Frequently Asked Questions
You may find the answers to some of your questions below in our Frequently Asked Questions. Alternatively you can post your question on our Fosterline Forums
What information will a fostering assessment want to know of me?
No one has a right to be a foster carer – fostering decisions must focus on the interests of the child.
When a person applies to a fostering service to become a foster carer, the fostering service may assess their suitability to foster.
The fostering service should assess your suitability in accordance with regulation 26.
Required information specified in Part 1 of assessment:
• the applicant’s full name, address and date of birth;
• details of the applicant’s health, supported by a medical report;
• particulars of other adult household members;
• particulars of children in the applicant’s family (whether or not they are members of the household) and any other children in the household;
• particulars of the household’s accommodation;
• the outcome of any request or application made by the applicant, or any member of the applicant’s household, to foster or adopt children or for registration as an early or later years provider under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006, including particulars of any previous approval or refusal of approval;
• the name and address of any fostering service that the applicant has been an approved foster carer for in the preceding 12 months;
• names and addresses of two persons who will provide personal references for the applicant;
• in relation to the applicant and each member of their household aged 18 or over, an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Certificate;
• details of any current and any previous marriage, civil partnership or similar relationship;
• consult the local authority in whose area the applicant lives, if this is different to the fostering service;
interview at least two personal referees and prepare written reports of the interviews;
if the person has been an approved foster carer for another fostering service in the preceding twelve months, request a written reference from that fostering service.
If an applicant has been a foster carer in the previous 12 months, and a written reference from their previous fostering service is obtained, there is no requirement to also interview personal referees. However, the fostering service can seek verbal and/or written references from personal referees, in addition to the fostering service’s reference, if they choose to do so. If the previous fostering service does not provide a reference, for whatever reason, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.
Regulation 26(1B) and (1C) provide that at any point during stage 1 of the assessment process, if the fostering service’s decision maker decides that the applicant is not suitable to foster, they must write to the applicant informing them of this decision and give full reasons for it.
More detailed information is collected in stage 2 of the assessment if it is decided to undertake stage 2 of the assessment.
Required information specified in Part 2 of assessment:
• details of personality;
• religious persuasion and capacity to care for a child from any particular religious persuasion;
• racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and capacity to care for a child from any particular racial origin or cultural or religious background;
• past and present employment or occupation, standard of living, leisure activity and interests;
• previous experience (if any) of caring for their own and other children;
• skills, competence and potential relevant to their capacity to care effectively for a child placed with them.
This information must be taken into account in considering the suitability of the applicant to become a foster carer, and the suitability of their household, and be included in a written report to the fostering panel along with recommendations regarding any terms of approval. There are no specific requirements about the way in which assessment information must be collected or presented to panel.
Can I take a foster child on holiday with me?
Holidays are a natural part of family life and taking foster children with you is encouraged as it can be a way to build trust and bond relationships further as an inclusive member of the family. Holidays can offer foster children the opportunity to experience things they may never have otherwise, new cultures, foods, lifestyles, diets and activities abroad.
This not only broadens children’s horizons but motivates them to embrace diversity and appreciate how people from different backgrounds live their lives. Holidays can educate, as well as be enjoyed by the whole family unit and supports the foster child in their social, emotional, psychological and personal development.
Holiday permission: rules and regulations
As laid out in the Government’s Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards: “Children can stay overnight, holiday with friends, or friends and relatives of their foster carer, or go on school trips, subject to requirements of the care/placement plan, if foster carers consider it appropriate in individual circumstances. DBS checks are not normally sought as a precondition.”
This means that as long as the child’s individual circumstances are taken into account and their welfare and safety considered paramount, in most cases foster children are able to go on holiday. However, if your foster child is going on holiday without you, arrangements should be approved and agreed by the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker. Holidays abroad however need more preparation, planning and local authority consent.
If you are thinking of taking your children with you on holiday here’s a quick checklist:
1. Do you have delegated authority to do so?
2. Is there an agreement in place between the social workers and yourself to allow the holiday?
3. Have you notified the child’s social worker exactly when and where you will be going?
4. Are room-sharing arrangements clear and acceptable, taking into account your foster child’s background and history?
5. Are any vaccinations required and if so permission obtained from the relevant professionals? Local Authority Social Worker, Supervising Social Worker, birth parents where appropriate.
