Frequently asked questions

About fostering

What is fostering?

For many reasons, there are more than 65,000 children living in foster care across the UK; the most common reason is due to an experience of neglect and abuse.

When a child’s needs are not being met at home with their parents or legal guardian, the local authority may decide to remove them and place them with a foster family who can provide them with a safe, nurturing home for varying lengths of time. Foster care placements can last for a day or two, several months or even many years until a child reaches eighteen.

Fostering is often described as one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do – giving children and young people, who haven’t been given the best start in life, the opportunity to thrive.

Learn more about fostering

What training will I receive?

We’re committed to encouraging growth, which for our foster parents means ongoing training.

You'll start with our preparatory training course during your assessment - Skills to Foster - which will provide you with the basic skills and knowledge you need to know when starting out in fostering.

Once you're approved, there’s a core group of modules everyone takes, including Safeguarding and Child Protection, First Aid and more. After that, there’s a wide choice of courses to meet your individual needs and interests, such as Autism, Child Sexual Exploitation and more.  

Available in local offices and also online, our training is designed for everyone so you can be sure you’ll find it interesting and useful. With Orange Grove, the learning never stops. 

Discover our foster parent training

 

How does fostering work?

The ultimate goal of fostering is to improve the outcomes for children, so they can go on to lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

To achieve this, foster care providers, such as Orange Grove, recruit, train and reward a diverse team of passionate individuals who open their homes to children in need. And we’re always on the lookout for people interested in becoming a foster parent.

When a child enters care, they will have their needs professionally assessed and included within their personal care plan. We work closely with local authorities to find a foster parent who will be able to meet these needs and care for them for as long or as little as required.

Foster parents may care for a child for a night or two, several months or years, or even on a long-term basis until the child turns 18.

What's the difference between fostering and adoption?

There are some key differences between fostering and adoption. The main difference is around legal responsibility for the child; when you foster a child, the legal responsibility often remains with the birth parents or the local authority in some cases, however, you become the legal guardian when adopting.

Other key differences include;

  • Length of time you'll care for a child - when fostering, you can care for a child for as little as a day or two, and up to 18 years until they reach independence. With adoption, you'll care for the child as you would your own birth children and they'll be part of your family forever.
  • Age of children - Children who are looking to be adopted are generally younger (under 6), whereas with fostering, the young person is likely to be over 6 or in foster care with siblings. 
  • Allowances - foster parents receive a weekly fostering allowance to cover the cost of caring for a child and provides them with a professional fee. This financial package is not available to adoptive parents.

Find out more about fostering

Do I get any breaks or holidays while fostering?

At Orange Grove, we provide two weeks of paid respite to our foster families, so they can rest and unwind from their role. Respite care is carefully planned in advance and wherever possible, the children will stay with the same respite foster parent.  

What kind of support will I receive?

At Orange Grove, you'll be supported by a local professional team, including your own supervising social worker, a family support worker and a regional fostering manager. You'll also have access to our 24/7 helpline, where you can speak to one of our social workers at any hour, including bank holidays and weekends.

Discover our foster parent support package

Children in care

What types of children need fostering?

There are many different children who are living in foster care, including babies, toddlers, children and teenagers up to 18 years old, from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, requiring different types of foster care placements. And while every child’s history is unique, the most common reasons that a child will come into foster care are due to neglect and abuse.

Find out more about children in care

How long will I have to wait for my first placement?

It’s difficult to put an exact time frame on how long you may wait before you welcome a child into your home as this depends on so many different factors, including:

  • Number of referrals in your area
  • Your personal matching preferences
  • The needs of the children being referred and whether you’re able to meet these needs
  • Local authority decision

We received hundreds of referrals across our agency every day and our dedicated Referrals Team work tirelessly to find the right match for you, your family and the child in care.

Discover the matching process

Can I choose the children I care for?

Absolutely – even though we gain an in-depth understanding of your experience, qualities and preferences from the moment you join Orange Grove, we’ll never put you forward to care for a child or young person without your permission and we’ll always respect your decision for turning down a referral.

We want children and young people to experience stable, secure family home environments and for our foster families to have a positive fostering experience, and this starts with quality matching.

How does the matching process work?

