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A complete guide to becoming a foster carer

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Whether you’re considering becoming a foster carer for the first time, or are a seasoned foster parent you may still have some questions about fostering. Our guide is packed full of helpful information, tips and real-life examples to help you at every stage of the fostering journey. Some of the topics we’ll explore include:

  • Thinking about becoming a foster carer
  • Types of foster care
  • Skills to foster
  • Providing a safe and supportive home
  • Building relationships
  • Supporting education and development
  • Dealing with transitions
  • Self care for foster carers

Thinking about becoming a foster carer

There could be a number of reasons why you might consider becoming a foster carer. You might be driven by a desire to make a difference and look for a way to make a positive impact when caring for a child or young person. Or, you may be influenced by the challenges and traumas many children in care have experienced.

If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, you may also have plenty of questions about how to get started and be unsure about whether or not you meet the requirements to become a foster carer, along with practical considerations in caring for your foster child’s needs.

Common fostering questions

Who can become a foster carer?

The main criteria to become a foster carer is that you must be over the age of 21, have a spare bedroom, be in good health, be a full-time resident of the UK and have enough time to provide support to a child or young person.

You can become a foster carer regardless of your marital status, gender, sexual orientation or cultural background. And while checks will be made to ensure you are fit enough to look after your foster child, you can foster if you have disabilities or have experienced poor mental health and you can’t be too old to foster.

And, while your financial situation is considered in the approval process, you are still able to become a foster carer if you’re on universal credit or if you rent instead of own your home.

Want to find out more? Read more about the foster care requirements here.

How long does it take it take to become a foster carer?

The application process from when you apply to become a foster carer to becoming a foster carer usually takes between three and six months in total.

Find out more about the application process in our helpful guide.

Can foster carers choose the children they foster?

While you can indicate a preference towards a preferred age or gender, ultimately, the needs of your foster child will come first.

For more information including what criteria is assessed when choosing where to place a foster child read our complete guide.

Do I get paid to foster?

The simple answer is yes, you do get paid to foster. And, here at Capstone foster care, we’re able to provide you with competitive fostering rates, starting at £400 a week.

These are just some of the common questions, for more information check out our fostering FAQs.

Types of foster care

As a foster carer at Capstone, there are various types of foster care that we provide to cater for the needs of children and young people, including our own specialist service, MATTs (Multidisciplinary Assessment Treatment and Therapy Service).

  • Long-term foster care: Long term foster care is when a foster child lives with their foster family for an extended period of time. Usually, this is until they reach adulthood and are old enough to live independently. The aim of long-term fostering is to provide stability while still maintaining connections with their birth family or significant people in their lives.
  • Short-term foster care: The period of short term or temporary foster care can last anywhere between a few days and a few months. Short-term foster carers can be called upon in emergency situations so foster parents should be prepared to potentially take care of a foster child at short notice.
  • Emergency foster care: A type of short-term foster care, emergency foster care is needed to protect a child or young person from an unsafe living environment and typically only last for a couple of days.
  • Therapeutic foster care: Therapeutic fostering is a type of fostering where children and young people are provided with therapeutic care. Here at Capstone, we run a unique program called MATTs (Multidisciplinary Assessment Treatment and Therapy Service) as part of this service we train our foster carers to work with a network of professionals to provide mental health services to children and young people at the point of need.
  • Parent and child foster care: Parent and child foster care is a type of foster care where a parent and child, stays with a foster parent in a case where the parent needs extra help. Usually, this will be a 3-month period where the parent will be assessed on how they are performing and at the end of the 3 months a final decision will be made.
  • Respite/planned break foster care: Respite foster or Planned Break foster care is a type of short-term foster care which provides care for foster children as part of a planned break from their regular guardians.

For more information on the different types of foster care you might want to consider, read our detailed guide.

