need foster carers:
- Some families have periods of instability due to life circumstances: medical conditions, depression, family breakdown, learning difficulties, substance dependency and families who simply struggle to cope.
- Some children experience harm from family members. Abuse falls into five main groups: neglect, physical, sexual, emotional abuse and exposure to domestic violence. In these circumstances, parents have failed to adequately meet the child’s basic needs, exposed the child to inappropriate behaviour and/or risk or have deliberately caused harm to a child.
- Some children with special needs require foster carers. These children include those who have a severe disability, specific medical needs, learning disabilities or challenging behaviour. Respite care may be for a weekend, a number of weeks or during school holidays to give parents a break from caring.
Covering all of these circumstances, the NFA provides foster carers with the skills, knowledge and experience to help children who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
We discuss every placement with our carers and it’s their decision to accept a child into their home. We share as much information about the child or young person and their background as possible. However, sometimes children come into foster care with very little information, especially in an emergency situation. In these circumstances the professional team will work as quickly as possible to piece together information.
We have highly skilled staff who match children with the right foster family, but the decision to take a child in and look after them always rests with our carers.
Children who require care must have foster carers who can meet their needs. Throughout the fostering assessment process we work with you to identify your strengths and skills to assist you in identifying the children and young people you could care for. We will also identify specific training with NFA to assist you in expanding your skills as a foster carer.
Before you are approved by the fostering panel, we will have agreed on the type of child who will fit in with your family. This includes the age, gender, ethnicity and religion of potential foster children.
Foster children, like all other children, have their own behaviours relating to their age, experiences and development. Children who need to be looked after by foster carers have the added difficulty of separation from their families, friends, homes and pets. They may also be learning to deal with painful experiences.
Some children cannot express their complex feelings, and may present behaviours which are destructive, such as lying, stealing or self-harm. A foster child may have difficulties in sleeping, eating disorders or being withdrawn. Whatever the behaviour, with the right carer and the support of a professional team, great improvements can be made with many children.
Without doubt, the children you care for will make a huge impact on your life, and you will surprise yourself with your ability to help a child move on. You will have a period of missing a foster child once they are gone. However, you will have made a difference when it mattered, and go on to make a difference for many more children.
Throughout this process, you will be supported by your Supervising Socal Worker and from talking with other foster carers.
Local authorities have a legal responsibility to return children to their own families wherever possible.
Children may come into the care of the local authority because parents agree that the child or children needs to be looked after by foster carers (for example, when parents cannot cope due to illness, mental health problems, drug or alcohol issues) or because the local authority have a Court Order to allow them to remove the children from their families. In all cases, children may be looked after by foster carers for an unknown period of time.
Short term foster care can be from a few days up to two years. When a child is placed in foster care, a minimum period of stay is normally given.
Long term foster care is when children are unable to return to their birth family. In these circumstances, many younger children are placed for adoption. For some older children however, it may be more appropriate for them to remain in long-term foster care.
This normally means that they remain with a foster family up until reaching a period of adulthood when they are able to take care of themselves. Children in long-term foster care are very much a permanent part of the foster carer’s family.
Respite fostering gives support to families who are in need of a short break. Normally these families may be experiencing unusually high levels of stress and need to have short periods without the pressures of caring for their child or children. In many cases, families with a disabled child need a little time away from caring for a child with special needs.
Children are linked with a foster carer who will provide regular periods of short-break care, perhaps alternate weekends or at holiday times. Many foster carers who work full-time are able to provide this type of fostering.
Foster carers don’t always do one sort of fostering – often they combine different fostering types to fit in with their lifestyle or the needs of the child.
It is the whole of your family who will be assessed as a fostering home. We consider that the entire family needs to be committed to caring for a child.
Throughout the assessment process we will help you understand the potential changes you may need to make to make a foster child feel welcome and safe.
You will need to consider how you will amend your routines, accommodate another person (with their own likes and dislikes), manage family dynamics and so on. You will gradually learn how these changes can work and how your family can manage them positively. Your Supervising Social Worker is on hand for advice and guidance, and you’ll benefit from the advice of other foster carers who you meet in your local support group.
Thinking about the changes can begin right now. Becoming a foster carer is a worthwhile decision that changes lives and is an exciting prospect.
Your own family will be part of the fostering assessment from the beginning, and will continue to be seen and listened to by your own Supervising Socal Worker.
From time to time, children will disagree, become possessive (of parents and belongings) and have occasional personality clashes. Adults can help children to resolve these problems and find practical ways to resolve issues.
Foster children are encouraged to experience as many things as possible and to be a part of your everyday family life and routines. If you are planning a holiday or a period of time away from the family home, we discuss your plans with the foster child’s social worker. They ultimately make the decision, but holiday plans can usually be agreed.
Once you’re approved as a foster carer, ongoing training and support is available from our qualified and experienced staff, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You will have your own Supervising Social Worker who will guide you through the fostering process, with full support from NFA.
You’ll also receive:
- support from a professionally qualified social worker
- 24 hour telephone advice and support
- one monthly visit and a weekly telephone call
- training and development opportunities
- the opportunity to meet with other foster carers at support groups
- financial support for caring for the child
- membership of the Fostering Network
- legal protection insurance
- regular foster carer’s news and information.
You are never on your own, and will be part of a wider team of professionals who work together to improve the life chances and quality of life of foster children.
It depends on the nature of the criminal offence. You may wish to discuss the offence with a social worker and get some advice before you make an application to foster.
At the National Fostering Agency we believe that our carers and foster children should have a good standard of living and a quality of life. We reward our carers with a generous fostering allowance. Our carers receive a minimum allowance of £366.00 a week for each child in placement. This allowance is paid when children are in care and is not paid when carers do not have placements.
The weekly allowance is intended to cover all the needs of each foster child, including food, clothing, travel, activities, savings and so on. We provide guidance on how money should be spent on each child, to ensure that the child has a healthy and balanced life.
The fostering allowance reflects the value that we place on our carers and the child. Our carers find that the allowance allows them to fully meet the needs of the foster child and also to assist them with their own living costs.
In April 2003, the Government introduced an income tax exemption for foster carers with an income below a set level. Allowances for looking after foster children placed with the National Fostering Agency are not generally taxable. However, foster carers who have multiple placements and who also work may be liable to pay some tax if their income is above the set level.
For the purposes of calculating tax, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) treat foster carers as self-employed. HMRC produce helpful guidance for Foster Carers which you can request direct from HMRC (ask for guidance IR 236).
All foster carers must register as self-employed, so must register to pay National Insurance contributions. You can obtain get information by calling the Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0845 915 4515.
Fostering counts as self-employment, so you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit (and also Child Tax Credit if you have children of your own). You need to get advice about Tax Credits, which takes into consideration your own individual circumstances. Eligibility and assessments for tax credits can be made by contacting 0845 300 3900.
Eligibility to benefits is assessed on an individual basis by the relevant central or local government department, and the National Fostering Agency cannot offer advice specific to benefit eligibility.
The government department responsible for benefit entitlement is called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Any queries about fostering allowances and benefit eligibility needs to be assessed by the DWP. Find information by calling 0800 882200 or visit www.dwp.gov.uk
Jobcentre Plus delivers benefits to many people of working age, so contact your local office for advice.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefits are calculated and administered by your own Local Authority.
Alternatively, seek specialist advice from an advisory agency such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) or a welfare rights service.
- 0845 200 3030