There are many myths surrounding who can foster, meaning that many people rule themselves out as possible foster carers unnecessarily.
Can I foster if…?
I’m gay? Your sexual orientation is not important to being a foster carer and will not stop you from fostering. What is important is that you can provide a young person with a safe, loving and stable home.
I’m transgender? Yes, you can foster if you are transgender. Your gender does not, in any way, determine whether you are suitable to foster.
I’m not a British citizen? British citizenship is not required to be a foster carer in the UK. However, most fostering services would expect you to be a full-time resident in the UK. Children from a wide range of backgrounds need fostering, so foster families come from all walks of life as well. If you are in the UK for a limited time, fostering services will take this into consideration due to the time and cost implications of approving people to foster.
English isn’t my first language? There are a high number of children and young people in foster care who do not have English as their first language. Therefore, being placed in a family where English is not the first language can be beneficial to them. You will need a good level of spoken and written English to be able to communicate with other professionals, support children’s education and make notes and keep records.
I practice a religion? It does not matter what your religion is, and this should not not affect your application to foster. Children should be placed with foster families that can meet their needs, including religious needs. However, you would need to consider how you feel about discussing issues such as alternative religious beliefs or certain ethical issues with a child, ensuring that you abide by the fostering service’s policies.
I’m single? You don’t have to be married or in a relationship to foster. There are loads of fantastic foster carers who are single, but you should be able to demonstrate a network of support.
I’m a single man? When it comes to fostering, it doesn’t matter if you’re single or married. The role of a foster carer is to offer fostered children a safe and caring home and family for as long as they need it. If you can offer this, your relationship status and gender is not considered.
I have a new partner? Having a new partner is not a problem. Best practice is to be open with your fostering service and inform them if there is a someone new who starts playing a prominent role in your life. If the person is involved in the care of the children or young people you are looking after in any way, they must be assessed and approved too. The fostering service’s duty to safeguard the children will always be paramount.
I’m under 21? There is no legal lower age limit for fostering. Some fostering services set their own minimum age – often 21 in line with the law for adoption. There is an expectation that foster carers will have sufficient life experience to enable them to meet the needs of children placed with them, and age can be a factor in this. However, if a fostering service refuses to consider an application from a young adult of 18 or over based solely on age, they must be able to justify this under age discrimination laws.
I’m over 60? Legally there is no upper age limit to foster, and there are many fantastic foster carers in their 60s or 70s. Fostering services are able to set their own upper age limit. What matters is that you are fit and able to care for and meet the needs of any child you are approved to look after.
I have a criminal record? A criminal record does not necessarily stop you from becoming a foster carer. The law states that the only criminal convictions that prevent people from fostering are those that relate to an offence against children or a sexual offence. Minor offences should not count against you in your application to foster. All criminal convictions will need to be disclosed when you apply and the fostering service will obtain an enhanced disclosure and barring check. Any convictions or cautions will be explored with you by the fostering service.
I don’t have my own children? You don’t have to have your own children to foster. Any relevant experience of working with or caring for children is helpful (for example through work, looking after the children of relatives or friends), as is an understanding of child development. However, a lack of relevant experience is not an automatic bar to fostering.
I have no experience of working with children? You will need to have some degree of experience dealing with children to foster. Although you need experience, this does not have to come from having your own children. If your profession involves dealing with children, such as a teacher or in a nursery setting or youth work, this can be deemed appropriate experience. Alternatively, your experience might come from family and friends’ children.
Previously published on the Fostering Network website.