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Thinking about fostering FAQs

FAQs

Financial support

  • What is a foster carer allowance?
  • Does foster carers' pay affect benefits?
  • How much is the foster care allowance?
  • What is a fostering allowance?
  • Is foster care pay taxed?
  • Do foster carers pay National Insurance?
  • Do foster carers get tax credits?
  • What benefits can you claim if you're fostering a child in the UK?

What is fostering?

  • What is foster care?
  • What is a foster carer?
  • What will I know about my foster child before they arrive?
  • Can I choose the child I foster?
  • Can I take my foster child on holiday?

Who can foster?

  • Can you be a foster carer if you have dogs?
  • Can you be a foster carer if you work full time?
  • Can you be a foster parent if you are part of the LGBTQ community?
  • Can you be a foster carer if you are retired?
  • Can you be a foster carer if you have a criminal record?
  • Who can be a foster carer?

Support and training

  • What training do foster agencies offer foster parents?
  • Do you need qualifications to become a foster carer?

Types of fostering

  • What are the different types of fostering in the UK?
  • How long does a foster child placement last?

Becoming a foster carer

  • Where can I get advice on how to become a foster parent?
  • Do I have to pay a foster agency money to become a foster parent?
  • Can I transfer to National Fostering Group from another fostering agency?
  • How do I transfer from another fostering agency?
  • How do I become a foster carer?
  • How long does it take to become a foster parent?
  • What background checks and references do I need to become a foster parent?
  • What is a foster agency Initial Home Visit?
  • What happens at a Fostering Panel interview?
  • In fostering, what is a Form F?
  • How long does it take to train to become a foster carer?
  • What happens after I’m approved as a foster carer?
  • Will my family have background checks when I apply to become a foster parent?

Why foster?

  • Is fostering for me?
  • How do I talk to my family about fostering?
  • How will fostering a child affect my family?
  • What if my child and foster child don’t get on together?
  • What behaviours can I expect from my foster child?
  • Why do children need fostering?
  • Will I find it difficult when foster children move on?

Financial support

What is a foster carer allowance?

This is an amount of money paid to a foster carer or parent to cover the necessities of the care of a child. It is paid weekly to you by your fostering agency. The foster carer allowance is reviewed each year by the government. Foster carers who look after children with specific needs might receive a higher amount. Find out more about financial support.

Does foster carers' pay affect benefits?

If you are receiving foster carers’ pay (fostering allowance), you are still entitled to receive certain benefits. National Fostering Group (NFG) foster carers automatically receive membership to the Fostering Network, which can provide you with benefit and tax advice, plus informative resources. You can also speak with your local NFG agency – use an enquiry form if this is your first contact with us.

How much is the foster care allowance?

Foster parents are paid on average £22,000 per annum. They are eligible for tax relief, so pay none or hardly any tax on their foster care allowance (also known as a fostering allowance). An extra allowance might be paid for children with special requirements like disabilities, or where the foster carer is especially skilled. Additionally, you might be eligible to claim Working Tax Credit. Read more about foster care allowance on our Financial Support page.

What is a fostering allowance?

This is the amount paid to a foster parent for the care of a child. Your fostering allowance covers food, clothing, travel, activities, savings and anything else your foster children may need. It includes enough to help with your own living expenses.

National Fostering Group pays a far greater allowance than the minimum amount set by the UK government. We don’t want you to struggle financially, and you 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 fostering allowance should be spent on. This will take into consideration any specific needs they have to maintain a healthy and balanced life. Read more about the foster care allowance on our Financial Support page.

Is foster care pay taxed?

Generally, it’s not. Income tax exemption on foster care pay. Introduced by the UK government in 2003, it 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).

Foster care pay is subject to additional tax relief of up to £250 a week for every week a child is in your care. To work out what all this means for you, follow this simple guide on the government’s website.

For the purposes of calculating tax on your foster care pay, HMRC treat foster carers as self-employed. 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. Read more about foster care pay on our Financial Support page.

Do foster carers pay National Insurance?

Yes, the UK government requires that foster carers pay self-employed National Insurance contributions. You must register as self-employed when you become a foster carer. 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, Monday to Friday, or 8am to 4pm on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays and bank holidays. Read more about foster care pay on our Financial Support page.

Do foster carers get tax credits?

Some foster carers do receive tax credits like Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits (if you have a child of your own). The amount depends on quite a few variables, including how often you work, how old you are, and how much your household income comes to.

Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s best to contact HMRC for an assessment. You can call them on 0345 300 3900. They’re open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, or 8am to 4pm on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays and bank holidays. Read more about foster carers’ pay on our Financial Support page.

What benefits can you claim if you're fostering a child in the UK?