6. Have you obtained a letter of consent from the social worker for passport control as this will be expected when taking a foster child abroad.
7. For holidays abroad bear in mind travel insurance should cover the whole family including your foster children. Take a European Health Insurance card for every traveller if going to the EU.
8. Are there any issues to consider when planning/ preparing for the holiday for example an autistic child may be more impacted by the change of scenery, sleeping arrangements and daily routine than other children.
9. Ensure you take with you any medication, creams, comfort toys, and contact numbers for your social worker and the Emergency Duty Team in case of out of hour’s issues.
10. Most importantly of all – enjoy your holiday!
Effectively holidays with foster children are about being inclusive not exclusive. You are building precious memories and can save photos for the child’s life story book including any souvenirs’ purchased. Holidays promote adaptability and self confidence in children but bear in mind any specific requirements for your foster child as for some too much change can cause behavioural challenges, it’s about knowing the limits of your foster children and working with them to plan an enjoyable break for everyone.
Will I be able to attend the Fostering Panel?
It is usual foe applicants to Foster to be invited to attend the fostering panel, along with their assessing social worker, when their application is being discussed so that they can answer any questions panel may have for them.
National Minimum Standards 14.5 requires that “foster carers and prospective foster carers are given the opportunity to attend and be heard at all Panel meetings at which their approval is being discussed and to bring a supporter to panel if they wish”.
This enables prospective foster carers to meet panel members and make any comments they wish about the assessment and their application to foster. It also gives panel members the opportunity to ask questions of the prospective foster carers in support of their application.
It can be a bit daunting for applicants but panel members will do their best to put them at ease and most applicants really enjoy the experience.
Can I ask for a copy of my Form F (Assessment Report)
Most fostering services use the BAAF Form F as the Report used to recommend suitability or otherwise of foster carers to the Fostering Panel. Foster Carers should always see and sign a copy of their Assessment prior to it being submitted to Panel and some Fostering Services automatically provide a copy for the foster carer to keep. However, the assessment has been done by the fostering service and therefore the Form F belongs to them, rather than the foster carer.
The Foster Carer can request a copy of their Form F/Assessment Report by making a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Ac t 1998. The Organisation then has 40 days in which to provide the information requested and make may a small charge for this. The maximum amount that can be charged is set by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
If a foster carer wants a copy of their Form F in order to transfer between fostering services, the assessing fostering service should make a request in writing to the current or previous fostering service for this. The Form F should be shared with the assessing fostering service in line with revised guidance under Regulation 32(6) of the 2011 Regulations which require fostering services, to share information to support the assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt, if requested to do so by the fostering service undertaking the assessment. In these circumstances the foster carer should give written consent for this information to be shared and can also request a copy of the information provided. For further information see section on Transferring between Fostering Services.
I want to see what is written about me on my Fostering File
Foster Carers have the right, under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) to see and to request a copy of all information held about them, whether on paper files, or electronically. In order to do this they need to make what is called a Subject Access Request in writing. The Organisation then has 40 days in which to provide the information requested and make may a small charge for this. The maximum amount that can be charged is set by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
There are some exceptions to the information that can be shared; this includes:
- information about another person and the other person has not given permission for their information to be shared, or
- if by complying with the Subject Access Request a criminal investigation would be put at risk, or
- is likely to cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of the individual or someone else.
Further information is available by visiting Information Commissioner’s Office
NSPCC Childline number and services
The NSPCC Childline is an important service which offers children in care help, advice and counselling. Many children and young people in care experience instances of loneliness, depression or a feeling of isolation. A child in care can contact a ChildLine counsellor at any time who will listen and offer advice and support.
The NSPCC website is: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/ and the Childline number is: 0800 1111.
Child being moved against their wishes
The Children’s Rights Director has stated that he regularly has to remind local authorities of the statutory guidance on “freezing” decisions whilst a complaint is investigated. Which states that when a decision is made that a child objects to e.g. a placement move, the decision should be frozen whilst the complaint is investigated. (Getting the best from Complaints. Statutory Guidance 2004.) Of course, the decision may well not alter, but the key point is that a child is given the chance to have their voice heard before final decisions are made.
