What is foster care?

This guest post gives an overview of the important role foster carers provide for children and young people in the UK.

What is Foster Care?

Foster carers and their families provide a stable and caring home for children or young people who are in need of a safe and temporary home. Foster care is usually used to provide temporary care while parents get help with their personal problems, or to guide young people through a difficult time in their lives.

The children return home when the problems that caused them to be placed into foster care have been resolved and it is clear that their birth parents can look after them adequately. Other children may stay in long term foster care, some might be adopted, and others will move on to live independently.

What is the criteria for becoming a foster parent?

Anyone can become a foster carer as long as they can provide adequate levels of care and support to the child or young person that is placed with them. The ideal foster parent is someone that has plenty of patience, commitment, leads a healthy lifestyle and does not smoke.

Foster carers must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age, there is no upper age limit.
  • Be self sufficient financially.
  • Have a good level of overall health.
  • Have no criminal record or charges that are pending.
  • Have a spare bedroom.

Can foster parents keep a full time job while fostering?

This usually depends on the situation of the applicant. In two-parent homes, at least one of the parents is usually required to be at home when a child or young person is placed with them.

Can children in foster care be adopted?

The primary goal of foster placements is to return children and young people to their birth families. However, this is not always possible so the agency will seek an alternative permanent home. If the permanent plan for a child or young person involves adoption, the foster carer is usually given an opportunity to become the adoptive parent.

What is the difference between fostering and adoption?

Adoption is when a permanent home is provided for children who are unable to live with their biological families. Adoption means the child’s legal rights are transferred from the birth parents to the new adoptive family. However, many children or young people that are placed in foster care do not need to move permanently, they just need to be given adequate levels of support and care until they are able to return to their own families, this is fostering.

What checks are usually made by fostering agencies and authorities?

To become a foster carer, applicants and anyone in their household over the age of 16 must undergo a criminal record check. Fostering agencies usually contact the local authorities in areas that the applicant has lived. They will also contact previous employers where they have worked with young people or children, including any volunteer posts. Applicants will also need to pass medical examinations that are undertaken by doctors to confirm they are physically and mentally fit enough to care for a foster child.

Do foster carers get help and support?

The majority of fostering agencies and authorities will provide in depth and ongoing training for new carers. Foster parents are usually allocated their own social worker who will provide them with individual support and supervision. Because many of the children and young people who are placed in foster care have suffered a lot of emotional stress, they sometimes require support from therapists or counsellors. This is usually arranged as part of the foster care plan.

This is a guest post by David at Pathway Care Fostering Agency, an independent fostering agency that provides foster care services and training throughout Wales and England.