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 you might find useful to know.

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 Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, or Employment and Support Allowance, paid foster work could affect your benefits.

The best way to find out where you stand 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 like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. You can also read more on our Financial Support page.


What is fostering?

What is foster care?

When babies, children and young people cannot be looked after by their own family, a Local Authority and fostering agency work together to provide them with someone suitable to look after them. Foster care is one option.

The child or young person will temporarily live with another person or family in their home. The foster carer or parent will go through an assessment process, carry out several training courses and will be supervised, as well as receiving a weekly fostering allowance.

There are different types of foster care placements and they can be very short, or can continue for years. New parents who need support with their baby can also be placed in foster care so they can learn the skills and gain confidence. Find out more about foster care.

What is a foster carer?

A foster carer is an adult over the age of 21 who looks after children on a temporary basis when their birth parents are unable to. They are trained and reviewed by supervising social workers and other professionals in their local foster agency team. A foster carer will receive a weekly fostering allowance – in effect, they are paid. Their purpose is to provide a safe and stable family environment for the foster child to thrive in. Foster carers’ homes must have a bedroom for the sole use of the foster child, and there are restrictions on work outside the home. Read more about what a foster carer is.

What will I know about my 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 you feel the placement is the right fit for your family. We won’t ever force you into a situation where you feel pressured or obligated. Read more about fostering.

Can I choose the child I foster?

Before you start caring for a foster child or young person, we will agree on the types of children who would fit in with your family and skillset.

Throughout the fostering assessment process, we work with you to identify your strengths and figure out where your hard work will be the most helpful. We’ll also talk about your ambitions. For example, if you’re interested in working with a foster child who has specific needs, we’ll train you up on the appropriate skills. Read more about fostering.

Can I take my foster child on holiday?

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. Your Supervising Social Worker will need to give permission. It’s rare for them to turn down the offer, as it’s usually such a beneficial experience, but occasionally there’s a genuine reason why they cannot. Read more about what fostering is all about.


Who can foster?

Can you be a foster carer if you have dogs?

Pets – like dogs – are great and most of the time, they are not a barrier to your application to become a foster carer. We will need to carry out a safety assessment, especially if a home has more than two dogs of any breed, or a breed of dog identified by the RSPCA as having aggressive tendencies; this list includes Alsations, Bulldogs and Dobermans.

We are unable to consider applications to be a foster carer from anyone who owns a breed of dog registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991/1997. Read more about fostering and pets or get in touch.

Can you be a foster carer if you work full time?

You can work if you are a foster carer, but there are restrictions. If you are in a couple, we ask that at least one of you is a stay-at-home carer or a part-time, flexible worker. Single foster carers can also do part-time work, and this should also be flexible.

This is so that, in your role of foster carer, you can fully accommodate the needs of the child, including meetings with your local support team or school, training sessions and other times that might need your full attention. Read more about working foster carers.

Can you be a foster parent if you are part of the LGBTQ community?

Yes, you can be a foster parent if you are LGBTQ. We assess people’s suitability for fostering on how well they can tend to a child’s needs and make a secure home where the child can thrive. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning, we welcome your application. Discover more about who can be a foster parent and the kinds of questions we might ask when we assess your suitability.

Can you be a foster carer if you are retired?

Being retired isn’t a barrier to applying to become a foster carer, there is no upper age limit. Recent figures show that the majority of foster carers are actually over the age of 50. Maybe your children have made homes of their own or you’re retired or semi-retired. If you feel you have a lot to offer a vulnerable child or young person, age or retired status isn’t stopping you from taking the next step to fostering.

Can you be a foster carer if you have a criminal record?

Your ability to care for a child is the most important element in your application. We do accept applications from a diverse range of people and an offence on your Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) report wouldn’t always rule you out.

We recognise there are many ways to get a criminal record and we will look out all applications and circumstances on an individual basis. All applicants have an enhanced DBS check (we pay for this) and we sometimes get information from other relevant organisations too.

If you’re keen to apply but aren’t sure about the effect of your criminal record, please get in touch – we’re happy to talk you through it.

Who can be a foster carer?

Our foster carers come from all walks of life and each brings with them unique skills and talents. You must have patience to work through difficulties and the dedication to invest time and energy into supporting a vulnerable child.

You need to be available around the clock (or have a partner you can share this responsibility with). You will have a spare bedroom for your foster child. As a foster carer, you will be asked to be the voice for our children when they need you to be. A sense of humour is also high up there!

You don’t have to be perfect to be suitable to be a foster carer; 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 to be the best foster carer you can be.


Support and training

What training do foster agencies offer foster parents?

Access to free, quality training varies between foster agencies. At National Fostering Group, we want our foster carers to feel confident, knowledgeable and, ultimately, be the best they can for their foster children.

