Frequently Asked Questions

About fostering

What is fostering?

Fostering is providing a safe and stable family home for a child or young person who can’t live with their birth family. There are many reasons why children need foster care.

Learn more about fostering

What is the difference between fostering and adoption?

Fostering and adoption are completely different.  Sometimes a child or young person may only need fostering for a few days, or care may be longer term lasting years. Adoption is always permanent, the court transfers all the parental rights for the child to their new parents, the child can take the family surname and their new family is entirely responsible for their care.  One of the main differences is adoptive parents do not get financial support like foster parents do.

Learn more about the different types of fostering.

What is the process of becoming a foster parent?

Applying to become a foster parent involves a number of steps and starts when you contact us.

  • Get in touch

We’ll have a chat to you talk to one of our friendly fostering advisors by calling 0800 023 4561 or filling in our enquiry form.

  • We’ll visit you at home

We will arrange for one of our fostering advisors to visit you at home to talk to you in more detail and what to expect and how we will support you and find out a bit more about you.

  • Start your application

If you decide you’d like to apply to foster with us, we’ll start you application process.  The process involves filling in an application form and once accepted we will then undertake your fostering assessment.

  • Fostering assessment

Following your application we’ll undertake a fostering assessment.  Your assessing social worker will visit you and your family at home a number of times to speak to you and collect information about you and your life.  It will help us to understand more about you.  In addition you will attend a preparatory training course to help you learn more about fostering and how to handle different situations.  The assessment process takes between four to six months.

  • Meet the panel

Once your assessment is finished you will go to a fostering panel who will make their recommendation.  The group is made up of people with fostering experience.  Your social worker will help you prepare and be there for support. Read our blog about panel to help you understand.

Once approved the real fostering journey starts!

Learn more about the fostering process

What kind of support will I receive?

We wouldn’t expect anyone to foster without the right support, so when you foster with FCA you are not alone.

Become a foster parent with us and you have access to:

  • Social Work Support– you will have a dedicated supervising social worker who is your main point of contact and will organise monthly meetings and support for you whenever you need it
  • 24 / 7 support
  • Training and development - We will prepare you to foster and keep developing your skills with an ongoing training programme featuring both face to face and online courses thorough our Learnative portal.
  • Events and activities – we host a range of events and activities for all the family to enjoy.
  • Online portal – Join our online community with our portal The Exchange just for FCA foster parents. It gives you free and instant access to information and advice right when you need it – day or night, 365 days a year. Plus access to a range of discounts to some major retailers and online stores.
  • Fostering Network membership - useful and practical benefits, including insurance, legal protection, medical and stress advice helplines, as well as a foster care magazine.

What training will I receive as a foster parent?

We pride ourselves on being a learning organisation and are proactive in helping both our foster parents and employees to develop their skills, knowledge and experience.

We are committed to providing high quality training that is accessible and relevant to all of our foster parents.

Learn more about our training and development

Do I get any breaks or holidays while fostering?

We do offer respite your supervising social worker can speak to you about what it entails.

Who can foster?

Who can apply to become a foster parent?

Anyone can apply to foster with us. We welcome foster carers from all walks of life; no matter what your gender, age, race or sexual orientation. We do have criteria though:

  • You need a spare room
  • You need to be over 21
  • You ideally need to commit to fostering full time
  • You need to have British Citizenship or indefinite leave to remain

Learn more about the fostering process

Do I need to have a spare room to foster?

Yes, you’ll need to have a spare bedroom to foster a child in the UK.

There are a number of different reasons why you need a spare bedroom in your home.  Primarily it is part of the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards stating every child over the age of three should have their own bedroom.  But not only this, there are many other factors such as the child’s safety, security and privacy to also consider.

A child needs their own bedroom to provide a sense of security and dedicated space to play or be creative without distraction.

Learn more about fostering and a spare bedroom

Can a foster child share a bedroom?

Every child and young person needs their own space, regardless of whether they have been raised in foster care.

A bedroom is a place for kids to play, explore, and be creative without interruptions. It's their own special space where they can have fun and use their imagination.

Children in foster care may have had difficult experiences in the past. Giving them their own bedroom can help them process these events and have a quiet space to reflect and think. Somewhere they can feel calm and relaxed.

What is the minimum age for becoming a foster parent?

As long as you’re over 21, fostering isn’t about your age – it’s about the energy and commitment that you bring to the role.

Is there a maximum age to foster?

There really is no maximum age limit for fostering with us and many of our foster parents continue to foster well into their 70s.

All we ask is that you’re still able to fulfill the more active side of fostering – such as the school run and outdoor activities – and that you can do so with enthusiasm and energy.

