There’s a huge shortage of foster carers in the UK at present, with an estimated 10,000 more required as the number of kids in need of temporary homes increase. This means there are loads of opportunities for kind, caring people to make a massive difference to the lives of children.
You also get paid a good amount as it can be tough work.
Imagine round-the-clock childminding with a whole wealth of responsibilities and expenses on top – that’s fostering! Unlike adoption, which is permanent, fostering can involve caring for one or more kids (from babies to 18-year-olds) for days, weeks, months or even years at a time.
So is it for you? If you love kids and want to make a difference, as well as earn a living, there’s a big need for what you can offer. Read our complete guide to fostering and find out.
- What is foster caring?
- Who can become a foster carer?
- Training and qualifications
- Do I get paid?
- I think I may want to be a foster carer. What do I do now?
It’s really important that you do this ‘job’ for the love of children rather than the need for money.
Before we go any further, we must stress that while you’ll be paid for fostering, you must want to do it for the right reason: to take care of a vulnerable child and give them a safe, loving home.
Most of these kids have already been through difficult or even hellish times – so a loving home, albeit temporary, could do them a world of good.
Foster caring is looking after a child on a temporary basis until a permanent home can be found. Placement may occur when a parent or guardian is unable to care for a child themselves or when a child is taken out of their home due to neglect or abuse (or the risk of it).
It’s hugely challenging as you often get children who have been abused in various ways and they can be difficult, hurtful and even dangerous.
However, making a difference to a troubled child’s life could be the most satisfying, rewarding thing you ever do.
In general, foster carers can be anyone; young, old, rich, poor, even unemployed. It doesn’t matter whether you’re single, married or living with a partner of either gender.
You could be a foster carer if you’re:
- Over 21
- Have some experience with children and/or young people
- Available to care for a child before and after school as well as transport children to and from school and family contact
- Able to attend daytime training and support groups and to meet with social workers
- In a position to provide care for a child during holidays or when they’re off sick
- Able to provide a bedroom for the child you foster, unless they’re under two years old
These are the basic requirements, and although there are very few things that will prevent you from fostering, the application and approval process can take up to six months to complete.
Think about which kind of foster care you’re best suited to. Roughly speaking, there are five types:
- Emergency care – when a child needs to be moved from their immediate situation as quickly as possible while their full needs are being determined. This can last from a single night to a few weeks.
- Respite care – Just for a few hours at a fixed time every day or week, perhaps to relieve an overstretched parent or carer.
- Medium-term care – Often when a tricky family situation is being resolved, the kids stay with you but have increasing access to their parents.
- Remand care – Kids (usually teenagers) who are protected by a court order. This can be the trickiest of all and requires carers with great patience and particular skills.
- Long-term care – Kids who cannot return to their original families and need more permanent care.
Foster carers need the same skills as parents and must also work alongside the local authority who’ll provide initial and ongoing training. You’ll have the support of a supervising social worker and an out-of-office telephone line for access to support and advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Naturally, there are rigorous security and safety checks. You’ll need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check – this used to be known as the CRB check – to be considered. See our full article on the DBS check here.
The average cost of raising, feeding and clothing a child is well over £10,000 per annum. This is the second most expensive commitment in your life apart from your home, so don’t underestimate it.
If you’d love to become a foster carer but are worried that your home is inadequate and will rule you out then help is available. If your house isn’t immediately suitable but you are, there are grants available to bring it up to standard.
Although you’ll receive a weekly allowance (see below) you’ll probably only break even, so you need to foster for the love of it – not the money.
The government sets minimum allowance rates, which are currently between £125 and £219 per child per week. These change each year and differ depending on the age of the child and where you live.
See here for the government’s minimum allowance for foster carers. These rates are the least you should receive – The Fostering Network recommends higher allowances which are listed here.
You can also receive further allowances and grants for childcare, educational, domestic or even holiday expenses. These can exceed £200 per child per week, depending on circumstances and region.
For an enquiry form, contact your local social services department or an independent fostering agency such as The Fostering Network. Once you’ve completed and returned the form, they’ll be in touch with you and your application process will begin.