Our training courses are available to all our foster carers – completely free and delivered locally and online. They range from the mandatory overview courses for new foster parents, through to tailored training for specialist types of foster care. Find out more about foster agencies’ training.

Do you need qualifications to become a foster carer?

The only special qualifications you need to become a foster carer is your basic training. We provide this training free of charge at a venue local to you.

We do encourage you to sign up for other training to improve your skills, enhance your confidence and broaden your experience. Just like your basic training, all our training sessions are free and delivered at a venue local to you or online. Read more about training.


Types of fostering

What are the different types of fostering in the UK?

The types of fostering in the UK are many and varied. There are numerous reasons for children needing a foster parent; some are urgent and some can be planned for. All children have different requirements, meaning that there are different types of fostering.

Examples include emergency placements, short term fostering placements bridging to adoption placements, mother and baby placements and respite care. Find out more about the different types of fostering in the UK.

How long does a foster child placement last?

As a foster parent, you can decide what types of fostering placement you would like to do. Sometimes the type of fostering has direct bearing on its duration.

In the UK, a foster child might stay for a long-term placement lasting several months to several years. At the other end of the scale, emergency foster child placements might be for one night or a few days. Short term fostering placements might be up to a few weeks or months.

Bridging to adoption placements, mother and baby placements and respite care are all special types. Find out more about the length of foster child placements in the UK.


Becoming a foster carer

Where can I get advice on how to become a foster parent?

Our website is a great resource, covering all aspects of how to become a foster parent – from real life carer stories to the nitty gritty about finances.

Importantly, we can also support you even before you apply from our local offices. National Fostering Group has agency offices all across the country, staffed by professional teams who can help. You can make contact with your local team by filling in our enquiry form for a call back.

During the call, you can ask us about anything. We want you to have the information you need to make your decision. If you decide to go ahead, your local team will guide you through the application process. Read more about the process of becoming a foster parent.

Do I have to pay a foster agency money to become a foster parent?

It doesn’t cost you anything to become a foster parent with the National Fostering Group. We don’t charge any fees for you to apply to become a foster parent.

We pay for your Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, and we also pay for the GP check-up, as one is required during your assessment. Once you become a foster parent, we continue to support you with free 24/7 support, free training and access to other free resources. Find out more about becoming a foster parent.

Can I transfer to National Fostering Group from another fostering agency?

You have every right to transfer to us from another fostering agency, or even if you are registered with a Local Authority. It’s a straightforward process. Please get in touch with your local office by completing our enquiry form. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

How do I transfer from another fostering agency?

It’s straightforward to transfer from your current fostering agency or Local Authority to the National Fostering Group. The process will vary slightly depending on the agency you’re with now and also whether you have foster children living with you. Read more about transferring to another fostering agency or make an enquiry with us.

How do I become a foster carer?

We have a seven-step framework to approve and induct you as a foster carer in the National Fostering Group. Your first step is to get in touch with our team. We will arrange to meet with you and your family at your home for an Initial Home Visit.

Together, we will start compiling your Form F and prepare you for your assessment by the Fostering Panel. If you are approved, we give you essential training and get you ready for your first placement. Read more about the process of becoming a foster carer or, if you’re ready, make contact with your local office.

How long does it take to become a foster parent?

Once you get in touch, your application will take on average, from four to six months. Caring for children and young people is an important commitment, so we need to get to know each other well and be sure it’s right for everyone concerned. During this time, we will also do background checks, a medical check with your GP, assessments and training. You will have your Assessing Social Worker with you every step of the way. Read more about the process of becoming a foster parent.

What background checks and references do I need to become a foster parent?

We’ll get your permission to perform background checks on you and your family, including criminal checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), medical checks with your GP, background checks with local authorities, and suitability checks with three referees (non-family members) provided by you. Where there is a charge for these checks, we will pay for them. Read more about the process of becoming a foster carer.

What is a foster agency Initial Home Visit?

Your Assessing Social Worker is a member of our local foster agency. They will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis throughout your assessment period. You’ll get to know each other well and they 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. Read more about the process of becoming a foster carer and the support you can expect.

What happens at a Fostering Panel interview?

Once your Supervising Social Worker has collected all the information they need, your Form F and background checks are passed to a Fostering Panel. The panel is made up of fostering, educational and care professionals. You will be invited to attend the meeting at your local fostering office or another local venue. Members of the panel might ask you some questions to help them make a decision. Your Assessing Social Worker will be at your side to offer support throughout. Read more about the Fostering Panel Interview.

In fostering, what is a Form F?