If your foster child is unhappy about a placement move then he or she has the right to have their voice heard, and an advocate should be appointed to support them.
How can I find an Advocate for my foster child?
Each looked after child has an allocated social worker and an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) who is responsible for chairing reviews of their care plans at regular intervals. The child is also entitled to support from an advocate and the IRO should provide information to the child or their foster carer as to how an advocate can be contacted.
Local Authorities are also expected to publicise their arrangements for advocacy services and to provide information about children’s rights. Furthemore, from April 2013, the government will support both the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) and Voice to provide an advocacy advice service for looked-after children and care leavers.
An advocate can help a child make a complaint or other representations about their care. They can accompany them to looked after reviews or other meetings and ensure that their voice is heard in a way that the foster carer is unable to do. If you need to find an advocate for your foster child, the first port of call should be the child’s social worker or IRO (see above). However, if this fails then you should contact either NYAS or VOICE, or enable the young person to do this themselves, and request that an advocate be appointed.
The Department for Education has produced two helpful guides outlining the entitlements of young people who are looked after and young people leaving care. These can be found on our Useful links and resources page or by following this link:
Types of decision
Decisions about the care of a looked after child are likely to fall into three broad areas:
- Day-to-day parenting, e.g. routine decisions about health/hygiene, education, leisure activities, school trips, overnight stays;
- Routine but longer term decisions, e.g. school choice;
- Significant events, e.g. surgery.
All decisions in the first category should be delegated to the child’s carer (and/or the child if they can take any of these decisions themselves). Where day-to-day parenting decisions are not delegated to the carers, any exceptions and reasons for this should be set out in the child’s placement plan within their care plan.
Decisions about activities where risk assessments have been routinely carried out by those organising / supervising the activity, e.g. school trips or activity breaks, should be delegated to the child’s carer. There is no expectation that local authorities should duplicate risk assessments.
Reasons not to delegate to the carer may include the child’s welfare, if the child’s individual needs, past experiences or behaviour are such that some day-to-day decisions require particular expertise and judgement. For example, where a child is especially vulnerable to exploitation by peers or adults, where overnight stays may need to be limited, the foster carer or children’s home may need the local authority to manage this.
Decisions in the second and third categories will require further discussion with others, for example, birth parents and any other holders of parental responsibility. Such decisions should, however, always take account of the wishes and feelings of the child and their foster carer.
The statutory guidance on delegation of authority states:
The expectation must be that the assessment and approval of foster carers, their training and previous experiences of, for example, caring for their own children, will equip them with the skills and competence to undertake the day-to-day caring task, including taking day-to-day decisions about their foster child’s care. Any skills gaps should be urgently addressed so that foster carers are able to carry out their parenting role effectively.
For further information see:
The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013
The Department for Education Webpage on Delegation of Authority to foster carers.
What decisions can a foster carer make about a foster child? (Delegation of Authority)
The Government wants looked after children to be able to enjoy family life and activities in the same way as their peers. Foster children should therefore be grated the same permission to take part in normal and age appropriate activities as parents would give for their own children.
This Government has therefore decided that responsibility for making many of these decisions should be delegated to foster carers (Delegation of Authority) and has issued Statutory Guidance to this effect which takes effect on 1st July 2013.
Please click here for further information.
A useful checklist entitled “Things you need to know about delegated authority” can also be found here.
How many children can I foster?
Schedule 7 to the Children Act 1989 (the 1989 Act) limits the number of children who may be fostered by a foster carer. The “usual fostering limit” is set at three. This means that no one may foster more than three children unless:
- the foster children are all siblings in relation to each other, or
- the local authority within whose area the foster carer lives exempts the foster carer from the usual fostering limit in relation to specific placements (in which case they must set out the terms as detailed below), and
- the foster carer’s terms of approval allow it (any terms of approval must be compatible with the number of children the foster carer is caring for even if an exemption to the usual fostering limit has been granted, unless the placement is in an emergency and for less than six days).
An exemption from the usual fostering limit can be made at the discretion of the fostering service provider that you are approved by.