We receive thousands of referrals every month from local authorities looking for suitable foster homes for vulnerable children across the country.

There are a number of things we look for when matching children and young people with foster families. We’ll start by checking the foster carer has availability and has been approved for the placement type and age of the child. Next, we’ll look at the family’s matching preferences, such as gender, age and behaviours.

Once the initial checks are completed, we’ll begin to look at other pieces of information on the referral, such as the child’s known history, the behaviour they’re exhibiting and any specialist care that the child may need. We’ll consider whether the child will fit in with the family dynamic – especially with other children in the home – and your skills, training and past experiences with other young people with similar needs to understand whether you may be suitable.

Find out more about the matching process

Who can foster?

Who can apply to become a foster parent?

Almost anybody can apply to become a foster parent, as long as you meet the following basic criteria:

  • You're over 21 years old
  • You have a spare bedroom that's permanently available to a child
  • You have the legal right to live and work in the UK
  • You're passionate about making a life-changing difference to children in care

It doesn't matter if you're single, gay, married or straight and we encourage applicants from all ethnic backgrounds to join our team. The children we care for come from all walks of life and so we want a diverse community of foster parents to meet their needs. 

You also don't need any experience or qualifications to apply as we provide you with all the training you need to be confident in your role. Although, you will find that some previous experience with children, either in a professional or personal capacity, is beneficial. 

Find out more

Do I need any experience to become a foster parent?

Previous experience with children, either in a professional or personal capacity, is beneficial but it's absolutely not essential.

Our foster parent training programme will provide you with all the skills and knowledge you need to work with children in foster care right from the get-go. Plus, you'll have your very own supervising social worker, a family support worker and regional manager by your side, offering expert guidance and ongoing support. 

Find out more about our foster parent training

Do I need any special qualifications to foster?

No - you don't need any qualifications at all. 

We'll provide you with an in-depth training programme which starts before you're approved and continues throughout your entire career, so you can develop new skills and become a true fostering professional. 

Find out more about our training programme

 

Do I need to have a spare room to foster?

Yes - a spare bedroom is essential and will need to be large enough to hold a single bed, a wardrobe and a small desk. 

Learn more about the requirements of a spare bedroom and why it's important that children in care have their own space below. 

Find out more 

 

How old do you have to be to foster?

The minimum age to foster in the UK is 21 years old. However, we're looking for people with some life experience and may recommend you wait until you're 25 years old unless you have previous experience fostering or work with children in a caring role professionally. 

Other than that, there are no other age limitations to foster - we have a range of foster parents from 26-year-olds to 80-year-olds and everything in between.  

Learn more about the age requirements to foster

Is there a maximum age to foster?

There's no maximum age to foster, so long as you are fit and healthy enough to meet the needs of children and young people. 

We often find that many people don't start fostering until they are in their fifties and their birth children have left home, leaving them with a spare room.

We have a range of foster parents from 26-year-olds to 80-year-olds and everything in between.  

Learn more about the age requirements to foster

Can same-sex couples foster?

Absolutely. You can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and still foster. It's your ability to care for a vulnerable child that matters, not your sexual orientation.

Can I be single from the LGBTQ community and foster?

Yes. Though we welcome same-sex couples, we also welcome single foster parents – female, male or transgender - onto our team of great foster parents.

Can I work full-time and foster?

Whether you can work full-time and be a foster parent will depend completely on your personal circumstances. 

Some things we'll need to consider include:

  • Are you applying to foster as a single applicant or with a partner?
  • If with a partner, what's their working arrangements?
  • What hours will you work?
  • Can you work from home?
  • Is your employer flexible?
  • Will you be available to care for a child over the summer holidays?

These are the sorts of practical things we'll discuss during an initial call to see whether you'd be able to meet the demands of fostering. 

If you're interested in fostering but concerned about whether you'd be able to work full-time and foster, then we always recommend you give us a call and we'll be able to speak to you about this in relation to your own circumstances. 

Simply complete our online form or give us a call on 0800 369 8513 - we're here to help you on your fostering journey!

Can I work part-time and foster?

Whether you can work part-time and be a foster parent will depend completely on your personal circumstances - although many of our foster parents have managed to make this work for both them and the children they're caring for.

