Just as there is diversity in fostered children, foster carers need to come from a variety of backgrounds and have different life experiences, skills and qualities to help meet the needs of children and young people in foster care. There are, however, some common criteria that most fostering services need from you:
- to be at least 21 years-old (although by law you can apply to foster from 18)
- to have a spare bedroom big enough for a young person to live in
- to be a full-time resident in the UK or have leave to remain
- to be able to give the time to care for a child or young person, often on a full-time basis.
- Other factors which will be taken into account will include:
- Your health – are you fit and able to foster for now and the foreseeable future?
- Your financial security – can you afford to foster?
- Your home – is it safe for a child or young person?
- Your friends and family – are there people who can support you to foster?
- Your past – whether you have lived abroad and any previous convictions.
- Your experience with children and young people – through family, work, or volunteering.
Crucially, any fostering service will want to know more about you. Do you want to work with children and young people who have often had difficult starts in life? Do you have the ability to support them, nurture them, communicate with them, advocate on their behalf and include them as part of your family? Are you willing to work as part of a team, develop your skills and qualities through training and learning and have the resilience to stay strong in times of difficulty?
Some common Myths
- You can be single and foster – but you will need to demonstrate a network of support.
- You don’t have to own your own home – but you will need to demonstrate stability.
- Your sexual orientation won’t prevent you from fostering.
- Your religion won’t prevent you from fostering – but you will need to demonstrate how you can support a child of a different religion from yours or questioning their own faith.
- You don’t need any formal qualifications – you will be trained with the skills to foster and be supported to achieve the training and development standards in England.
- You can sometimes continue to work and foster, depending on the type of fostering you want to do and the needs of the children you will be caring for.
There is also no upper age limit to foster; some people foster well into their 70s. What matters is that you are fit and able to care for any child you are approved to foster. Being a foster carer is not easy, but can make a huge difference to the lives of the children who need it.
If you think fostering is for you, take a look at the process and some helpful questions to ask when applying to foster.