A child who is not looked after does not count towards the usual fostering limit. Nevertheless, the needs of all children within the household must be taken into account in deciding whether to grant an exemption from the usual fostering limit. This will be pertinent, for instance, if the foster carer is also offering parent and child arrangements.
What if the foster placement doesn’t work out?
It is inevitable that, as foster carers, there will be some children who you find fit in better with your family. Some children will also take time to adjust to living in your home, others will have a “honeymoon period” and then problems will start. If there is a real problem with a child, then it is important to discuss this with your social worker and ask for advice and support in managing this.
You may find if things are not working out for you, then the child will also be feeling that this is not the right place for them. Their social worker should spend time with them to check how they are feeling and if adjustments need to be made these can then be discussed and agreed with you.
It may be that with extra support or training, caring for that child or young person becomes easier and more enjoyable. However, sometimes, it may be best for a child to move to another foster family. If this is the case, a placement review will be called and an alternative placement identified. It is always best if you can help the child to move on in a planned way rather than an abrupt ending.
How will fostering affect my children?
Fostering involves the whole family and will affect your children. The children of foster carers play a key role in the fostering household and should be included at all stages of the fostering process. It can be tough for children who find themselves sharing their parents with children who have led very different lives. However, many children also say that they have enjoyed their parents’ fostering and learnt a lot from it.
Foster carers say it is important you continue to make time for your own children and ensure that they still feel they are special to you. Research suggests that it is preferable to have a reasonable age gap – either way – between your children and those you foster. Some fostering services run groups that support sons and daughters of foster carers and your supervising social worker should make time to speak to them when he or she visits.
Can I foster if I have previously had financial problems?
Previous financial problems should not prevent you from fostering. Your financial situation will be discussed as part of the assessment process. You will need to be able to show that you are now financially secure enough to provide a stable home for any children that are placed with you, and that you are able to manage the fostering allowances paid to you.
Can I foster if I work full time?
Every fostering service will have their own policy regarding foster carers working, but it is very difficult to balance the needs of a looked after child with a full time job. If you foster as a couple, one carer will usually be designated the “main” foster carer and the other could then work outside in another role.
Foster carers are expected to be available to care for children, attend meetings, training, support groups, and to promote and support contact between a child and their family. Fostering services would not usually consider it appropriate for a fostered child to be in full-time day care while their foster carer works.
If you plan to work full-time in jobs other than fostering, you may wish to look into ‘part-time’ types of foster care, such as respite care. Also known as ‘short-break’ or ‘shared care’, this covers a variety of different types of part-time care. You might have a child to stay for anything from a few hours each week to a couple of weekends each month, giving their own family or their full time foster carers a break.
How will fostering affect my welfare benefits?
The benefits system in England is currently undergoing major change with the Introduction of Universal Credit and this is likely to have an impact on what benefits can be claimed.
Foster carers are self-employed and this status has a particular effect on means tested benefits. In the main, fostering payments are disregarded when calculating welfare benefits, however, with the benefits system changing we would advise you to speak to seek advice from the Department of Work and Pensions about your entitlement.to benefits as a foster care.
Do foster carers pay tax and national insurance?
Foster carers are treated as self-employed for tax purposes. There is a simplified income tax scheme for foster carers, called ‘qualifying care relief’. The scheme uses an income threshold to determine how much tax, if any, is due.
Anyone who is self- employed must register to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions. Where foster care is the only source of self- employed income and taxable profit is low, a foster carer may apply for the Small Earnings Exception.
Further information about tax and national insurance is available on HM Review and Customs website at
http://search2.hmrc.gov.uk/kb5/hmrc/forms/view.page?record=6N0xYCRFe_E&formId=3686 or view the finance section on this website.
Are foster carers paid?
All foster carers receive a weekly fostering allowance which is intended to cover the costs of looking after a child in foster care, such as clothing, food and pocket money, and the amount varies depending on the age of the child.
The Department for Education publishes a weekly recommended minimum allowance for fostering in England and encourages fostering services to pay allowances to all carers at these rates and above, however, this is not mandatory.
