Frequently asked questions

You may have many questions about becoming a foster carer, the overall process, or you may be an experienced carer with a specific question. We have looked to cover as many questions as possible for you here, but please do contact us for any extra details, or on any questions you have.
Photo by Tachina Lee

What would you like to know?

If you would like to learn more about fostering then feel free to download our guide below:

Learning about fostering

What is fostering?

Fostering is providing a safe, warm and secure environment for children and young persons through them coming to live with you for a few days, months or for years. This is usually because their parents are unable to care for them. There are many different types of fostering based on the needs of each child or young person.

What is a fostering agency?

This is a dedicated and caring organisation, like Beacon Fostering, that provides support to children and young persons through recruiting, training and developing foster carers.

Fostering agencies are often referred to as IFAs (independent fostering agencies) and Local Authorities work in partnership with IFAs to place their children, that they have responsibility for, in a safe and secure environment.

Beacon Fostering is a privately owned company with a family ethos focused on its foster carers and children.

How long does it take to become a foster carer?

The process takes between 3 to 6 months from the start of your enquiry through to your approval.

The first step is an initial telephone call together to discuss your interest and suitability. We then move onto an initial visit, which can be face to face or through a video call. This takes around 2 hours and can be completed quickly from your enquiry, depending on when you are free. The stage that takes longer is the Form F assessment – this is the full assessment of your suitably to be foster carers. This involves visits or video calls with you. When this is completed, you then attend panel for your approval.

How is fostering different from adoption?

Fostering is entirely different from adoption. Fostering can be short-term, say for a few days, or it can last for an extended period across several years. Adoption, however, is permanent, where the relevant court hearing will transfer the parental rights for that child or young person to their adoptive parents. Their adoptive family is fully responsible for their support and care on a permanent basis. The child or young person may choose to take the family name also.

Is there a shortage of foster carers?

There is a significant shortage of foster carers across England. The number of children coming into care is increasing, and each year foster carers retire or have a change in circumstances leading to them stopping fostering. The current figures show that 6,000 foster carers are needed across England (Source: Fostering Network).

Please contact us to make a difference through becoming foster carers!

Why do children come into care?

Children come into care with their local authority when they cannot remain at home. This is usually because it is not safe. This can be for a range of reasons, but commonly these include neglect, abuse or because the child or young person’s parent (or guardian) cannot look after them and keep them safe overall.

What support and training would I receive?

You would receive extensive support from Beacon Fostering. We provide bespoke support for each foster carer based on your needs, experience, types of children you will be supporting and other considerations. Support includes your competitive foster carer payment, dedicated social worker, access to therapeutic intervention, events, support groups, membership of Foster Talk, out of hours contact and targeted training. You will also have access to respite arrangements when you need a break or time away from fostering.

Who can foster?

Can I apply to be a foster carer?

Yes, we welcome applications and enquiries from everyone. This is regardless of your race, age, gender, background or sexual orientation. There are key requirements, however, including:

• Need for a spare room

• Being aged 21 or above

• Being fully committed to be a foster carer and wanting to change a child’s life

• Having British Citizenship or the right to remain

What experience do I need overall?

You can have fostering experience already or have no experience at all. We will provide relevant training and support you to develop your skills and knowledge. It helps to have parenting experience or time supporting children or young persons. You don’t need to have been a parent though or had your own children.

What age can I foster until?

There is no cut off or upper age limit for fostering. It is important that you have time for fostering and can support the child or young person in your home. You need to have the energy and ability to help the child or young person with their activities, hobbies and interests.

Practical considerations are relevant in that you can take the child or young person to school or take them to their place for outdoor sports or activities.

Can I be a foster carer if I have my own children?

You can be a foster carer with your own children being at home or having left home. Your own children are often referred to as “birth children” under fostering terms, and their wellbeing is taken into account when matching any children to be fostered with you. Birth children events are organised by the agency, and they are truly considered part of the Beacon Fostering family!

Can I be a foster carer if I only rent my home or don’t own my home?

If you are in rental property, then you would need to have the relevant agreement from your landlord. It would also be important to have a good visibility of your plans and that you were not moving in the short term.

Can I apply to be a foster carer if I have a criminal conviction?

