There are around 8,000 looked after children across the country who need the help of foster carers services to find a home where they can thrive. UK fostering agencies work with local authorities to place as many children as possible but this number is rising.
But we always need more people to step forward and help – if you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, here’s how to get involved.
1. Do your research
There are a couple of different routes to becoming a foster carer. One is to register with your local authority, go through their application process and get approval.
Another is to research your local independent fostering agencies. Do you like the sound of them? How will they support you? Do they offer free training?
National Fostering Group is the largest independent fostering agency, with more than 3,000 foster carers looking after over 4,300 foster children in all regions of the UK. Our local agencies are on your doorstep even though we’re a national organisation.
We recommend starting in our Thinking About Fostering? section to see what we offer, how we support and train you, and the allowances, benefits and perks you’re entitled to as one of our foster carers.
2. Check your suitability
Your next big question is probably ‘can I foster?’. There’s a good chance you can – we welcome applications from people from all walks of life, and from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, physical abilities and sexual or gender identity.
You can be a foster carer if you are single, married, a homeowner or a tenant. Your ability to care for and nurture a child is what really matters and this is what you’ll be assessed on.
We’ve got a questionnaire tool that you’re free to use to help you find out if you can foster a child. There are just 12 questions with YES/NO options. You’ll get the answers straight away and advice on what to do next. We don’t automatically take your details unless you want to keep in touch.
It’s also a good time to consider what types of foster care you’d be interested in. There are many to choose from and you’ll no doubt have an idea of how your personality, skills and preferences match certain types.
Certain types of foster care are very much in demand – for instance, we like to keep brothers and sisters together in a sibling foster care placement, and fostering babies is always popular. Keep an open mind though – the process of becoming a foster carer can be very revealing!
3. Contact your local independent fostering agency
By this time, you should be ready to talk to someone, and you’re possibly armed with a list of questions you need answering. Our local independent fostering agency team is on hand to spend as much time talking it over as you need to make a decision.
They won’t rush or pressure you but they will be able to answer your questions and you can get to know more about them too, which is important as you’d be working closely with them for many years to come.
4. Start the process
If you’ve got this far, you’ve already taken your first definitive step to becoming a foster carer. The full process, which takes around four to six months, looks like this:
- STEP 1 – (as above) talk to us about fostering
- STEP 2 – your home visit
- STEP 3 – your fostering application form
- STEP 4 – collaborative assessment
- STEP 5 – Skills To Foster training
- STEP 6 – Fostering Panel meeting
- STEP 7 – your first foster child
See our Becoming a Foster Carer section for full details if you haven’t already.
5. You’re fostering children!
It might have taken months to get here, but the time has flown by! Your supervising social worker will have discussed many things with you during this time and you’ll have agreed the types of fostering you want to do.
We carefully match the needs of our children to the skills, experiences and characteristics of our foster carers. This is why diversity in foster carers is so important to us – children have diverse needs and we want what’s best for them.
As a foster carer, you’ll continue with close support from your local team, as well as having access to your local peer support groups and excellent training opportunities. It’s the start of an amazing journey.
Ready to begin fostering children?
If you’re ready to talk, get in touch with your local agency using the form and they’ll get back to you promptly.