Can I still work and be a foster parent?

Sometimes, you can still work part-time or flexibly based on your situation.

Ideally, we prefer that at least one foster parent is available full-time. This ensures that the child or young person in your care is well looked after.

As a foster parent, you have responsibility for day-to-day tasks; the school run, being available during school holidays, attending medical appointments on behalf of or with your foster child, attending training, and reviewing meetings. Should you have a problem on an odd occasion, your supervising social worker can help you make alternative arrangements.

To find out more and discuss your personal circumstances, call 0800 098 4156.

I’m now retired, am I able to foster?

Yes absolutely. We look for potential foster parents who can dedicate their time and experience to supporting children and young people, and many people find that retirement gives them this opportunity.

Can I foster if I’m single?

Yes, you don’t have to be married or living with a partner to foster. In fact, being a solo foster parent can be an advantage in some cases where a child or young person can only be placed with a single male or female foster parent.

Do I need to own my own home to foster?

No you don’t, if you live in rented accommodation you will need permission from your landlord.

Can I foster if I’m gay?

Yes, your sexuality isn’t an issue when it comes to fostering.  We welcome applications from people with a range of skills, knowledge and life experiences, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Our LGBTQI fostering page will help you find out more

I have a disability and I’d like to become a foster parent. Is this possible?

Having a disability won’t necessarily stop you from becoming a foster parent and we consider all our applicants on an individual basis.

Visit our disability page to find out more

Can you foster if you have pets?

Yes of course, pets are part of your family too. Animals can help children to relax and settle into a new home, but we do need to make sure there is no risk involved. As part of your assessment, we’ll complete a pet questionnaire to help us determine whether your pet is safe to be around foster children.

We cannot accept applications from anybody who has a banned breed in the UK, as part of the Dangerous Dog Act.

I have small children, can I still foster?

It completely depends on your personal circumstances and whether you’re able to meet the needs of a child in care.

We work with children and young people who may need a lot of care and attention to help them develop and reach their full potential.

As part of the process to become a foster carer, we’ll provide you with lots of information about the role and what to expect, so you’re able to make an informed decision about whether fostering is right for you and your family.

Can people from all religious groups become foster parents?

Your religion doesn’t affect your ability to foster and we welcome foster parents from all backgrounds.

We try and ensure that looked after children are placed with foster families who can meet their unique cultural and religious needs.

Visit our race, religion and fostering page to find out more.

I have a criminal record, does this mean I can’t foster?

A criminal conviction won’t always prevent you from being a foster parent. It depends on the nature of the conviction and when it occurred. We do police checks during the application process. Please be honest and disclose any convictions early in your fostering journey so we can talk about it with you.

If you’d like to foster but are concerned about your criminal record, then we always advise that you speak to one of our fostering advisors.

Do I need any special qualifications or experience to foster?

No not at all, PHD, GCSE, o-level or no level we will give you all the training you need together with ongoing development and support.

Learn more about the fostering process

I can’t drive, does this mean I can’t foster?

You don’t have to drive but we would require you have a good transport network so you are able to fully meet the needs of the child.  Enabling you to carry out duties such as the school run, attend appointments, review meetings, contact with birth parents and anything else required.

I’m a smoker, can I still become a foster parent?

Smoking wouldn’t prevent you from becoming a foster parent, as long as you and other smokers in your household are prepared to not smoke in your home. You also wouldn’t be able to care for a child under five years old.

Can I foster if I take antidepressants/have depression/have had depression?

Having mental health issues doesn’t automatically rule you out to foster. Here at FCA through talking to you we would explore whether fostering is the right time for you, whether you have had any recent episodes and how your condition is managed. Providing a secure home environment where the needs and care of the foster child are met is paramount.  If your mental health condition could impact this, you may not be suitable to foster.

We would look at your individual circumstances.  For more information speak to one of our friendly fostering advisors.

Application process

How do I apply to be a foster parent?

Applying to become a foster parent starts with a phone call to our fostering enquiry line on 0800 023 4561 or filling in one of our enquiry forms and we can call you back.

One of our dedicated fostering advisors will talk you through the process and the steps you’ll need to take to begin your application.

Learn more about the fostering process

How long does the fostering application take?

The length of the application process can vary, but it normally takes around four to six months. We’ll guide you through every step of your journey and keep in regular contact with you throughout the process.

Does it cost me anything to apply?

No. It is free to apply to be a foster parent – bags of enthusiasm and dedication are all you need!

Can I apply to be a foster parent online?

You can call us on 0800 023 4561, or fill in our enquiry form to request a call back to talk to a fostering advisor before beginning the application process. Our application form is available to fill out online.