Some fostering services also pay their foster carers a fee on top of the allowance, in recognition of their time, skills and experience. Some fostering services operate a Skills Level payment system which financially rewards foster carers who complete additional training or provide more complex placements
As both allowances and fees are set locally, you should check that the fostering service you might work for offers allowances which will cover the full costs of looking after a child and you can also enquire about the fees, which are likely to vary depending on the type of fostering you are approved for.
From this allowance you will be expected to give the foster child an amount for pocket money and put some money away for savings each week. The actual amounts will be discussed with you and put into the placement plan for the child.
Can I become a foster carer if one of my own children has disabilities?
Yes. As with any other application from someone who has children of their own, the fostering service will want to discuss how you would balance the needs of your own child with those of the foster child. They would also want to look with you at what the impact on your own child might be from having other children in their home.
I am a smoker, will I be able to be a foster carer?
The health and wellbeing of children is paramount and the Government wants children to be protected from the harmful effects of smoking. The Fostering Services Regulations (England) 2011 require the health of the prospective foster carer to be considered and while the Regulations do not ban smoking, this is something that will need to be taken into account in the fostering assessment.
All fostering services have their own policies in relation to smoking which take into account the impact on the health of any children that will be placed with you and also the importance of foster carers as role models for young people in care. This may mean that prospective foster carers who smoke are given support to stop smoking or that they will be unlikely to be able to foster certain groups such as children under 3 years of age and those with certain health conditions. It is important that you discuss this with any fostering service that you wish to foster for to make sure that you are aware of their policy.
How would our religious beliefs affect our ability to foster?
The Government wants to see more people of different beliefs and faiths, from all sections of the community, coming forward to foster. It is important that children are placed with foster carers who can meet their needs and they are more likely to thrive if their religious and/or ethnic background is taken into consideration.
It does not matter what your religion is and this should not affect your application to foster. However you would need to consider, how you would feel about discussing issues such as alternative religious belief or sexuality with a child, or how you would respond to a child who did not want to take part in any religious ceremonies with your family.
Do you have to speak or write English well to be a foster carer?
A large number of children in foster care do not have English as a first language and being placed in a home where their first language is spoken can be very beneficial for them. You will need an adequate level of spoken and written English to be able to communicate with professionals, support children’s education and to make notes and keep records.
If you have any particular communication needs, such as needing an interpreter or help with keeping records, your fostering service should be able to make the appropriate provision for you.
I have a medical condition, will this stop me from fostering?
As part of the assessment to foster process you will be required to undergo a medical which will indicate whether you are “fit” to foster. This will usually be done by your GP and will cover general health and fitness, plus any long or short term health issues you may have suffered from in the past together with any current medication that you are being prescribed.
The most important factor to be considered is whether you are physically and psychologically fit enough to cope with the demands of caring for a child and to a certain extent on what age group you are intending to look after. As long as you are deemed to be well enough to undertake the fostering role, a medical condition should not prevent you from fostering.
Will a police record stop me from fostering?
All applicants to foster are required to complete an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service which will indicate whether they have committed any offences which would prevent them from working with children. All criminal convictions should be declared when you first apply to foster and the social worker dealing with your application will be able to advise you as to whether you are likely to be accepted as a foster carer.
Unlock is an independent charity which provides information, advice, training and advocacy, dealing with the ongoing effects of criminal convictions and can help enquirers overcome the long-term problems that having a conviction can bring.
Contact Unlock helpline Monday to Friday 10:00am to 4:00pm on 01634 247350
email email@example.com or click the logo to visit the website
Can I apply to foster if I am planning to move house?
It is unlikely that a fostering service would begin the approval process if you are moving as your home forms an important part of your assessment. You should wait until you have moved into your new home before making an application to foster.
If your assessment has started and you decide to move house, your assessment may be suspended until you have moved into your new home.
If I live outside the UK, can I foster?
In general, you cannot apply to become a foster carer with a UK-based fostering service if you are living outside the UK. There are exceptions to this including family and friends foster carers looking after a specific child and British Armed Forces families who are posted overseas. For more information about fostering overseas, please see the International Foster Care Organisation (IFCO) website.
Do I have to be a British citizen in order to become a foster carer?
