Foster carers take care of children and young people who are unable to remain in their own homes. Family splits, illness, the death of the child’s parents or issues within the home that could affect their welfare are all reasons why a social worker may place children in foster care.
If you are a caring, mature person who could provide a home in which children and young people could feel secure and safe, this could be a good career for you.
In order to become a foster carer, you must be energetic and in good health, you need to be patient, understanding, and caring. It’s not necessary for you to be a parent yourself to become a foster carer, although many people do move on to fostering after their own children have grown up.
As you’ll be providing a home for children and vulnerable young people, you must be over 21 years of age, and you must pass Disclosure and Barring checks.
If you think that a job as a foster carer might be something you’d like to find out more about, check out this career guide for more information.
See Also: How to Become a Child Care Inspector
1. What does a Foster Carer do?
Your duties as a foster carer would vary depending on the sort of placements you are prepared to provide. Placement types include:
- Emergency placements at very short notice that last just a few nights’.
- Short term placements with more notice and lasting from a few weeks up to several years.
- Long term placements on a permanent basis, until the young person officially leaves care when they reach the age of 18 or 21.
- Respite placements lasting for a maximum of two weeks and designed to provide a break for permanent carers or the parents of children with disabilities or behavioural problems.
Your daily duties in a typical foster carer’s role could include:
- Making a child or young person feel welcome as part of your family and sharing your home with them.
- Being sensitive and aware of the impact of family separation and upheaval.
- Providing day-to-day care in order to meet the child or young person’s emotional, physical, social and intellectual needs.
- Setting suitable behavioural boundaries without using punishment.
- Providing assistance with schoolwork and encouraging a positive attitude towards education.
- Protecting young people from abuse and harm, and providing them with guidance as to how they can do this for themselves.
- Working with other professionals in order to devise and execute care plans, reviews, conferences, court hearings and family meetings as required.
- Having respect for the views of young people in your care and being prepared to put them forward, even when you don’t agree.
- Supporting key religious celebrations and festivals that are appropriate to the child or young person’s religion.
- Respecting and understanding the role of the parents and keeping them involved wherever possible.
- Enabling and helping the young person or child to move on to their next setting.
It would also be imperative that you are able to keep information concerning the child or young person and their birth family confidential, sharing it only with other professionals when necessary.
2. Working Environment
You would work primarily in your own home. You may be required to travel to meetings, conferences and possibly court hearings.
When you have a placement, you’ll be working 24/7, just as you would with your own children although you would have the support of other professionals.
Your income would depend on the type of placement you were undertaking. You would typically receive a foster care wage as well as a weekly care allowance per child. You would be given additional allowances for birthdays.
Foster care for an 11 – 18 year old is £176 per week. The Weekly care allowance for an 11 – 18 year old is £151 per week
In addition to the allowance you would receive for each child, you would be able to claim mileage expenses as appropriate. As a general rule, private fostering agencies pay higher rates than local councils.
As a foster carer you would be self-employed and as such you would not be expected to pay tax on the first £10,000 of your earnings.
Source: National Careers Service
4. Entry Requirements
No formal academic qualifications are required to become a foster carer. You will need:
- A bedroom for each child you plan to foster
- Full-time availability
- Full British citizenship or permanent permission to live in the UK
- To be aged over 21
You can become a foster carer regardless of your marital status, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. More information is available from the Department for Education’s Fosterline service.
Although it’s not essential for this job, it would be useful for you to have a full driving licence and access to a car so that you can travel to meetings etc, and taxi young people and children to various activities and meetings.
In order to become a foster carer, you’d go through an assessment programme run by either the council or agency you were hoping to work for. This would include:
- Pre-approval training; learning the skills you’ll need for fostering and the needs of the children coming into foster care
- Visits from social workers
All adults living in the foster household are required to pass these assessments. Disclosure and Barring checks are mandatory.
Once the checks have been completed, a social worker will prepare a report for an independent fostering panel who will then decide whether you are considered suitable as a foster carer.
Some work-related qualifications you might want to consider taking to improve your chances of acceptance are:
5. Important Skills and Abilities
The qualities you’ll need to become a foster carer are:
- A kind, loving personality with the ability to build trust
- Good communication skills and the ability to get on with people at different levels and of different ages
- An understanding of children and young people’s development and requirements
- Patience and tolerance of issues faced by foster children
- A firm but fair attitude and a sense of humour
- Cultural, religious and social tolerance
- An interest in the educational needs of children in your care
- The ability to stay calm and reasonable in all situations
- Confidentiality and respect of people’s privacy
- Good administration and record-keeping skills
6. Career Progression and Development
Following approval, you’ll receive ongoing support from supervisors to continue your foster carer training.
An induction course provided by the Department for Education’s Training Support and Development standards (TSD) will teach you what you need to be able to achieve during your first year as a foster carer.
Core training will be provided in areas like child protection, together with specialist training pertinent to the type of fostering you have opted to do. There would be an annual review where you would have the opportunity to discuss further training requirements.
When you’ve gained a minimum of a year’s experience as a foster carer, you can take the Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce in order to further develop your skills and knowledge.
7. Job Opportunities
It’s estimated that there are currently more than 77,000 children in care in the UK. The number of children requiring foster carers is growing all the time, so there’re plenty of opportunities to get into this career.
As your experience grows, it will be possible for you to undertake more training in order to diversify and increase the range of children you can foster.
You could work for your local council or for a private fostering agency. You could even set up your own agency, once you’ve gathered enough experience. Job vacancies and more useful information can be found at the following websites:
If you’re a caring person with a genuine interest in helping others and you’d like a career providing a stable, safe and secure home for children and young people, this could be the perfect career for you. There is currently a high demand for foster carers in the UK, so there are plenty of job opportunities for the right person.