Becoming a foster carer

Last updated: 31 July 2017

Fostering is caring for a 'looked after' child or children in your home. You can apply to become a foster carer through local councils, independent fostering agencies or charities.

Types of fostering

Different types of fostering include:

  • short term - this includes 'respite fostering', when you are giving parents or a child a break from each other
  • emergency - when a child gets placed with you with little notice
  • interim - when the child plans to go back to live with their parents but they need to spend some time in foster care or while a permanent placement is being found (under 24 months)
  • longer term - when you look after a child for more than 24 months
  • permanent – when the child lives with you permanently and you go to court to get a 'permanence order'
You may be able to choose the types of fostering you do. For example some foster carers are approved for short term fostering only.

Eligibility

You can foster a child if you are:

  • a full-time resident in the UK
  • aged 18 but some agencies won't let you foster until you're aged 21 (there's no upper age limit)
  • single, in a couple, married or divorced
  • a gay man or woman, either on your own or with your partner or spouse
  • a parent already or not

Most agencies want you to have a spare room for the foster child.

Apply to foster

A list of registered fostering agencies in your area can be found on the Care Inspectorate website.

Your local council can also give you information about fostering.

What to expect

When you apply to become a foster carer you will be checked to make sure you are suitable. This will take around 6 months and will include checking:

  • your medical history
  • your criminal record
  • your finances
  • your home to make sure it's suitable for a child
  • the 2 people who are your 'referees' - a person who knows you well and will confirm what you've said in your application is true

You will also be interviewed by a fostering panel (a group of experts). After considering the panel's recommendations, the council or agency will decide whether to approve you as a foster carer.

If you are approved, you'll be asked to sign a fostering agreement. This will include:

  • details of the support and training that you'll get
  • agreeing to treat any child you foster as if they are a member of your family
  • agreeing not to physically punish any child you foster

When a child is placed with you, you will be told about the child's personal life, health and educational needs.

Foster carer reviews

As a foster carer, your suitability must be checked every year. The review will be carried out by the agency you are registered with.

Finances

As a foster parent you will be given a weekly allowance to cover the needs of the child you are caring for including:

  • clothing
  • food
  • travel
  • household bills
  • spending money

The amount of money you get depends on the child's age and needs.

There's more information about finances for foster carers on the Fostering Network website

Further information about fostering and support

The Fostering Network in Scotland website offers advice and information.

You can call Fosterline if you want to speak to an expert on 0141 204 1400 (Monday to Friday 10am - 4pm).

Find out about call charges on the GOV.UK website.

You can get more information about fostering on the Citizen's Advice website.