You do not have to be a British Citizen but you do have to have the right to reside in the UK. Children from a wide range of backgrounds, including those seeking asylum in the UK need foster families who can reflect their cultural or ethnic background. If you are in the UK for a limited time, this would be taken into consideration due to the time and cost implications of approving people to foster.
Can I foster if I have pets?
Having pets does not prevent you from fostering, however, every animal is different and your pets will be assessed as part of the process of becoming a foster carer, taking into account factors such as their temperament and behaviour, and where they eat and sleep. You may be restricted to the ages of children you can foster depending on the type of pet you have.
As a pet owner, you also need to think about how you would feel if one of your pets was harmed or injured by a child. This would be addressed as part of the assessment process.
For further information click here.
Do you need specific qualifications to foster?
You do not need any qualifications to become a foster carer. Foster carers come from all walks of life, with all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and skills. During the assessment process applicants will be offered introductory training and after approval will be assisted to complete the Training, Support and Development Standards (TSD) for Foster Care. Other more focused training will also be offered with lots of support for those who have never done any training before.
At what age can I foster?
Age is generally not a barrier if you are committed to being a foster carer, it depends on a whole range of other factors.
The Fostering Services Regulations do not set recommended ages for foster carers although some fostering services prefer that applicants are over 21. Foster carers need sufficient life experience to enable them to meet the needs of children placed with them, and age can be a factor in this.
There is also no official upper age limit for foster carers and many older people make excellent carers, providing they are fit and well and able to look after a child or young person. Again, many fostering services may set their own upper age limit of the usual retirement age but will be flexible for the right candidates.
How long does the application process take?
When you apply to foster, you will be assigned a social worker who will support you throughout the process and carry out a thorough assessment. With effect from 1st July 2013 the Government has introduced a two stage assessment process which means that an applicant will learn early on in the process whether their application is suitable and they will be proceeding to the Fostering Panel.
If your application proceeds to Stage 2 of the process, you will be invited to attend ‘pre-approval’ training’ by the fostering service as part of your assessment.
The assessing social worker will complete a detailed report about you, with your input, which will then be presented to the fostering panel. Applicants are usually invited to attend the fostering panel when their application is heard so that they can answer any questions Panel may have.
The fostering panel will then make a recommendation to the fostering service as to the applicant’s suitability to foster, and agency decision maker for the fostering service will decide whether to approve you or not.
Generally speaking, the assessment, training and approval process should take around six months, but can take longer. The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011 state that the suitability of a prospective foster carer must be decided upon within eight months of their application to foster.
Can I foster if I am Gay?
Yes you can! In fact an increasing number of lesbian women and gay men have been recruited to foster children and young people in the last few years. This has been helped by a change in the law and a real appreciation of the unique strengths and qualities which gay and lesbian individuals possess. Furthermore, recent research has shown that children thrive as well when bought up in same sex families as they do in heterosexual households.
The first step in applying to foster is always the hardest, so when you approach a fostering service ask how they will support you as a foster carer and whether they have any other lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) foster carers that you could speak to or meet with.
There are several organisations set up by gay and lesbian foster carers and adopters that can offer you further advice and support about being a foster carer. You can find details of these on our Useful links page or on our LGBT foster carers page.
Can single people foster?
Yes. Anyone can apply to foster regardless of whether they are single, married or living with a partner. Also, regardless of whether you have your own children or not, whether you live in your own home or rent, whatever your race, religion or sexuality.
Do I need a spare room to foster?
Most fostering services prefer you to have a spare bedroom if you are going to foster children over the age of 2 or 3. Although there is no regulatory requirement for foster children over the age of 3 to have their own bedroom, the space in your home will be taken into consideration when you apply to foster and this will include the availability of a spare bedroom.
National Minimum Standard 10.6 states that a child over the age of 3 should have their own bedroom where physically possible, taking account of the child’s wishes and feelings. Having their own bedroom will generally be appropriate, and is very important if, for example, a child has a history of sexualised behaviour or there is a risk of bullying.
If you are short of space, you may wish to consider respite care. Also known as ‘short-break’ or ‘shared care’, this covers a variety of different types of part-time care. You could have a child to stay for a few hours or a day each week, giving their own family or their full time foster carers a much needed break.
What is the difference between Adoption and Fostering?
