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FAQs

If you have any burning questions before embarking on your foster care adventure you’ll likely find the answers you’re looking for here. But if you need any extra help, don’t hesitate to add your details to our contact form. We’ll call you back and go from there.

How do I transfer from another fostering agency?

It’s quite straightforward to transfer from your current fostering agency or local authority to the National Fostering Group, and you have every right to do so. The quickest way to find out the best route for you is to call us on 0800 044 3030 so we can guide you through it.

The process can vary slightly depending on who you’re with now and whether or not you have any foster children living with you.

If you do have a foster child staying with you at the moment, our first priority will be to make sure the transfer doesn’t disrupt their care. So within 28 days of starting the process, your local authority will meet with you to discuss the transfer’s effect on their stability and welfare. After that, we’ll meet with you, your current agency and the child’s social worker to agree the arrangements and start our assessment stage.

If you don’t have a foster child staying with you at the moment, the process is even easier and we can move straight to the assessment stage.

For our assessments to begin, you’ll need to provide your Form F. If you haven’t got one from your current agency, we’ll allocate an assessor to get you a new one and take new references. Your application will then be sent to a panel for approval so you can continue your great work with us.

For more detailed information about the transfer process, take a look at the process of transferring fostering agency.

For advice about making the change as smooth as possible, give us a ring on 0800 044 3030 or request a callback. We’re always happy to help.

Who can be a foster carer?

Almost anyone can be a foster carer, as long as they have patience to work through difficulties and the dedication to invest lots of time and energy into supporting a vulnerable child or children.

Neither your age, cultural background, sexual orientation, marital status or disability play a part in determining whether you’re suitable. You can be a home owner or rent your home. Many of our foster carers also have pets, we know your furry are part of the family. You just need to be available around the clock (or have a partner you can share this responsibility with) and have a spare bedroom for your foster child.

Other things we consider include:

  • Your legal and personal references
  • Your eligibility to work in the UK
  • Your health background and family lifestyle
  • Your parenting skills and experience caring for children
  • Your ability to provide a nurturing environment

Our foster carers come from all walks of life and each bring with them unique skills and talents. If you are patient, empathetic and can be the voice for our children when the time is right, you may have what it takes to foster. A sense of humor is also top of the list!

You don’t have to be perfect; if you have a passion to help give a child an incredible future, we will provide all the support and training you will need along the way and we also have more information about fostering and the requirements for fostering.

How do I become a foster carer?

It’s really easy to join our foster care family and start making a difference. Our application process is broken up into three clear stages: application, initial visit, and fostering assessment. Our team local to you will be with you every step of the way to ensure your questions are answered and you get the level of support you need. Here’s a little summary of each stage:

Application stage

You can apply to start your adventure in one of two ways.

  1. Register online using the enquiry form
  2. Call us up for a chat on 0800 044 3030

We’ll then send you an information pack and application form to take you to the next stage.

Your Initial Visit (or “IV”)

Once you’ve enquired, one of our local fostering advisors will give you a ring. You’ll discuss your application and arrange a visit to your home. A supervising social worker will then pop round to meet you in person. This is the ideal opportunity to chat through any additional questions you have and for us to get to know you better too.

Your Fostering Assessment

If both you and our supervising social worker think you’re ready to start your fostering adventure now, you’ll complete an application and move into the Fostering Assessment stage which includes background checks and the start of your training journey to becoming an expert foster carer.

This stage tends to take a few months and offers you lots of opportunity to develop your skills, meet other potential and existing carers, meet more of your local agency team and for the assessment to complete. The satisfaction of changing the lives of vulnerable children in your area is well worth the wait!

Find out more about fostering and what you need to become a foster carer here.

How long does it take to become a foster carer?

From start to finish, it usually takes around three to four months for you to become a foster carer and approved. This includes background checks, assessments and training courses. You will have one of our friendly and supportive Social Workers with you every step of the way and the assessment process often brings opportunities to meet others going through the same journey.