Skills to foster

When deciding on whether to become a foster carer, it’s important to evaluate whether you have the right skills to become a foster parent. While you don’t need to have formal qualifications to become a foster carer, the core skills and attributes you’ll need to have to become a foster carer include:

  • Patience and resilience: Patience is an essential skill every foster carer needs to have. Parenting can be challenging and giving your foster child time to adjust is essential to the success of your placement. Foster carers should also be resilient in the face of difficulty and be able to bounce back from any potential setbacks.
  • Effective communication: Not only do you need to communicate well with your foster child, but you’ll need to communicate with social workers and other professionals involved in the care of your foster child not to mention your foster child’s family too. Being able to listen actively is an essential skill.
  • Teamwork and collaboration: As a foster carer you’ll be working with a team of professionals to provide the best care for your foster child. Being able to work together as a team with everyone involved in the care of your foster child is a key skill.
  • Empathy and non-judgemental attitude: A key to becoming a great foster carer is being able to put yourself in your foster child’s shoes in order to provide a safe and supportive environment. You should also be able to approach parenting without bias, and understand every child’s situation is unique.
  • Advocacy: A foster carer should advocate for the needs and interests of their foster child. They shouldn’t be afraid to be proactive in order to make sure that their foster child’s needs are met.
  • Love and care: A foster carer needs to demonstrate genuine love and care for their foster child and be committed to providing a nurturing and loving home.

In addition to these soft skills, you’ll also have access to continuous training and development in order to give you the tools you need to become a foster carer.  Our skills to foster training runs over two to three sessions and covers the following topics;

  • What foster carers do
  • Understanding the needs of children in foster care
  • Safe-caring
  • Helping children to deal with change
  • Managing challenging behaviour
  • Working with children who display sexualised behaviour
  • Survival techniques for foster carers
  • The placement process and finance matters
  • Preparing for Panel
  • First Aid

We also provide a number of training courses to improve your level of skills which covers common challenges of fostering as well as specialist training courses for children and young people with more complex needs.

Learn about the skills needed to foster and the training available to you as a foster parent.

Providing a safe and supportive home

Providing a safe and supportive home is at the core of every foster carer’s values. They should include both physical and emotional strategies in order to make your foster child feel at ease.

The environment you offer your foster child should be physically safe and secure. If you’re fostering a young child, you should make sure your home is childproofed and free from hazards. One of the fostering requirements to become a foster carer is to have a spare room, but it is important that your foster child feels at home in this space. Cosy and comfortable décor, with soft lighting, is a good way to give the impression of a safe environment. Or, if it’s more of a long-term placement, giving your foster child the opportunity to customise their room will make them feel more welcomed and valued.

The other side of providing a supportive home is through providing a safe place for your foster child mentally. One of the main ways of achieving this is by building trust with your foster child. Showing genuine care will build a sense of security and create a nurturing environment where your foster child feels safe expressing their emotions and experiences.

Preparing your home ready for your foster child to arrive? Read our guide now

Building relationships

Building relationships can be a challenge for both foster parents and foster children. In order to create a supportive and nurturing environment building relationships is essential. Some strategies that can help foster carers and foster children cement their relationships include;

  • Develop patience and understanding: Simply, practice makes perfect when it comes to building relationships. Practising empathy, compassion and active listening are all ways that can help you and your foster child to build relationships.
  • Self-reflection: Taking time to reflect on your emotions, reactions and triggers can help you to better manage challenging situations.
  • Set realistic expectations: When fostering a child, it’s important to understand they may have unique challenges that require patience and understanding. Focus on small steps and incremental progress to celebrate you and your foster child’s achievements along the way.
  • Take breaks if you need to: Both foster carers and children in foster care should understand that it’s okay to step back and take a break. If you find yourself losing patience, then allow yourself time to recharge and come back with a refreshed mindset.

Adapting to a new foster home can be difficult for children to navigate. It can sometimes be a lonely time. For more information on how to help a lonely child, read our helpful guide.

Supporting education and development

Foster carers play a vital role in the education and development of their foster children. Some of the ways that you can provide support in the development of your foster child include;

  • A positive working environment: Part of providing a safe and supportive home includes creating a positive working environment. Making sure your foster child has access to a space that is quiet, well-lit and free from distractions will create a positive environment.
  • Provide homework assistance: Help your foster child to develop healthy studying habits by providing assistance with their homework when needed. It’s good to encourage independent thinking too.
  • Showing an interest in their education: Being present for parent’s evenings, talking to your foster child’s teachers and staying informed about their progress are all key ways to support their education and development.
  • Address learning gaps: If your foster child has experienced disruption in their education due to changes in their circumstances, you should support their development in these areas by collaborating with their teachers to provide additional resources.