Fostering is very different to adoption and so you will need to think very carefully whether it is fostering a child or adopting a child that you would like to do.
Fostering is a way of offering children and young people a home while their own family is unable to look after them. Fostering is often a temporary arrangement, and many fostered children return to their own families. Children who cannot return home but still want to stay in touch with their families often live in long-term foster care. Foster carers never have parental responsibility for a child that they care for.
Adoption is a way of providing a new, permanent, family for children who cannot be brought up by their own parents. It’s a legal procedure in which all the parental responsibility is transferred to the adopters. Once an adoption order has been granted it can’t be reversed except in extremely rare circumstances. An adopted child loses all legal ties with their first mother and father (the “birth parents”) and becomes a full member of the new family, usually taking the family’s name. . It is a life-changing decision for all involved, and you will have a lot to think about before deciding to adopt
“Fostering for Adoption” is a new Government initiative aimed at avoiding delays and reducing the number of placement moves for looked after children. New practical guidance has been published to help local authorities implement ‘Fostering for Adoption’ with the aim of ensuring more children can live with their potential permanent carers at the earliest possible stage of the adoption process. The guidance was commissioned by UK children’s charity Coram and written by BAAF.
In most cases, being a foster carer does not lead to adopting a child. However, occasionally a child who is fostered may be adopted by their foster carer. This may be because the plans for the child change or that it becomes clear that they can’t return to their parents or to another relative or friend.
When the local authority has decided that adoption is the plan for a child you foster, and you wish to be considered to adopt the child. Your wishes will need to be discussed with the local authority responsible for the child and if possible, go through their adoption process.
Contact First4Adoption’s on 0300 222 0022 or visit https://www.first4adoption.org.uk they can provide information about adoption for foster carers, including the new ‘fast track’ process.
What is the difference between a Local Authority fostering service and an Independent Fostering Provider?
The term “Local authority” refers to the local council for each area. This could be a town or city or a county (for example Birmingham City Council, The London Borough of Brent, Kent County Council). Each local authority usually has their own fostering service. In addition, there are numerous independent fostering providers. These may be run by charities or private companies, and they provide foster placements for children on behalf of local authorities.
Children come into the care of the local authority where they live. That local authority will place the child in the most appropriate placement (foster care, residential care or other arrangement). When seeking the most appropriate placement, the local authority will look for available placements within their own fostering service and with independent fostering providers.
You may choose to foster either for a local authority or an independent fostering provider (agency). It is worth doing some research before deciding who you wish to apply to foster for as once you are approved by a fostering service you cannot be approved by another unless you transfer or rsign.
To find a fostering service in your area, use our Find a Fostering Service link.
What terminology and phrases will I come across
Glossary of Terminology and Abbreviations Associated with Fostering
Child Protection Plan/Care Plan:-
• Every Looked After child must have a Care Plan completed and updated by the social worker.
• The overall purpose of the plan is to safeguard and promote the interests of the child, prevent drift and focus work with the child and the family.
• The Care Plan must be regularly reviewed at Looked After Reviews.
• The Care Plan sets out its overall objectives and timescales (including, by the time of the second Looked After Review, how permanence will be achieved for the child), summarises the needs of the child, identifies the services required to meet those needs and describes the management and support of the plan by the local authority.
• Before a Court grants a Care Order it must be satisfied that a suitable Care Plan has been drawn up.
• The child’s overarching Care Plan should include:
- Placement Plan (setting out why the placement was chosen and how the placement will contribute to meeting the child’s needs)
- Permanence Plan (long-term plans for the child’s upbringing including timescales)
- Pathway Plan (where appropriate, for young people leaving care)
- Health Plan
- Personal Education Plan
Child in Need Plan:-
• A Child in Need Plan (also known as a Child’s Plan) should be drawn up for children who are not Looked After but are identified as Children in Need who require services to meet their needs. It should be completed following an Initial Assessment or Core Assessment where services are identified as necessary.
• Under the Integrated Children’s System, if a Child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, it is recorded as part of the Child in Need Plan.
• One Assessment may be undertaken, which should be completed no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral.