We’ll always do our best to process your application as swiftly as possible, but please be aware that it can sometimes take up to six months before you welcome your first placement.

It may sound like a big commitment, but most people who become foster carers with us call it a “very satisfying” experience. After all, you’ll be making a big difference to the life of a child in need.

What happens in the assessment process?

To make sure a vocation in foster care is for you, we work together and explore all aspects of your application including your support network, home and background. The process takes a few months to complete and you’ll have a dedicated supervising social worker to support you every step of the way.

Initial background checks

To begin with, we’ll need your permission to perform background checks (paid for by us) on you and your family, including:

  • Criminal checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service
  • Medical checks with your GP
  • Background checks with local authorities
  • Suitability checks with three referees (non-family members) provided by you

Home visits

Your supervising social worker will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis throughout your assessment period. You’ll get to know each other very closely and he or she will complete your assessment report with you. Together, you’ll work out what types of fostering fit your lifestyle best and what types of foster child you will be most helpful to.

Training sessions

As you progress with your assessment, we’ll provide you with full training to prepare you for life as a foster carer. Starting with our three-day ‘Skills to Foster’ course, you’ll learn about the fostering process, meet other applicant as well as experienced foster carers plus your local team involved in your assessment process.

Further training  is also available if you want to specialise in helping foster children who have more specific needs.

Panel decision

Once you’re background checks and training are completed, and your supervising social worker has collected all the information they need, your assessment report will passed to the NFA Group Quality Assurance department. They will check it to make sure everything is in order and then present your application to an independent fostering panel with a recommendation to accept you. The panel make the final decision to approve your application and your Supervising Social Worker will be with you at your panel meeting, offering additional support and reassurance.

What happens after I’m approved?

After successfully going through the assessment process, our referral coordinators will begin looking for a suitable child or young person to be placed with you. When they find a match, they’ll pass your details onto the child’s local authority. You might then meet with your potential foster child first, or they may be brought to you immediately, depending on the urgency of their requirements. You will always be supported by your specialist local agency team and your dedicated Supervising Social Worker to ensure all your questions are answered and you get the support you need to care for the vulnerable child or young people placed with you.

If I have a criminal conviction, does this mean I won’t be able to foster?

Not necessarily. There are a few factors that come into play when considering any criminal convictions you may have, including the type or circumstance of the offence and how long ago it was committed. Any violent crimes and offences against children or vulnerable people are likely to prevent you from being approved.

During the early stages of your assessment we’ll work with the Disclosure and Barring Service to check your criminal records. If you’d like some advice before applying, get in touch with a carer recruitment officer to discuss it in more detail.

Why do children need to be fostered?

There are many reasons why children and young people need to be looked after by foster carers, and every single case is different. The myth that families are always at fault and foster children are always difficult is untrue. Some people just need more help than others and we can give you all the skills you need to give them that help.

As varied as the reasons for needing care are, there are three broad categories that most placements fit into.

Periods of instability

Some families unfortunately go through periods of instability due to difficult circumstances and need time apart to find a solution. Common factors include things like medical conditions, family breakdowns, learning difficulties, substance dependencies and depression.

Harm from family members

An abusive home life is sometimes the reason for a child or young person to need a foster family. In these instances, parents may have failed to meet the basic needs of their child, caused them harm or exposed them to inappropriate behaviour or risk.

Abuse falls into five main groups: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence. These can all have long-lasting effects on the victim, so foster children may need extra special care and attention.

Special needs

The parents of children with special needs occasionally need foster carers to take over so they can take a break. Looking after these children can be challenging and draining on a full-time basis, so respite care lets parents recover for a weekend, a couple of weeks or the duration of the school holidays.

Special needs include learning disabilities, specific medical needs, severe disabilities and challenging behaviour. Only carers who have been specifically trained to deal with each need will be put forward for this type of foster care.