Some things we'll need to consider include:

  • Are you applying to foster as a single applicant or with a partner?
  • If with a partner, what's their working arrangements?
  • What hours will you work?
  • Do you have any close friends or family who would be able to help out in an emergency situation?
  • Can you work from home?
  • Is your employer flexible?
  • Will you be available to care for a child over the summer holidays?

These are the sorts of practical things we'll discuss during an initial call to see whether you'd be able to meet the demands of fostering. 

If you're interested in fostering but concerned about whether you'd be able to work part-time and foster, then we always recommend you give us a call and we'll be able to speak to you about this in relation to your own circumstances. 

Simply complete our online form or give us a call on 0800 369 8513 - we're here to help you on your fostering journey!

Can I work and be a foster parent?

Yes - it's possible to work and foster but it's likely you'll need to either work part-time or have enough flexibility in your role, so you can attend meetings, children's reviews and training. You'll also need to be able to drop everything in the event of a child needing you, for example, if they're poorly.

Find out more about working and fostering

I have children, can I still foster?

Yes, you can still foster if you have your own children living at home. In fact, it's often quite nice for the children coming into care to have other children in the home to play with and your own children can benefit from the experience too.

However, it is that your own children are on-board and supportive of your decision to foster and will be part of your assessment so we can get to know them. This will help us when matching a looked after child with your family.

Do I need to own my own home to foster?

No, you don't need to own your house to foster. If you rent either via a private landlord, housing association or council, we will contact them early in the assessment to ensure they are happy with their property being used for fostering. It is advisable to talk to your landlord about your wishes.

Can I foster if I'm single?

Yes, you can. We have lots of single foster parents, both male and female. As a single foster parent, you'll need to consider your wider support network, friends or family you can call upon for help in times of need. 

Find out more

Can I foster if I'm gay?

Absolutely! We have many gay and lesbian foster parents, both in couples and single foster parents too.

Find out more about LGBTQ fostering

Can I foster if I have a disability?

In most cases, it's possible to foster if you have a disability. As part of the assessment, you'd need to complete a medical examination as with all applicants, which will look at whether you have any physical or mental health issues that would stop you from being able to meet the needs of children in care. 

As disability is varied and individual, we always advise people to have an open and honest chat with our team, who will be able to advise on your personal circumstances. 

You can either call us on 0800 3698513 or submit an online form and one of our experienced team will give you a call back. 

Find out more about fostering with a disability

 

Can I still foster if I have a criminal record?

Fostering is still possible for many people with a criminal record unless your criminal record is for recent violence or against children.

We would need you to be open and honest with us from the start and it will form part of the discussions in your assessment to become a foster parent. In many cases, especially where a criminal record was due to mistakes in your youth, this can give you empathy and understanding of issues facing looked after children and young people.

If you have a criminal record and are unsure, we'd like to encourage you to speak to our team who will answer any questions you have without judgement and with understanding.

You can either call us on 0800 3698513 or submit an online form and one of our experienced team will give you a call back. 

Can you foster if you have pets?

Yes, you can absolutely foster if you have pets – in fact, there are some fantastic therapeutic benefits of having pets in the foster home and we often see great companionship between pets and children in care.

We do have to make sure that pets have a suitable temperament to be around children and visitors in the home so that we can ensure the safety of the young people we place in your care.

Please note, we cannot accept applications from anybody who has a banned breed in the UK, as part of the Dangerous Dog Act.

Do you need to be able to drive to foster?

It's preferred that you're able to drive and have access to a car, however, this will completely depend on your personal circumstances and whether we believe we can make it work. 

You'll need to be able to take children to school and appointments, which may not necessarily be on your doorstep, as well as attending training and various support groups and meetings. 

If for example, you live with a partner who drives and is available during the day for drops offs, then it may be completely possible for you to foster. However, if you're single or your partner works and you don't have great local transport links, then it may not be possible. 

We'd always encourage you to have a chat with our team, who will be able to advise on your personal circumstances. 

You can either call us on 0800 3698513 or submit an online form and one of our experienced team will give you a call back. 

Can I foster if I smoke?

Yes, you can. However, you can't foster a child under the age of 5 years and you'll need to smoke outside, even though it's your home.

