Over 21 with a spare room...
Is that all it takes to be a foster carer?
Foster carers take on many roles: carer, friend, teacher, psychologist – and that’s not even including their day jobs! Being a foster carer takes real commitment, patience, and a great sense of humour.
What matters most is that you can provide a young person with a safe, loving, and stable home.
Can I be a foster carer?
When it comes to formal requirements, there are very few reasons why you may be unable to become a foster carer. You must be over 18 (although most fostering providers prefer you to be over 21) and be a UK resident or have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
You don’t need to be a homeowner, but a secure rental agreement is important. You will need to have a spare bedroom big enough for a child or young person, as they cannot share a room, except with a same-sex sibling. Your home should provide an environment that is suitable for children.
Foster carers can be single, married, in a same sex relationship, male, female or transgender. Some foster carers have children of their own, and some do not. If you do, remember that you are also asking them to accept another child in their lives. Ask your local authority if they have any support when it comes to talking about fostering to your children, or you can ask our Fostering Unfiltered community on Facebook about their experience.
Legally there is no upper age limit to foster, and there are many fantastic foster carers in their 60s or 70s. What matters is that you are fit and able to care for, and meet the needs, of any child you are approved to care for.
Am I allowed to foster if...?
English isn't my first language? English does not have to be your first language. There are many children and young people in foster care who do not have English as their first language. Therefore, being placed in a family where English is not their first language can be beneficial to them. But you will need a good level of spoken and written English to be able to communicate with other professionals, support children’s education and make notes and keep records.
I'm religious? People of all religious faiths can be foster carers. However, you will need to think about the adjustments you might need to make to accommodate somebody else’s religious beliefs and traditions. Children should live with foster families who can meet their needs, including religious needs. For example, how will you cater for faith-based dietary requirements or the need for prayer at designated times? How will you respond if you feel a young person is not being respectful of your beliefs?
Me or my partner have a criminal record? A criminal record does not necessarily stop you from becoming a foster carer. All criminal convictions will need to be disclosed when you apply and the fostering service will obtain an enhanced disclosure and barring check. Any convictions or cautions will be explored with you by the fostering service.
I have pets? Pets are part of normal family life and can even be seen as a positive when you foster a child. Every pet will be assessed as part of the process of becoming a foster carer, considering factors such as their temperament and behaviour.
I smoke? If you are a smoker you may still be considered as a foster parent. However, all foster carers should provide a smoke-free environment for children and fostering services take into account the impact on the health of any children who will live with you. Why not use this as an opportunity to kick the smoking habit? You can ask your fostering service about smoking cessation support.
Can I still work?
You may be able to work and foster. Lots of foster carers have full or part-time jobs, are self-employed or run their own business. Whether you can depends on the child’s circumstances and how you or your family can provide support whenever it is needed. For example, if your foster child is of school age, what will you do during the school holidays or if they are unable to attend school?
I'm still not sure if I can foster...
If you don't meet all these criteria, talk to your local council’s fostering team. There are lots of factors that fostering services will think about to help them decide who can be a foster parent.
You can also visit our FAQs for more information about life as a foster carer.