How to start fostering

Friday 17 September 2021

The road to fostering starts with an idea or inspiration from someone you know who fosters, or even one of the carer stories on our blog. Here’s how you can make it happen, starting from why and including some tips.

Why people decide to foster

“I saw so many young people who’d had such a difficult start and I really wanted to give children some of the same chances that mine had” – Sharon

There isn’t a single, defining reason why people decide they want to foster a child but, if you’re thinking of becoming a foster carer, some of these might sound familiar:

  • You like children and want to give something back
  • You were fostered yourself and want to make your experience count
  • You want job satisfaction in a role that really means something
  • You feel you could be a role model and help change lives
  • You want to offer a stable, loving home to a child in need
  • You think a flexible, home-based role sounds great
  • You’d like a role where you feel supported and well-trained

Who can foster?

People from all walks of life can apply to become a foster carer. Diversity among our foster carers is really important because our foster children are just as diverse.

  • Married people
  • Committed couples
  • Single people
  • Homeowners
  • Tenants
  • Pet owners
  • Part-time workers
  • Stay-at-home parents
  • LGBT+ people
  • People with a health issue
  • People with a disability
  • People with a criminal record
  • People with no previous experience of fostering
  • People who haven’t had their own children

The most important question we ask is, can this person provide a safe, nurturing home for a foster child? Beyond this, fostering is suitable for a broad range of people.

“There is no other job like fostering. You can physically see the difference you are making in these children, from the day they come to you to the day they leave, you know you have made some sort of difference” – Harry

Fostering criteria

Criteria for becoming a foster carer includes:

  • Having a bedroom for the foster child that meets the spare room guidelines
  • Being aged at least 21
  • Having daily access to a car if you live outside London
  • Being a permanent UK resident with indefinite leave to remain, citizenship or full settled status

You’ll also need to pass our health and DBS checks. Discover more about the criteria using out Can I foster? tool.

“Because of my background in the local authority, I’m regarded as one of the senior foster carers and I’ve been able to share what I’ve learned from working with children and young people over many years” – Eileen

How does fostering work?

Independent fostering agencies like National Fostering Group, which has the best local coverage in the UK, provides local authorities with trained, skilled foster carers.

When you look after a foster child, we continue to support you and, together, we work with the local authority teams to meet each child’s requirements.

All foster carers are self-employed and we pay you a generous fostering allowance, which tends to be significantly more than local authorities pay, plus access to other perks and benefits.

We also provide first rate training – as much as you can handle – and diligent, empathetic support.

Once you’re approved as a foster carer, you’ll be matched with a child or young person and their placement with your family will begin. You can choose, with help from your assessing social worker, what types of fostering you want to do – for example, emergency, sibling, Bridge to Foster, parent & child or unaccompanied minors.

Researching foster care – some tips

If you’re at the beginning of your journey to becoming a foster carer, the sheer volume of information can be overwhelming. So, here are some pointers.

You can be a foster carer with a local authority or independent foster agency. If you’re comparing foster agencies, look for:

  • Levels of support – will they be there for you?
  • Pay – can the fostering allowance support you?
  • Training – is it free and easily accessible? Is it varied and interesting?
  • Perks and benefits – what are the extras?
  • Mission and values – does the agency stand for something great?
  • Ofsted rating – do they provide a quality service?
  • Reputation – what are foster carers saying about the agency?
  • Experience – how long have they been in business?

Check out our full guide on what to look for in a foster agency, and also our guide on choosing between a local authority and a foster agency.

Next steps

  1. Talk to us
  2. Home visit
  3. Application form
  4. Assessment
  5. Skills to Foster
  6. Panel meeting
  7. Your first child

A usual application follows a formal pathway over about 16 weeks (four months).

We also offer a fast track approval, which takes eight weeks and can be suitable for applicants who have plenty of free time to deep-dive into the process over a shorter period.

If you’ve read our website and you’re interested, contact your local team.