There are still many myths that circulate about who can foster or why someone is excluded from offering a home to a vulnerable child. So let’s take a close look at exactly who can foster?

Can I foster if I have a criminal record?

We all make mistakes. For some people, these mistakes manifest themselves as a criminal record.

However, many people own these mistakes and turn their lives around.

If you have a criminal record, whether that is a caution or a conviction, it is essential that you are honest with the assessing social worker.

A Disclosure and Barring Service check is carried out as part of the process too. Clearly, sexual and/or violent crimes, or crimes that involve children, will exclude you from fostering.

Every application to foster is judged on merit and what someone can offer a child in their care.

Am I too young or too old?

Most fostering agencies set a minimum age of 21 years. By this time, many people are financially stable, with a place they call home and have some life experience too.

In terms of a ‘maximum age to foster’, there is no such thing! This is because fostering agencies recognise that foster children needs are very different and that sometimes, an ‘older’ foster parent or couple are the very people they need to help them through childhood and into adulthood.

Foster carers need to have plenty of energy, a positive outlook and plenty of love to give – three ingredients to successful foster placements that come no matter how young or old a foster carer may be.

Do I need specific skills?

Foster carers have one thing in common – a certain attitude and outlook that allows them to accept a child or young person into their home and love them, help, and support them, no matter what.

In terms of specific fostering skills, initial training as part of the application process is the starting point for developing these important skills.

Foster carers continue training with skill-specific training sessions, as well as information sessions throughout their times as foster carers.

I’m gay. Can I still foster?

Absolutely. Applications to be foster parents are welcomed from anyone within the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. Sometimes, the difficulties that people have faced in their own lives – and dealt with successfully – can be similar to the life experiences some foster children face, and so you have a shared understanding with them.

Do I have to be in a relationship?

Many foster carers are single and successfully foster. There are also foster parents who welcome children into their home and bring them up alongside their own children.

It is not so much what you are, but who you are, your outlook and what you can offer foster children that will see them become well-rounded young people.

Will I get paid?

Yes, you will. And there are generous tax allowances and the possibility of claiming some benefits too.

Taking a child into your home and raising them will incur expenses. Although we may not like talking about money, it is a practical consideration. You will be paid a weekly allowance per child.

Allowance rates vary from one fostering agency to another. They will also vary depending on the type of fostering placement you offer.

Some agencies also offer two additional payments each year that you look after a foster child – one around the time of their birthday and the other at Christmas (or another significant cultural event depending on the child and their culture or faith).

Does it take a long time to become a foster carer?

The process can take upwards of six months but it is important to get it right. You want to be confident fostering is for you and the fostering agency want to be clear that you have what it takes to be a foster carer.

It is incredibly rewarding, but at times challenging to provide a home to a child damaged by his or her past. But thousands of foster carers do it every day. Do you have what it takes?

Fostering People are currently looking for new foster carers so that more children can live in a safe and nurturing home.

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