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How to become a foster carer

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 12 October 2015
  2. Family
  3. 0 comments
Happy family fostering

Fostering is different from adoption. In adoption, the child legally becomes the full responsibility of their new parents, and any legal ties with their birth parents are severed.

Fostering is more of a temporary arrangement – the foster carers do become responsible for the child, but they share that responsibility with the local authority or the child’s parents.

However, a child can stay with a foster family for years, until they reach adulthood.

Types of foster carer

There are a number of different types of fostering, ranging from short-term to long-term.

Some children may only need emergency foster care which gives them somewhere safe to stay for a few days. In other cases, foster parents might take on a baby or small child with a view to possibly adopting them in the future.

There are other, quite specialist forms of fostering which require special training, such as fostering children who are on remand or who have very difficult behavioural problems.

How do I get started?

Fostering agencies and local authorities

Fostering is overseen by local authorities, so a good first step would be to get in touch with your local council.

There are many fostering agencies operating across the country – you can find one close to you with the Fostering Network, which has a handy tool for finding fostering agencies in your area.

If you are approved for fostering, you will receive training to make sure you are ready to take care of any children when they arrive.

Will I be allowed to foster?

Different agencies and local authorities have different requirements – you will be able to discuss these with them when you first get in contact with them.

You will need to pass a DBS (formerly CRB) check, and so will any other people who are over 18 and living in your house. You will also need to pass a health check.

You do not have to be married to be a foster parent – unmarried couples and single people can be foster parents too. However, your local authority will have restrictions on how much foster parents can work – for example, if you are working full time, it is highly unlikely you will be able to be a single carer.

Pay and benefits

Taking care of a child is expensive, particularly if you aren’t working. The council or agency will pay you an allowance to cover the costs of caring for the child. These rates vary based on a number of factors, including:

  • where in the country you are – carers in London or the South East are generally entitled to more than those in the rest of the UK
  • the needs of the child
  • whether or not you have certain key skills.

There is a legal minimum allowance for foster carers. The rates for 2015/2016 are as follows:

Weekly rates Babies Pre-primary Primary 11 to 15 16 to 17
London £142 £145 £163 £184 £216
South East £136 £140 £156 £177 £208
Rest of the UK £123 £126 £139 £159 £185

There should be a provision for pocket money included in the allowance – you are required to pay this to the child, although there may be occasions on which you are allowed to withhold it (punishment for bad behaviour, for example). Only the child’s social worker can decide whether this should be done.

There are other financial benefits to being a foster carer. You will be exempt from tax for the first £10,000 you make from fostering, and you will get tax relief for any earnings above this.

The tax relief adds up to £200 for every week you care for a child under 11, and £250 for every week you care for a child over 11.

You will also be able to get National Insurance credits while you are fostering, which will count towards your state pension.

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