This would not always exclude you from being a foster carer. It would involve a review of the nature of your conviction, timing and any other relevant information. We would complete a DBS (police) check as part of your application process. It is best to be upfront and honest with any information early on in your enquiry.

If you have any questions, please just contact us and we can discuss this with you.

Do I need any specific qualifications?

There are no specific qualifications required to be foster carers. It helps to have education qualifications, such as GCSEs or O-Levels, but they are not essential. It is more important on your life skills and commitment to care for children and young persons. Good communication is important, both verbally and written.

Can I foster if I am single?

Yes, you don’t have to be married, live with a partner or be in a relationship to be a foster carer. It is important that you have time for fostering overall and have considered the impact of fostering overall relating to your finances or personal considerations.

Can gay persons be foster carers?

There are no exclusions from fostering based on your sexual orientation. We welcome applications from everyone, and there are many LGBT foster carers.

Can you be a smoker and foster children?

You can still become a foster carer, however you would have to be happy not to smoke in the fostering household. Your approval terms would be for children from age 5 and above.

Becoming foster carers and the process

How do I become a foster carer?

It is easy to start. Please complete a Call Back Request online or contact via email or telephone. One of our dedicated team will then contact you to discuss fostering, your interest, preferences and to talk you through the next steps.

What checks and references do you take?

Please see the summary below of what is completed:

• Enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service)

• Local authority check (or health trust social work)

• Professional references

• Personal references

• School or college checks

• Health and safety assessment for your home – this may include a pet assessment if you have any at home

What is the process to becoming foster carers?

The steps to become a foster carer are outlined below. Please just contact us for extra information or download the Guide to Fostering

1. Initial enquiry – via telephone, email or call back request

2. Initial visit – to discuss your interest further if you are suitable to foster and wish to progress after learning more

3. Fostering assessment – this is completed by a skilled assessor to cover all your fostering information and background

4. Checks and references – these are completed alongside your assessment

5. Training – this is completed alongside your assessment

6. Presentation to panel – your assessment is presented to panel and you also attend. Don’t worry, we will support you here

7. Decision for approval – is taken by our Agency Decision Maker

8. Approval – you are approved after the decision is completed. Congratulations would be shared, and a warm welcome to the Beacon Fostering family!

Finance areas and fostering

How much would I paid to be a foster carer?

You receive a fostering weekly payment, and this is based on the needs of each child or young person placed with you and the fostering placement type.

From the weekly payment, you cover the allowances for the child or young person, including their food, clothing, health, activities, transport and other personal needs, and then remaining balance is to be retained as your “reward” element.

Beacon Fostering has competitive fostering payments, and we provide up to £750 per week for therapeutic placements.

Are there any extra payments or one-off payments?

There are one off payments, which can relate to the following:

• Respite payments – to provide a payment when you take a break from fostering the child or young person with you for a short period (for example, 1 week or 2 weeks)

• Extra support – this can be for additional costs to support the child or young person

• Beacon Sporting Chance – this is extra payments to support a child or young person’s hobbies or sporting activities

• Recruitment referral payment – this is when you recommend other existing or new foster carers to the Beacon Fostering family (following their approval, the payment would be completed)

• Other one-off payments – these can be exceptional or specific circumstances, and they can always be discussed. For example, if you wanted to take the child or young person with you on holiday, but the costs were high

Is my fostering income taxed?

Yes, fostering income is subject to tax, but there is a qualifying relief to help offset the overall tax. This is a tax exemption of up to £18,140 per household (per tax year). You also receive a tax relief for each week a child is in your care:

• Under 11 - £375 per child

• Over 11 - £450 per child

You may also be entitled to National Insurance credits, and these can contribute toward your State Pension.

We recommend you taking relevant tax advice and the above is for information only.

What is my tax status?

Your income from fostering is “self-employed” for tax purposes and you would need to complete a self-assessment tax return to cover this. You will be members of Foster Talk and they can provide help on tax areas and help complete your tax return for a relatively small cost.

Does fostering impact on benefits?

For child benefits for your own children, you can continue to claim this and for other children that live with you. There are no benefits for children placed with you through fostering, because you are receiving the fostering payment. It is best to review your financial position when considering fostering and we can help provide information to assist you. We have a full payment guide on fostering with Beacon and what you would be paid.