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Some questions that are frequently asked regarding foster care

Fostering children is good and is very rewarding. People have a lot of questions to be answered before starting foster care. Some of the commonly asked questions are below:

What is the difference between an Independent Fostering Agency and the Local Authority?

Unlike a local authority, fostering is all we do. As a fostering agency our role is support our foster parents. For local authorities their remit is much larger and involves supporting birth families, child protection and supporting children. By being able to focus all of our efforts on our foster parents, we are able to ensure you have the very best support.

What is an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA)?

An Independent Fostering Agency like Sure Start Fostering is a private organisation which recruits, trains and supports its own foster carers. Local authorities use IFAs to provide fostering placements for children in need of care which they have responsibility for.

Why foster with Sure Start Fostering Agency (SSFA)?

Unlike local authorities, who are responsible for fostering, adoption and child protection, Independent Fostering Agencies, like us, focus only on fostering. This means that we can devote all our time to our foster carers and looked after children. As fostering specialists, we’re better equipped to offer you the support, advice, guidance and training you need to provide the best possible foster care.

Do I have a choice about who I foster?

Yes. You can specify the age and gender of a child who will ‘fit in’ best with your family. And you are always involved in deciding which child will live in your home. The child, especially a young person, also needs to be involved in the decision.

Whenever possible the child or young person’s worker will arrange a pre-placement visit so both you and the child or young person will have the opportunity to get to know each other. Although, there will be circumstances where a pre-placement visit is not possible.

How much are foster parents paid?

Foster care is not employment. Families choose to foster because of a concern for children and desire to contribute something special to their community. There is a monthly maintenance payment to foster parents to cover the direct costs of caring for a child. However, foster parents are not expected to give up employment.

How long will a child stay with me?

The stay will vary with the circumstances. Every effort is made to have children who are in care return to their families as soon as possible. When this in not possible, arrangements are made for an alternate permanent living arrangement. Sometimes children do not return home and are not adopted, particularly older children. So although foster placements are usually temporary, you may be asked to continue to foster a child to independence. This is a significant responsibility and requires a special commitment.

I’m single, so can I be a foster parent:

Foster carers are not required to be married. They need to have a desire to look after children and young people and help them work toward a brighter future. Single men and women are welcomed, and encouraged to become foster carers. As a foster carer, you are part of a larger team so there is no need to have a spouse to share the responsibilities of caring for a child. You never foster alone; there is a strong team working with you.

I don’t own a home, so can I be a foster parent:

You do not need to own your home – it’s very acceptable for it to be a rented property, however, you do have to check with your landlord before applying and have them provide approval for foster children in their property. You will also need to provide not only financial security, but stability too if you are living in rented accommodation – meaning it would be not be recommended to keep moving around if you are taking care of a foster child.

I’m Gay, I’d love to foster:

Being gay does not disqualify you from being a foster carer. Single gay and lesbian people, as well as gay and lesbian couples, are encouraged to become foster carers. Of all the components that go into a foster carer, your sexual orientation is not on the list.

Any placement is discussed with both the child and the foster parent before it happens and whether you’re male or female, gay or straight, bisexual or transgender is not an issue.

Can I foster whilst working:

The reality is that when you become a foster carer, your first obligation is to the child in care and this is a 24/7 job. However, fostering may turn out to be a sporadic job and you might not always have a placement and, without a placement, there is no payment. When you apply to be a foster carer, you discuss your job and your desire to keep it. Arrangements can often be made to accommodate it along with fostering. If for instance, you have a spouse or partner, one of you can always be available for the child.

I am retired, so can I foster:

At Sure Start Fostering, we have a lower age limit of 21 but that is mostly about maturity. There is no upper age limit. There are, however, health requirements. If you are in good health, mentally and physically, and have a high energy level, being a senior citizen is not an impediment to being a foster parent.

I have a baby, so can I foster:

Do not eliminate the possibility of fostering because you have a baby. When you apply to become a foster parent, your current situation is discussed and assessed. A new baby in your household will bring many changes but these changes do not necessarily mean you cannot foster. Your ability to provide the care that your baby requires and that the foster child needs will be considered. It is important that you are not overwhelmed and that neither the baby nor the child in care is left wanting, or needing, more attention and care than you can provide.

I have pets, so can I become a foster parent:

Pets are considered great therapy pals for children in care so the first response to this myth is that you can become a foster parent if you have pets. However, there are two exceptions to the statement that having pets will not disqualify you from fostering.

  • Local authorities will not allow children or young people to be placed in homes with more than three dogs or in a home with dogs listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act.
  • Guidelines to ensure pets are healthy, gardens are kept clean and pets are kept under control also need to be adhered to.
I am disabled, can I take care of a foster child

Not all disabilities disqualify you from fostering. While there is an emphasis on good health for foster carers, disabilities are not necessarily disqualifiers. If fostering will not put your health at risk, a disability will not prevent you from being a foster parent. There are expectations that must be met and if you can perform typical daily activities and attend necessary meetings, your disability will not be a preventative factor in fostering.

I don’t have my own children, can I become a foster parent

Experience is not required to be a foster parent. Not everyone can have children. This does not mean that you don’t have all the necessary mental, physical, and emotional equipment necessary to foster a child.

As for the experience, the agency provides ongoing training and support. If you have never had a child and therefore think that you will not know what to expect from a child placed with you, do not be concerned. A supervising social worker will be available for you from the beginning of your assessment and throughout your journey as a carer.

What kind of support will I receive?

Sure Start Fostering Agency offers Excellent support to all our fostering families. You will be supported by your own supervising social worker and a fostering manager. You will have access to support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.