What checks are carried out?

There are vital checks and references we will need to carry out as part of your fostering assessment such as:

  • Enhanced disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
  • Health and safety check on your home
  • Checks with your local authority or health trust social work service
  • Professional / personal references and / or checks with school or college

Learn more about the fostering assessment process

Who will be assessing me?

When you start the application process, we’ll allocate you an assessing social worker. They’ll be your main point of contact throughout your journey and will work with you to complete an in-depth report called a Form F. This will then be presented to a fostering panel, who will make a decision about your suitability to foster.

What training will I receive to be able to foster?

We believe in learning alongside peers and offer joint training sessions for both staff and foster parents to enable the sharing of best practice and experiences.

All of our training is mapped to regulations and national minimum standards and cross-referenced to the Training Support and Development Standards in England and the Induction Framework Outcomes in Wales.

Our training programme consists of:

Introduction to Fostering - All of our foster parents complete pre-approval training during their assessment.

Induction - We have an online induction course which looks at the key areas to equip foster parents with the necessary skills and confidence to take their first child or young person.

Mandatory training - Once approved, there is a comprehensive programme of ongoing training and development available; starting with mandatory courses that all foster parents will receive.

Complementary training - We have a wide range of courses available both online and face to face to develop foster parents offering a greater depth of knowledge, theory and practical application.

Learn more about our training and development for foster parents

Will I be employed by FCA, or self-employed?

Foster parents are classed as self-employed which means you’re entitled to tax relief on your income. You could pay very little or no tax or national insurance, depending on your own financial circumstances.

Fostering and finance

Does a foster parent get paid for fostering?

Yes, you’ll receive a regular fostering allowance. We offer our foster parent competitive fees and allowances to reward them for their hard work.  In addition to the great support and training we offer.

How much is a foster parent paid?

This varies and is based on the type of referral you have and the needs of the child in your care. On average though, our foster parents can receive approx. over £487 per child, per week.

Do I have to pay tax on my fostering allowance?

Foster parents are classed as self-employed so when you start fostering, you will need to register as self-employed and file tax returns.

This means you’re entitled to tax relief on your income. You could pay very little or no tax or national insurance, depending on your own financial circumstances.

You will also be entitled to qualifying care relief which means you will:

  • Earn £10,000 from fostering before you have to pay tax
  • Get tax relief for every week you foster a child

Learn more from our allowances page

Will I be paid in between fostering referrals?

We do not continue to pay fostering allowances in between foster referrals, however we always aim for you to have little time without a child or young person, should this be your wish.

Can I work while I’m a foster parent?

Ideally we ask for at least one foster parent to be available for fostering on a full-time basis, so that we can ensure that the child or young person in your care is being looked after in the best way possible. As a foster parent, you have responsibility for day-to-day tasks; the school run, be available during school holidays, attend medical appointments on behalf or with your foster child, attend training, review meetings.  Should you have a problem on an odd occasion, your supervising social worker can help you make alternative arrangements.

In some cases it is still possible for you to continue working on a part-time or flexible basis depending on your individual circumstances.  To find out more, give us a call on 0800 023 4561.

Do foster parents receive child benefits?

You can continue to claim child benefit for your own children and other children that live with you, however you can’t claim for children that you are fostering. As you are already receiving an allowance for each foster child or young person in your care.

Children in care

What types of children need fostering?

There are a host of reasons why they need foster care. It may be because of a family illness, family breakdown and problems at home, or a situation where their welfare is threatened. Many will have experienced neglect and physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Learn more

Will foster children have difficult behaviour?

While their stories will be different, every child will have faced loss and separation from their birth family.

Their life experiences can cause children and young people in care to express their feelings through difficult and challenging behaviour. Some may throw tantrums, be aggressive or reject your care. Others may be withdrawn, clingy and act younger than their years. Just as every foster parent is different so are children and behaviour will differ from child to child.

Learn more

How long will I have to wait for my first child?

You can begin fostering right away, across FCA we receive hundreds of referrals daily. Our placements team will always try and match you, your family and the child based on your approval criteria and preferences.

The time in between getting approved and having your first foster child will vary from foster parent to foster parent. Other factors such as number of referrals in your area, needs of children and if you are able to meet these as well as your personal preferences are also a consideration.

Can I choose the kind of fostering referral I have?

Yes, when you join FCA we really get to know you and your family so we have an understanding of your preferences, skills and qualities.  Our aim is for the children and young people in care to have a positive fostering experience in a stable environment.  We work really hard to ensure when we put you forward to care for a child and young person so we have the best possible match.  We understand that there may be times where you turn down a referral and we will always respect your decision.

