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Do I need a spare room to foster?

Always, yes. It’s a key requirement for fostering a child that you can provide a room that will be their bedroom, which is for their use only.

Each foster child needs space just for themselves, where they can have complete privacy and quiet time, and feel safe.

  • As part of your application (the usual process and fast track), our local foster agency teams assess your home for suitability, including around the spare room criteria.
  • The guidelines are not hard and fast rules. Every foster child is unique, as is every foster family.
  • This means that, while we have strong guidelines around spare bedrooms, we are occasionally able to make more flexible decisions.
  • However, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are some compromises we can’t make, in the interest of everyone involved.
  • There are a few other requirements around room conversions and location within the home too.

If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, here’s an overview of what you need to know about spare rooms and fostering.

I love Carol because she is good at cooking my favourite food, I have my own bedroom and she makes me laugh.

Riley, foster child

What do you class as a ‘spare room’?

In fostering, a spare room is a separate space with a door and a window that is for the sole use of the foster child.

Sometimes, birth children who are same-sex siblings, do share a room – in other words, you have a spare room that you want to use for fostering. Your existing children shouldn’t be moved in together to make room for a foster child but, if your children are already sharing, we can explore this together.

Foster children aren’t allowed to share a bedroom with existing children (birth and adopted) in the household.

What is a suitable bedroom for a foster child?

The foster child’s bedroom will ideally be on the same floor as the foster parent’s bedroom, or the floor above. This is to support the sense they are part of the family, as well as for safety and security.

On a basic level, their bedroom requires:

  • Window
  • Door
  • Bed
  • Storage like drawers and/or a wardrobe
  • Desk and chair
  • Adequate floorspace for play
  • Radiator or wall heater

A box room might be fine for a baby or a toddler up to the age of 2 years. However, a box room is often too small a space to use as a child’s bedroom.

It’s worth noting that baby and toddler placements are really rare and the majority of children who need foster care will be from primary school age and up.

What a spare room is not

  • It’s not a through room (one other people use to access part of the house)
  • It’s not the room of someone who is away at university
  • It’s not a room normally belonging to another child who has been moved in to share with a sibling
  • It’s not usually a converted dining room or second lounge (though in some circumstances this is possible)
  • It’s not a room that is used regularly for overnight guests, grandchildren, or children from a previous relationship

It started to feel like home within the first week.

Jahmai, foster child

The context behind the guidelines

There has to be flexibility – every foster child has different needs and each member of a foster family has needs too.

While we’re assessing your home’s suitability for a foster child, we need to assess how everyone in your family will feel about the living arrangements too.

You’ll be asking your own children – either from birth or adopted –  to share you and their home with strangers. It wouldn’t be fair to ask them to give up their personal space too and it’s not always possible.

Even grandchildren can feel a little resentful if the bedroom they sleep in once a month suddenly belongs to a foster child.

Communal living areas – where family members hang out, watch TV and play games, and relax together are important too. There must be enough space so that the addition of extra family members doesn’t make it feel over-crowded.

Below are some examples of how spare rooms can be used for fostering.

David

His 5-year-old twin boys love sharing a large bedroom and have done so since they were born.  David’s assessing social worker was satisfied this was their preference and confirmed the smaller unused bedroom could be used for a foster child.

Julie & Sofia

The couple foster two children aged four and 12, who are not related and each has their own room. Sofia’s granddaughters, aged 9 and 13, stay with the couple overnight occasionally, as does Julie’s grandson, aged 12, at different times; they all sleep in a fourth bedroom that otherwise remains empty.

Sue & Mick

The two loft extension bedrooms in Sue and Mick’s house are used by their teenage children. This makes it possible for Sue and Mick to sleep on the same floor as their foster children, 4 and 6, who each have their own bedroom and require Sue and Mick to be close at hand for reassurance.

Uzma & Israr

Uzma’s mother also lives with the couple, alongside their two teenagers. The couple had one spare bedroom and were willing to convert a second lounge. However, in this multi-generational home, it’s important that everyone has privacy with plenty of communal living space too, so we advised them to leave the second lounge as is. They currently foster a child who is aged 9.

Spare room FAQs

Can my children make room by sharing a room?

If you’ve got children who seem happy with the idea of sharing a bedroom, they might change their minds. Certainly if there’s an age gap, with one approaching puberty, it’s probably not a sustainable scenario. However, with younger children who have always shared – like same-sex twins – there might be an opportunity.

It’s worth noting, it wouldn’t be appropriate for 3 birth children to share a room in a fostering household if there isn’t the option to move to separate rooms, even if they’ve always shared.

My child is at university – can a foster child have their room?

If you’ve got a child at university, you’ll probably be having them home up to 22 weeks of the year. They might even move back home for a few months or permanently when their course finishes. This is why you can’t count their room as a spare room.

Can I convert my dining room into a bedroom?

Do you have a dining room (or similar) you think would make an ideal bedroom for a foster child? Doing so will reduce your family’s shared living space and could impact on everyone’s quality of life. If this is your plan, we can talk it through with you and explain how we explore the potential impact.

Do you plan to convert a dining room (or similar) into a bedroom for a birth or adopted child and use their old room for a foster child? Again, we’ll talk it through with you and your child. It’s also usual for your child to be given adequate time to adapt to this change before the arrival of a foster child.

Can I convert my loft into a spare bedroom?

Yes. A conversion must be completed to building regulations.  Safe access must be provided by a staircase (not a loft ladder), with a window acting as a fire exit.  Certification is necessary in England and Wales, but not Scotland.

Can my foster children share a bedroom?

Same-sex foster siblings can sometimes share a bedroom. Foster siblings under the age of 3 can also share a bedroom (though baby and toddler fostering is rare). Each foster child must have their own single bed. Occasionally, older children are allowed to share a bedroom.

Do you have questions about spare room requirements?

You can read more about the minimum requirements for spare rooms and fostering in section 10.6 of the National Minimum Standards Regulations 2011.

If you have questions about what the spare room guidelines mean for you, get in touch with your local fostering agency team, who’ll be happy to talk through your individual situation.

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