• Under Working Together 2013, a Core Assessment is initiated where an Initial Assessment determines that a child’s needs are complex or high and require a comprehensive assessment to determine the level of services required. The Core Assessment should be completed within 35 days of an Initial Assessment or Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
• It may include a Section 47 Enquiry where there are concerns that the child has suffered Significant Harm.
Parental Responsibility (PR) :-
• Parental responsibility is defined in Section 3(1) of the Children Act as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent has in relation to a child and his property’.
• It is the people with parental responsibility who have the legal authority with respect to their child; they are the decision makers who must be consulted.
• It is important to realise that for children in public care their parents retain parental responsibility; either:
- Sharing it with the local authority, in the case of those on Care Orders;
- or Entirely, in the case of those ‘accommodated’ under Section 20.
• The corporate parent of looked after children, a local authority has a legal and moral duty to provide the kind of loyal support that any good parents would provide for their own children.
In Loco Parentis:-
• A person in loco parentis is in the position of a parent and has a duty to take reasonable care of a child although not holding Parental Responsibility for the child, e.g. a teacher during school hours.
Looked After Child (LAC):-
• Terminology used when a child comes into the care of the Local Authority, usually into foster or residential care.
Looked After Reviews (also called a Statutory Reviews)are held at specified intervals in relation to all Looked After Children.
Looked After Reviews are normally chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer and are designed to ensure that adequate plans are in place to safeguard and promote the overall welfare of children; and to make recommendations, as necessary, for changes to those plans.
Looked After Reviews are convened at the following intervals:
- within twenty working days of the child becoming Looked After;
- then within three months of an initial looked after review;
- then subsequent looked after reviews should be conducted not more than six months after any previous review.
Reviews must take place sooner if the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) requests; the social worker’s assessment is that the child’s welfare is not being adequately safeguarded and promoted; a review would not otherwise occur before the child ceases to be detained in a YOI or secure training centre, or accommodated on remand; the authority proposes to cease to provide accommodation for a looked after child
The requirement to hold Looked After Reviews ends when the child ceases to be Looked After or when the local authority has authority to place for adoption, in which case there is a requirement to hold Adoption Reviews.
Personal Education Plan (PEP):-
• All Looked After Children must have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) which summarises the child’s developmental and educational needs, short term targets, long term plans and aspirations and which contains or refers to the child’s record of achievement. The social worker is responsible for coordinating and compiling the PEP, which should be incorporated into the child’s Care Plan.
• The Personal Education Plan should be initiated as part of the Care Plan before the child becomes Looked After (or within 10 working days in the case of an emergency placement), and be available for the first statutory review meeting.
Health Care Plan:-
• Every Looked After child must have a Health Care Plan which incorporates a statement of the child’s health care needs and how those needs will be addressed.
Team Around the Child:-
• “Team Around the Child is a model of service provision in which a range of different practitioners come together to help and support an individual child. It is often part of the Common Assessment Framework approach.
• The model does not imply a multi-disciplinary team that is located together or who work together all the time; rather, it suggests a group of professionals working together only when needed to help one particular child. In this sense, the team can be described as a ‘virtual’ team; in practice, practitioners will find themselves working with a range of different colleagues at different times to support different children.
• The model is based on the ethos that such flexibility is essential if services for children are to be able to meet the diverse needs of each and every child. Team Around the Child places the emphasis firmly on the needs of the child, rather than on organisations or service providers.”
• Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is the Government agency responsible for Reporting Officers, Children’s Guardians and other Court officers appointed by the Court in Court Proceedings involving children.
• Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) promote the mental health and psychological wellbeing of children and young people, and provide high quality, multidisciplinary mental health services to all children and young people with mental health problems and disorders to ensure effective assessment, treatment and support, for them and their families.
Emergency Protection Order (EPO):-
• This is an order granted by the court to a local authority where there are urgent but not immediate concerns.
• It gives the local authority shared parental responsibility and enables them to remove a child from their birth family.
• This often follows police protection and can last up to 8 days
Police Protection (PP):-
• This is the power of the police to remove a child if they have cause to believe that child would be at significant harm if the child is not removed.
• Ordinarily this will be when there is an immediate risk or imminent risk to the child and the parent(s) have refused consent for removal.
• Short term measure and only lasts for a maximum of 72 hours.