How does the matching process work?

The key to a good match is building a strong relationship with our foster parents, in order to get to know them and their family. When we receive a referral for a child we look at their needs and requirements and consider for example if the foster carers skills, experience, location, contact requirements and culture are a good match, of course there are many other aspects to consider.

Our placement teams then share potential foster parent matches with the local authority social worker. The more time we spend getting to know our foster families, the more we can highlight their skills and experience to the local authority social worker, ensuring the right match and the best outcomes for the child and foster family.

How much will I know about the child or young person?

We try to give you as much information as we can when we discuss a potential child or young person coming to live you.  All the information we have is provided by the local authority, and we’ll try and find out as much as possible to help you decide whether to accept or not.

Will I be able to meet the child before they come to live with me?

We always try to arrange for our foster parents to meet the child or children they’ll be caring for.

However, this isn’t always possible, especially if a child is placed in an emergency. When this happens, we’ll try to give you as much information as we can.

How long will a child or young person stay with me?

It isn’t always possible to know exactly how long a child or young person will stay with you, as this depends on the placement type and the child’s individual circumstances. It could be anything from a few days to weeks, months or even years.

Learn more about the different types of fostering to will give you a good idea of what to expect.

Can I foster more than one child?

Yes, you can be approved to foster more than one child, it will depend on the number of spare bedrooms you have available. For example, if you live in a four bedroomed house and you have one birth child living at home, you could be approved to care for two children.

This could be siblings or in some cases, foster parents may care for children from two different families. However, this would be carefully planned and managed to ensure ongoing stability for the child or young person already in your care.

Do I get any extra help if I care for a child who has special needs or a disability?

We understand that fostering a child with disabilities can be challenging, which is why we’ll provide you with all the additional training, support and specialist equipment you need to care for them in the best way possible.

Who is responsible for taking foster children to school or the doctors?

As a foster parent, you have responsibility for these day-to-day tasks; the school run and doctor’s trips included. Should you have a problem on an odd occasion, your supervising social worker can help you make alternative arrangements.

About us

What type of company is FCA?

Established in 1994, Foster Care Associates (FCA) is proud to be one of the largest fostering agencies in the UK.  We are part of the Polaris community and our core vision is to make a positive and lasting difference for looked after children and families.  With the interests of children and young people at the heart of everything we do, we work closely with local authorities to provide caring, loving and stable fostering homes, but we always go the extra mile for our foster parents and children.

Learn more

What is the difference between a fostering agency and the local authority?

Although we work alongside the local authorities, there are four key differences between fostering with your local authority and fostering with independent fostering agencies like FCA:

  • The age of the children needing fostering through private agencies is generally higher than those available with local authorities.
  • Foster parent allowances with FCA and other private fostering agencies are often significantly higher than those of local authorities.
  • Levels of support vary between local authorities and private fostering agencies, with local authorities not offering the same level of support.
  • We offer a therapeutic approach that provides looked after children with the additional, intensive support they need to thrive called Team Parenting®

We work very closely with local authorities to find suitable foster parents for children within their care when they are unable to place a child with one of their own approved foster parents.

Transfer to us

How do I transfer to your agency?

As an existing foster parent, we try to make things as quick and easy as possible for you to transfer to us if looking to change from your current agency or local authority.  Foster parents can only be approved by one fostering agency at any one time.

The first thing to do is to get in touch with us and we’ll arrange to visit you at home to have a chat about what’s involved. Whether or not you have a child placed with you will make the process slightly different.

Learn more on how to transfer

What if I’m already a foster parent and wish to transfer?

Transferring to us is easier than you may think. We’ll support you every step of the way and work with you, your existing agency and local authority to minimise the impact on any foster children currently in your care.

Find out more about transferring to us

How long is the process for transferring?

Your application will be fast-tracked and the process and we aim for it to be much faster and simpler.

Learn more on how to transfer

Do I have to complete a new Form F assessment?

Yes, transferring to a new fostering agency means going through the same process you went through when you first became a foster parent. However, since you’re already fostering, your application will be fast-tracked and the process will be much faster and simpler.

Learn more on how to transfer

Am I able to transfer with my current foster child?

Although every case is different, many foster parents can bring the child in their care with them when they transfer. The local authority will need to make a decision about whether or not the child you are fostering can move with you.

While you’re going through the process we’ll work closely with you, the child or young person you’re looking after, your current agency and or local authority to make sure everyone is working together and that any children or young people placed with you are also supported during the move.

Learn more on how to transfer

Speak to our team

Whether you’re ready to start your journey or just want to chat to an expert, where here to talk.

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