Expert Answers: Fostering a sense of belonging

“My partner and I have had three children together. We discussed fostering as there are so many kids who could do with a secure family. Our kids should be old enough to deal with it, the youngest is 13, but we aren’t sure how to broach it to them or where to go for advice.”

On any one day, there are 57,000 children living in foster care in the UK. Foster care provides them with a safe, secure and nurturing family environment, and allows them to keep in contact with their own families if they wish.

Anyone can apply to be a foster carer, so long as they have the qualities needed to look after children who cannot live with their parents. There is no maximum age limit for being a foster carer.

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If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, the first thing you should do is contact your local fostering service (either the social services department of your local council or an independent fostering agency) and arrange a meeting.

They will explain what fostering involves and will help you decide whether you are right for fostering.

Once it has been decided you are suitable to become a foster carer, The Criminal Records Bureau will check that you have not committed an offence which would exclude you from fostering. You will also have a health check, to rule out any health problems.

A social worker will then help you fill in an application form and you will be asked to attend a group preparation session with other people who are applying.

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Finally, your application will be sent to an independent fostering panel, which will recommend whether or not you can become a foster carer. This can take up to six months.

There are more than 45,000 foster families in the UK.

All foster carers have to complete pre-approval training and are offered ongoing professional development.

You don’t have to have children of your own to become a foster carer; what you need are the skills to foster.

All foster carers receive an allowance to cover costs and around half also get paid for their time, skills and experience

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Potential foster carers don’t have to own their own home to foster.

You don’t have to be married or have a partner to be a foster carer – a third of foster carers are single.

Some children live with foster families for just a few months, while others will stay for the whole of their childhood.

Foster carers work closely with social workers, teachers and other professionals to help fostered children thrive.

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The Fostering Network was formed in 1974 as the National Foster Care Association – it became the Fostering Network in 2001.

Paul Charlson

GP from Brough

THAT sounds interesting, what a good idea.

Of course you have considered the issues. There are significant differences between fostering and parenting.

You may foster children who are disturbed or simply do not fit into your family – this could be very stressful for you all. Similarly, fostering may be fairly short-term and if you become attached to a child, then it is going to be really difficult.

You will be assessed and many of the questions and potential pitfalls will be revealed during the process. If you want to do it as a family go for it.

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Try these websites which can help you start to investigate the process:




Elaine Douglas

A chartered psychologist who specialises in family and child relationships

I THINK that it is wonderful that you are considering fostering a child or children. However, I think that it is something that you need to research and go into with your eyes open , as it’s not for everyone – but it is such a worthwhile role to play and there are benefits for all concerned.

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In your area there will be statutory and possibly independent agencies that deal with fostering and adoption, and I think that one of these should be your first point of reference.

I would suggest that you get in touch with your local council and ask for Social Services – they will tell you who you need to speak to. If you have access to the net then have a look at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering website (

You can download a very useful document called ‘Thinking about fostering’ which gives you a lot of information.

Cary Cooper

Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University

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I AM sure there is no shortage of information, so just go online.

The two more difficult aspects of taking this decision are “psychologically why are you wanting to do this?” and “what impact will it have on your existing children?”.

In terms of the former, any respectable fostering agency or department in a local authority, would want to make sure that your motives for doing this were in the interests of the child, as well as yourselves, and that you were capable of providing the best possible environment for the child.

As far as the second question is concerned, I think it is important to involve your children in the fostering decision-making from the start. It doesn’t so much depend on the age of the children as their attitudes toward it.

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Even before you go down the road of contacting a fostering agency, you need, as a family, to discuss it thoroughly, truly understanding the huge commitment this will be for all concerned.

Dr Carol Burniston

Consultant Clinical Child Psychologist

FOSTERING is not an easy option and the young people who need a family have often had very difficult and disrupted lives.

You need to speak to people who have fostered children over a period of time and think broadly about the impact it may have on your own family.

I would suggest the decision works best if everyone in the family is involved in it. Even the most well-balanced children can be unsettled by the arrival of a new and challenging family member.

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All that said, fostering can be a deeply rewarding experience and can turn a young life around in a more positive and successful direction.

The job satisfaction can be tremendous, but it does not pay well and you need to be clear what you want out of the situation. There are short-term foster places and long-term places which would provide a young person with a family life until they are 18 and able to be independent.

This choice depends on what you feel your family can commit to and cope with.


you can apply to be a foster carer:

* Whether you have your own children or not.

* If you are single, married or living with a partner.

* If you are in or out of work.

* Whether you live in your own home or rent.

* Whatever your race, religion or sexuality.

Fosterline is a free telephone helpline run by the Fostering Network.

It provides information and advice for foster carers and people thinking about becoming foster carers.

The freephone number is 0800 040 7675.


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