There are different types of foster care available and National Fostering Group will help find you a suitable placement.

What will I know about the foster child before they arrive?

As with most aspects of foster care, the specifics depend on each individual case. We’ll always share as much information about your potential foster child as possible, but sometimes we may only have basic details. This is often the case in emergency situations, where children or young people have to be placed very quickly.

In all cases, our team will work as quickly as they can to piece everything together. And you will always be the one who decides whether to take a child in or not. We won’t ever force you into a situation where you feel pressured or obligated.

Do I have a choice in who I care for?

Yes. Before you start caring for anyone, we agree on the types of children who will fit in with your family and skills. So you never need to feel trapped.

Throughout the fostering assessment process, we’ll work with you to identify your strengths and figure out where your hard work will be the most helpful. And if you’re interested in working with children who have specific needs, we’ll train you up with the appropriate skills.

We want you and your foster children to have the best possible quality of life. So you can also choose which ages, genders, ethnicities and religions would fit best with your family.

What sort of behaviours do foster children have?

As with everyone else, foster children behave differently depending on their age, development and experiences. Whereas some might sing happy songs all day long, others may act out as the result of personal trauma. Some might be used to the fostering process, but others may still be coming to terms with being separated from their families and friends.

In cases where children or young people are overcoming painful experiences, they often have complex feelings they can’t express. This could result in destructive behaviours such as lying, stealing and self-harm, or other difficulties including loss of sleep, eating disorders and general withdrawal from society.

Your care and perseverance can help foster children in ways that are hard to imagine. We train you to help you build resilience and tactics to support and nurture the children in your care. By showing them they are cared about, combined with the support of a professional team, great improvements can be made, no matter how severe their initial behaviours are.

What are the different types of foster carer?

There are lots of different types of foster placement that last for different lengths of time, and you’re free to choose which types you’d like to take on. Usually, the exact length of their stay will be unknown, but they tend to fit into the following categories.

Short term foster care

A child will stay with you for anything from a few days to a couple of years while local authorities make plans for their future.

Respite care

If parents need a short break, you’ll look after their child for up to a few weeks. This is often the case when the child has special needs or behavioural difficulties that can get stressful or exhausting over long periods.

Remand fostering

Young people who find their way into the criminal justice system are sometimes, at short notice, placed with a foster family instead of being held in custody. The supportive family environment can significantly reduce the probability that they’ll reoffend again.

Long term foster care

Sometimes, children need to live away from their birth family permanently. So they might stay with you until they’re adults.

Emergency foster care

When a child needs a safe place to stay at short notice, they’ll be placed with you for a few days and nights.

Fostering for adoption

If you’re thinking about adopting a baby or young child, they’ll stay with you for a trial period. If all goes well, they could be a member of your family for life.

Parent and child fostering

Young parents occasionally need extra help to develop their parenting skills and forge strong bonds with their child. So they’ll stay with you for a few months to learn how it’s done.

How will fostering effect my family?

You foster together, as a family,  and everyone you live with should be committed to caring for your foster child. This means it’s your whole family who will be assessed when you apply, and it’s your whole family who can feel the benefit of changing a life for the better.

Of course, the dynamic in your home will change with the addition of another person who has their own likes and dislikes. You’ll need to adapt routines and incorporate the needs of the young people you care for and our wonderful community of foster carers and teams will help you find your feet with this through have help from your supervising social worker, local support groups and our wider network.

During the assessment process we’ll help you understand the potential changes you may need to make, and give you plenty of advice and guidance to make it a positive experience. Fostering is incredibly rewarding and a worthwhile decision that makes a significant difference, so your family should be excited to be getting involved. You can find out more about the rewards and benefits of fostering on our why foster page.

What if my child and foster child don’t get on together?

There’s always the possibility that, from time to time, your children and foster children will have a clash of personality. They might disagree or simply not get along. But this shouldn’t be seen as a huge problem. After all, siblings can fall out just as easily.