Other ways that foster parents can support their foster child’s education and development includes fostering a love for reading. Read more about how to encourage children to read in foster care here. Or for more advice on supporting your foster child’s education and development read more here.

Dealing with transitions

Dealing with transitions are a key part of being a foster carer. Your foster child will have experienced lots of transitions in their lives from transitioning into foster care, along with other milestones like starting school and making new friends. Your foster child could also experience other life experiences, for example if you as a foster parent split with your partner. And ultimately you and your foster child will likely need to deal with the foster placement coming to an end.

Transitioning into foster care

One of the most important ways you can help your foster child transition into foster care is by being open and honest with your foster child from the get-go. Explaining the transition and addressing any worries or concerns they might have will provide reassurance for your foster child.

It’s always important to, where possible, preserve the connections that your foster child has with their family and important people in their lives. Maintaining a level of connectivity can help to support your foster child’s sense of stability and security.

We spoke to one of our carers about how they helped their foster child transition into foster care “We keep spare plaques handy, so when a new child arrives, we put their names on their bedroom door”.

Supporting milestones

Supporting milestones and major events in your foster child’s life helps with their development and confidence. No matter what event is happening in their life, being present, open and honest, will help them feel supported.

For extra guidance on how to support different milestones such as starting secondary school, read our guide here.

Supporting your foster child through changes in your life

Similarly, to supporting your foster child through their significant milestones and changes in their life, you should be open and honest about any major changes that are happening in your life too.

If you experience any significant changes to your mental or physical health, relationship status or living arrangements, it will mean that you will need to be re-evaluated for your suitability as a foster carer. Our team will support you and your family and deal with any significant change as sensitively as possible while maintaining a focus on your foster child’s wellbeing.

For extra information on what to do as a foster carer if you go through a divorce or separation, read our guide.

Self Care for foster carers

While the well-being and happiness of your foster child are at the forefront of everything you do as a foster carer. It’s important to recognise the importance of self-care for foster carers.

Taking breaks for alone time can be beneficial to prevent burnout. It could be something as simple as taking time out of the week to read a book, watch your favourite TV show or practice a hobby.

You should also maintain your own social connections as well as use the support network available to you as and when you need it. Here at Capstone Foster Care, there’s a wealth of support available to you. From a dedicated social worker to a network of foster carers who have experienced the same scenarios as you have and are able to share insights, advice and support.

We also provide therapeutic training as part of MATTs which is an above-and-beyond training and personal development program devised to build skills in therapeutic care and is completely . These skills can be applied to your own self-care and wellbeing, as well as that of your foster child.

Ready to become a foster carer

If you want to read more helpful advice visit our knowledge centre for the latest tips and guidance.

If you want to find out more about how becoming a foster parent has changed the lives of our carers and children. Here’s what Jenny had to say

“Originally we weren’t going to foster children long term, but after our first foster child’s time with us ended with a successful adoption, we were then matched with twins, who are under the age of 10 and were struggling to find a suitable home. Both children have Autism and it was a challenge to find them the right home. So we initially started with six weeks and said we would reassess after that, but after just six days they had our hearts and we knew we were keeping them.

“As both of the children had significant needs, it was at first a real challenge, but it has been lovely having them as part of the family, and every day we see a difference for the good in them. For them, it’s about having love, acceptance and clear boundaries and direction. What we have done with them isn’t magic, it’s parenting and it has been a complete pleasure having them in our lives.

“It’s really important that you have the right fit for you as a family. The therapeutic approach that Capstone Foster Care has, has really worked for us as a whole.

Don’t be put off by the negatives, because the positives certainly outweigh them.

Being able to make even the smallest bit of difference to a child’s life, and be part of their journey, whether it be a week, a month or even longer is a privilege and has certainly enhanced our family life as a whole.”

If you’re ready to become a foster carer, the first step is to enquire, simply fill in the contact form and one of our fostering advisors will be in touch within 24 hours.

Thinking of fostering?

If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
An experienced fostering advisor from your local area will then be in touch.

The information you provide will be used to respond to the enquiry you have submitted, for further information please refer to our privacy policy.

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Find out more about fostering with Capstone.

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