We know that potential foster carers often ask themselves “Can I foster?” and might worry about whether they are the sort of people we are looking for, but there really is no such thing as the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ foster carer.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you’re married or divorced, living with a partner or single, gay, lesbian or transgender. Foster carers come from all walks of life and we welcome people from all religions, races, genders and sexual orientations.
What we need are flexible, open, honest people who can consider a range of children and who can understand the difficulties our children have experienced.
Foster carers need to appreciate that our children come from a wide range of backgrounds, all have different family situations, experiences, culture, heritage and religions, so will all need different types of care.
The important thing is that you can provide our children with loving, safe and stable homes for as long as they need.
You are eligible to foster if you:
- have a spare bedroom
- are at least 21 years old
- have lived in the UK for at least one year at the time of your application
- or your partner or any adult who lives with you does not have a serious conviction or caution relating to offences against children, or other serious offences
The information below outlines the main foster care requirements and may help you to decide if you’re suitable to start fostering with us.
You do not need to own your own home to foster. You can live in a privately rented or council-rented property, in a house or a flat. We will carry out a standard safety check on your home.
We require all our foster carers to have a spare bedroom and will only place a child in a home where they will have their own bedroom. This is a legal requirement.
Some more detailed guidance about what is required of a foster carer’s home can be found here.
You should be aware that we are unable to refund any expenses you might incur in setting up your home for fostering.
Having pets at home will not stop you from being a foster carer. We will ask you all about your pets during one of our home visits and discuss the best way to introduce foster children into your home. Further information on dogs in foster family homes can be found here.
You can work full-time and be a foster carer – although your work must fit around the needs of the child and the hours you work may determine what kind of fostering you are able to do.
We require at least one carer to be at home full-time when we place a child before school age.
When fostering older children, your work will need to be flexible enough to enable you to attend various meetings which can be frequent and are usually held during the day.
Your marital status and sexuality
A lot of people wonder if they can foster if they are single – and the answer is yes. We welcome applications from single or married people or those in long-term relationships, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
All applicants must undergo a full medical assessment as part of the process; however, not all illnesses will stop you from being considered.
Fostering is a demanding role, both physically and emotionally so if you do have a long-term health condition then you will need to consider whether your condition would impact on your ability to care for a child.
Applicants with disabilities are welcomed, and we would explore during the assessment process what impact your disability has on you, and your ability to meet the needs of a foster child.
Your criminal record
A criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from fostering – it depends on the nature of the conviction and when it occurred.
We need to know of all previous criminal convictions, and we carry out a police check (DBS) early in the application process, but we advise you to discuss any convictions with your social worker as soon as possible to find out whether they will affect your ability to foster. This information will remain confidential.
There are some convictions that would make it impossible for us to place children with you.
Smoking or vaping
In view of the significant risks of smoking and passive smoking, applicants who currently smoke or vape will be limiting their suitability.
We are unable to place a child under 5 within a home where smoking or vaping occurs.
Any new applicants who currently smoke or vape are encouraged to quit smoking in line with healthy lifestyles. You can get support to quit smoking from the local Stop Smoking Service.
Access to transport
Carers need access to a car so they can take their foster children to school, attend training and meetings as well as facilitate family time with parents.
This can involve travel over significant distances where the child needs to attend their previous school or time with family members who live some distance from the foster home.
As Devon is such a large rural county and public transport links are limited, we find that foster carers need to be car drivers and have access to a car to complete the fostering role.
In exceptional circumstances, where prospective carers can demonstrate that they would be able to foster without being a car driver, we may be able to proceed with an application. This would be discussed at the initial enquiry stage.
Checks and assessments
If you have a partner, we will look to see if your relationship is stable and you’ll both need to have the necessary checks and training as part of your assessment.
We will carry out thorough checks on all adult members of your household over the age of 18 including, for example, birth children or lodgers. These include:
- a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS) on all members of your household over the age of 18
- checks with your local authority or health trust social work service
- checks with the education department
- checks with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) which lists those prevented from working with children
- a medical check and social media/digital presence checks
You will need to be prepared to answer lots of questions by our social workers, some will be quite personal, but all the questions will be linked to your skills and abilities as a parent and carer.
A social worker will get to know you, and, over time, you will form a trusting relationship with them. All information you give to the Fostering Service will be confidential – except when safeguarding concerns are raised.
We will also request references from previous employers as well as personal references from three people who have known you for at least five years.
Is fostering right for me?
What matters most is your ability to provide a caring and stable home that will meet the needs of a child. If you believe you can form strong meaningful relationships with children; providing them with a safe home, love, and a stimulating environment then fostering could be for you.
It is a rewarding but challenging role, so a foster carer should be kind, patient and resilient.
The greater the diversity of people and families wanting to foster, the better our chances are of finding a family to suit each child’s needs.
Fostering gives you choices too. For example, you can foster for short periods, weeks, months or years.