If you do find yourself in this situation, it will be up to you to help resolve their problems. (Over time, you’ll find yourself becoming quite fluent in finding practical solutions.) And, if in doubt, there’s always your supervising social worker and support groups to turn to, who are there for your children as well as you and your foster children. Our community of expert foster carers will be close by, to offer support and practical advice, as many will have been through the situations you find yourself also going through – together, we will find the answers.

Can a foster child come on holiday with us?

Absolutely. We encourage you to give your foster children the opportunities to experience as much as possible. And going on holiday is a great way for them to feel like part of your family.

The decision as to whether your foster child is allowed to go ultimately rests with their social worker. But it’s rare for them to turn down the offer as it’s usually such a beneficial experience for someone in care.

Will I find it difficult when foster children move on?

After investing your time and energy into helping a foster child through a difficult time, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss them when they leave. More often than not, they’ll have gone through significant changes for the better and you’ll feel proud to have been a part of it. So you should take solace in that.

The best way to get past the period of missing your foster children is to take on your next one and start making a difference again. Eventually it will get easier to say goodbye, and you can always stay in touch if it’s what both you and your foster child want.

As ever, you’re not alone in going through anything fostering-related. Your supporting social worker, peer groups and National Fostering Group support network will always be by your side. So focus on the difference you’ve made and don’t worry.

We fully understand saying goodbye to a child you have been caring for may be emotional and we will be there if you need us. Many of our team members have previously been foster carers, so have first hand experience and have developed strategies to help a child move on from your care – so we can support you during this time of change.

How much is the fostering allowance?

Your allowance covers food, clothing, travel, activities, savings and anything else your foster children may need. We give you a far greater allowance than the minimum amount set by the UK government, so you shouldn’t ever have to struggle and should always be able to give your foster child what they need.

Seeing as every child and young person is different, we’ll also give you guidance on what your allowance should be spent on. This will take into consideration any specific needs they have to maintain a healthy and balanced life. It should also leave enough to help with your own living expenses.

Will I be taxed on the allowance?

Generally not. Income tax exemption for foster carers, introduced by the UK government in 2003, means you don’t need to pay tax on the first £10,000 your household makes in any year (the amount is less for shorter periods).

On top of that, you’ll get additional tax relief of up to £250 a week for every week a child is in your care. To work out what this adds up to for you, follow this simple guide on the government’s website.

For the purposes of calculating tax, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) treat foster carers as self-employed. This means you’ll have to fill out annual tax return forms, which you can find guidance for on this page of the government’s website. You can also call HMRC to request a copy – ask for an IR 236 helpsheet.

Will I have to pay National Insurance?

Yes. The UK government requires that you register as self-employed when you become a foster carer. This means you also need to register to pay National Insurance contributions.

If you’d like extra information or some help setting up, call the Newly Self-Employed Hotline on 0300 200 3504. You can call them from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday, or from 8am to 4pm on Saturday. They’re closed on Sunday and bank holidays.

Do I qualify for tax credits?

Potentially. Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits (if you have a child of your own) depend on quite a few variables, including how often you work, how old you are and how much your household income comes to. This means that every case is different, so it’s best to contact Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for an assessment.

You can call them on 0345 300 3900. They’re open from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday, and 8am to 4pm on Saturday. They’re closed on Sunday and bank holidays.

Do I qualify to claim any benefits?

It’s hard to say. Your eligibility to claim benefits depends on your individual circumstances, so we can’t give you a simple yes or no answer. However, there are some general trends that you might find useful.

If your benefits come from a local council, voluntary organisation, or a private organisation on behalf of the local council, paid foster work shouldn’t affect your benefits.

If you claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, or Employment and Support Allowance, paid foster work could affect your benefits.

The best way to find out how you’re affected is to contact your local Jobcentre Plus. You can find the phone number you need on the Job Centre Plus contact page. Alternatively, seek specialist advice from an advisory agency such the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

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