When you apply to become a foster carer, you will work with with your Social Worker to put together all the information needed for your assessment and approval. This is assessment is officially called a Form F. It summarises your suitability for fostering and details your skills and experiences. Read more about the fostering assessment.

How long does it take to train to become a foster carer?

During your assessment to become a foster carer with the National Fostering Group, you are required to take part in a three-day Skills to Foster course. This course is mandatory and, like all our training courses, free of charge. It will be delivered at a venue local to you. Skills to Foster has seven modules that prepare you for your new role. We encourage you continue training for as long as you are a foster carer – you can choose from a wide range of courses, both online and local to you.

What happens after I’m approved as a foster carer?

We will begin matching you with a suitable child or young person to be placed with you. When a match is found, we will liaise with your Local Authority and pass your details on. You might meet with your potential foster child beforehand or they may be brought to you immediately, depending on the urgency of their requirements – for example, if an emergency placement is required. You might be feeling nervous about your first placement, but don’t forget you will be supported by your local agency team, especially your Supervising Social Worker. They will do all they can to help you care for the vulnerable child or young person placed with you. Read more about how to get approved to become a foster carer.

Will my family have background checks when I apply to become a foster parent?

Yes. If you have a family when you apply to become a foster carer, your family will be involved too. You foster together, as a family. This means your whole family will be assessed when you apply. Read more about the process of becoming a foster carer.


Why foster?

Is fostering for me?

This is a question only you can answer – but we’ll do all we can to help you make an informed decision. It’s true that foster carers need certain qualities – like patience and warmth – do you think this sounds like you?

Fostering is challenging, so you need to be up for this too. It’s also very rewarding, so if you really want to feel you’re putting your efforts into a truly worthwhile direction, then fostering might just be for you! Take a look at other reasons to foster.

How do I talk to my family about fostering?

You should talk about the idea to start fostering with your family, especially if you’ll all be living under the same roof. We have had a lot of positive feedback from the children of foster parents, who feel they’ve been enriched by the experience of having a foster sibling.

We do support you and your family from the start. Rest reassured, we make every effort to place a child with you that mutually suits your circumstances and specific family dynamic. If you’d like to know more about this aspect of fostering, fill in our quick enquiry form and speak to the team in your local area.

How will fostering a child affect my family?

Naturally, 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. Thanks to your assessment process and training, you’ll understand potential changes you might need to make and you’ll be prepared.

Also, our wonderful community of foster carers and your local team will help you find your feet and make it a positive experience. Fostering is incredibly rewarding. Knowing you’ve all made a worthwhile decision to make a significant difference to someone’s life is something your family could feel excited about. Find out more about the rewards and benefits of fostering.

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

From time to time, your children and foster children will fall out or have a clash of personality. It’s quite normal – after all, siblings can fall out just as easily. Your own skills, experience and training will help you resolve their problems. Over time, you’ll find yourself becoming quite fluent in finding practical solutions.

If you get stuck, you can also ask your Supervising Social Worker – they are there for your children as well as you and your foster children. Read more about the support you get. Our community of expert foster carers are also happy to offer support and practical advice, as many will have been through this too! They prove that, even when it’s challenging, fostering is very rewarding.

What behaviours can I expect from my foster child?

Like everyone and anyone, foster children behave according to age, development and experiences. Whereas some sing happy songs all day long, others act out as the result of personal trauma. Some may have been in foster care for a number of years, but others will still be coming to terms with separation from their families and friends.

When a foster child is overcoming painful experiences, they often have complex feelings they can’t express. This could result in behaviours like lying, stealing and self-harm, loss of sleep, eating disorders and general withdrawal from society.

At all times, you both have the support of a professional team because we recognise how your care and perseverance will truly help your foster child. We train you to build resilience and in tactics that help you support and nurture the children in your care. By showing how you care, great improvements can be made, no matter how severe their initial behaviours are. Read more about why you should foster.

Why do children need fostering?

Children and young people need fostering for many, very different reasons. It might be due to periods of family instability caused by difficult circumstances. Sometimes, children and young people need fostering because they are at risk of harm or neglect from a member of their family. Or, fostering might be used to support families and children with special needs. Each case is different but fostering has the potential to bring about positive outcomes. Read more about why you should foster.

Will I find it difficult when foster children move on?

After investing your time and energy into caring for a foster child, it’s inevitable 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 – rightly – proud to have contributed.

As ever, you’re not alone. Your Supporting Social Worker, National Fostering Group support network and peer groups are by your side. Share your feelings and ask for advice. Many members of our team have been foster carers; our advice for the best way to get past this feeling is to take on your next foster child and start helping them.

Over time, you will develop strategies for coping and it does become easier to say goodbye and we will support you every step of the way. Read more about why you should foster.


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