Fostering is a way of providing a family life for children who cannot live with their own parents.
It is often used to provide temporary care while parents get help sorting out problems or to help children or young people through a difficult period in their lives.
Often children will return home once the problems that caused them to come into foster care have been resolved and that it is clear that their parents are able to look after them safely.
Others may stay in long-term foster care, some may be adopted, and others will move on to live independently.
Are there different types of fostering?
Types of foster care include:
· Emergency - where children need somewhere safe to stay for a few nights.
· Short-term - where carers look after children for a few weeks or months, while plans are made for the child's future.
· Short-breaks - where disabled children or children with special needs or behavioural difficulties enjoy a short stay on a pre-planned, regular basis with a new family, and their parents or usual foster carers have a short break for themselves.
· Remand fostering - where young people in England or Wales are "remanded" by the court to the care of a specially trained foster carer. Scotland does not use remand fostering as young people tend to attend a children's hearing rather than go to court. However, the children's hearing might send a young person to a secure unit and there are now some schemes in Scotland looking at developing fostering as an alternative to secure accommodation
· Long-term and permanent - not all children who cannot return to their own families want to be adopted, especially older children or those who continue to have regular contact with relatives. These children live with long-term foster carers until they reach adulthood and are ready to live independently.
· "Connected persons" or "kinship" fostering or "family and friends"- where children who are looked after by a local authority are cared for by people they already know. This can be very beneficial for children, and is called "connected persons", or "kinship" fostering or "family and friends". If they are not looked after by the local authority, children can live with their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters or grandparents without outside involvement.
· Private fostering - where the parents make an arrangement for the child to stay with someone else who is not a close relative and has no parental responsibilities, and the child stays with that person (the private foster carer) for more than 27 days. Although this is a private arrangement there are special rules about how the child is looked after. The local authority must be told about the arrangements and visit to check on the child's welfare.
This rest of this page is about fostering a child through an fostering service provider (all the types of fostering apart from private fostering).
Is fostering a job?
All foster carers are registered with and contracted to a local authority or independent fostering provider. Increasingly foster carers are seen as professionals and receive a fee on a basis of being self employed.
What do foster carers do?
The foster carer's role is to provide high quality care for the child. All children in foster care will be looked after by a local authority and the foster carers will work in partnership with the local authority to provide this. The IFP will support foster carers to work in partnership with the local authority.
The foster carers may also work with other professionals such as therapists, teachers or doctors to help the child to deal with emotional traumas or physical or learning disabilities.
What kind of people become foster carers?
Fostering service providers, including local authorities, need a wide range of people to meet children and young people's very different needs.
Wherever possible foster carers are sought who reflect and understand the child's heritage, ethnic origin, culture and language, and fostering agencies need carers from all types of backgrounds.
People do not need to be married to become a foster family - they can also be single, divorced or cohabiting. Gay men and lesbians can become foster carers.
There are no upper age limits for fostering, but fostering service providers expect people to be mature enough to work with the complex needs that children needing fostering are likely to have, and should have a good support network and be in general good health.
How are foster carers recruited?
Fostering service providers often recruit new carers through publicity campaigns or newspaper or radio advertisements. They may have information stands in public places.
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, the best first step is to get in touch with your local authority's fostering team or with a fostering agency in your area.
What preparation and training do foster carers get?
People who want to become foster carers need to go through thorough preparation and assessment.
· They attend groups where they learn about the needs of children coming into foster care.
· Alongside this, they receive visits from a social worker.
· The social worker will then prepare a report that is presented to an independent fostering panel, which recommends whether this person/family can become foster carers.
· Training does not stop when a person becomes a foster carer. All carers have an annual review and any training that's needed to ensure they are suitable to continue fostering.
· Training is linked to the training and development standards for foster carers set out by the Training Support Development Standards (TSDS) which have to be met by the end of first year of fostering. There are slightly different expectations for family and friends carers and short break carers.
· Foster carers are supported to continue to attend training following approval.
Are foster carers paid?
All foster carers receive an allowance to cover the cost of caring for a child in their home.
For foster carers working on behalf of an agency, this is set by the individual fostering agency, and is usually dependent on the age of the looked after child.
In England the government has now introduced national minimum allowances for foster carers.
Increasingly, fostering is being seen as a "professional" role and many local authorities and independent fostering agencies run schemes, which pay foster carers a fee. This may be linked to the child's particular needs but is often a reflection of the skills, abilities, length of experience or professional expertise the foster carer has.
· Tax relief
The introduction of tax relief in 2003 means that foster carers in the UK do not pay tax on their income from fostering, up to a maximum of £10,000 plus allowances.
More information on this can be found on http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/individuals/foster-carers.htm.
HMRC have also created a free e-learning module for foster carers which provides detailed information about tax credits and benefits along with advice about registering as self-employed, qualifying for care relief, what records you need to keep for HMRC and how to foster in partnership. You can access the course here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/courses/syob/fc/index.html.
· National Insurance contributions
As a foster carer you may be entitled to National Insurance Credits https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-credits/eligibility
Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP) was a scheme to help protect a person’s State Pension. It has been replaced with National Insurance credits for parents and carers. For Foster Carers who completed a tax year before April 2010 may still be entitled to HRP
What about adoption?
Fostering is different from adoption because when a child is in foster care, the child's parents or the local authority still have legal responsibility for them. But when a child is adopted, all legal responsibility for the child passes to the new family, as though the child had been born into that family, and the local authority and the birth parents no longer have formal responsibility for the child.
When there is no possibility for a child to return home to their parents, attempts will be made to see if anyone else in the family can care for them. If this is not possible, a family must be found who can provide "permanence" for the child, to allow them to feel as secure as possible. This either happens through long term fostering or adoption.
If a foster carer decides that they want to adopt a child, they can ask to be assessed as a possible adopter for that child.
Foster carers also have the option of applying to become Special Guardians to children who are already in their care who need more legal security but where adoption is not the right option.
Information kindly provided with permission of CoramBAAF https://corambaaf.org.uk/fostering-adoption/fostering
We offer advice to members of the public and professionals.
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AFA Cymru, c/o Children in Wales, 25 Windsor Place, CARDIFF CF10 3BZ
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In September 2015, The Association of Fostering and Adoption (AFA) Cymru was formed. Whilst its day to day operational services of training, consultancy, professional advice and information are delivered independently of St. David’s, it is by law governed by St. David’s Children Society under the terms of its charitable status.
St. David's Children Society is a registered charity (Registration No: 509163). A Company limited by Guarantee (Registered Cardiff 1546688).
Registered Office: St. David’s Children Society, 28 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3BA.
The Association for Fostering and Adoption Cymru (AFA Cymru) is a Welsh charity that promotes good practice across the breadth of permanency planning for children and young people. It also offers advice, training and consultancy to professionals and members of the public to support best practice.