Can I foster if I take antidepressants or have depression?

Having a mental health condition - such as depression and anxiety - and using medication to manage it won’t automatically rule you out from becoming a foster carer. It’s much more about how you manage your mental health and whether you’ve reached a level of emotional stability that means you’ll be able to provide a secure and predictable family home environment to a child in care. This will just need to be explored as part of our fostering assessment.

We'd always encourage you to speak to our team who will answer any questions you have without judgement and with understanding.

You can either call us on 0800 3698513 or submit an online form and one of our experienced team will give you a call back. 

Application

How do I apply to be a foster parent?

You can start your fostering journey by either giving us a call on 0800 3698513 or you can submit an online form and one of our experienced team will give you a call back. 

What does the application process involve?

There are a number of stages within the fostering assessment, including:

  • Social work visits with an assessing social worker – normally 8-10 visits across several months
  • Background checks, including an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).
  • Personal and professional references
  • Training to prepare you in your role as a foster parent

All the information gathered throughout the process will be brought together in a Form F report and presented to an independent fostering panel, who will make a recommendation on your suitability to foster.

The process generally takes 4-6 months to complete, however, timescales may vary depending on your personal circumstances.

Find out more about the fostering assessment

How long does the fostering application take?

The assessment process generally takes around 4-6 months from the moment you first get in touch - but every assessment is different and timescales may vary. 

What checks are carried out?

We’ll carry out various checks, such as an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service), local authority and health and safety checks, as well as collect a number of personal and professional references.

These checks and references are a vital part of the application process to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children and young people we may place with prospective foster parents. 

Find out more about foster carer checks

Who will you carry out checks on?

We will need to undertake checks on anybody living in your home over the age of eighteen - this will include a spouse or partner, birth children and any lodgers you may have. 

Find out more about foster carer checks

Who will be assessing me?

You'll be assessed by a fully qualified social worker with assessment experience. The social worker may work for Orange Grove or may be an independent assessing social worker.

Allowances

How much is a foster parent paid?

Fostering allowances vary from agency to agency, and even local authority. However, allowances are generally around £400 - £450 per week, per child.

Find out how much you could receive fostering with Orange Grove below.

View allowance calculator

Are foster parents self-employed?

Yes, foster parents are classed as self-employed, so make sure you register yourself as self-employed as soon as you start caring for your first foster child. Once registered, you’ll then be required to complete a tax return every year.

You can register yourself as self-employed in three relatively straightforward ways:
1. Register online here
2. Complete a CWF1 form available online
3. Call the newly self-employed helpline on 0300 200 3504

Would I still be able to claim benefits when fostering?

The fostering allowance doesn’t impact whether you’ll be able to receive means-tested benefits, as it’s not counted towards income. Therefore, benefits such as income support, child tax credit and housing benefit, should remain unaffected.

Can foster carers get income support?

Yes, if you’re looking after a child under the age of 16, you may be able to claim income support. While you wouldn’t be expected to look for work, you would need to attend “work-focused” interviews every 6 months to 3 years to review your claim. If a child in your care leaves, you will need to switch to Job Seeker’s Allowance.

If you’re looking to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance, you’ll be expected to look for work for the number of hours that your fostering duties allow, but a minimum of 16 hours will apply. If you’re waiting for a foster placement and have no children of your own, you must be available for 40 hours a week.

Can I still claim housing benefit while fostering?

Housing benefit is means-tested and so if your household income is below the threshold (your fostering income should be disregarded), then you should still be able to claim for housing benefit.

Can foster parents claim child benefit?

Child Benefit is means-tested, so will be dependent on your income and can only be claimed on your own children, not any children you have in placement.

Do I have to pay tax on my fostering allowance?

Foster carers have specialist tax rules that generally makes the fostering allowance for one child completely tax-free. 

Find out more about tax and fostering

Do foster parents need to complete a tax return?

Yes, as foster parents are classed as self-employed, you’ll need to complete a tax return every year while fostering. The end of the tax year is the 5th April and you have until 31st January to get your tax return submitted. If you miss the deadline, you’ll receive a £100 penalty from HMRC, so make sure you get in early.

You can only submit one self-assessment, so make sure any other sources of income are included within the same tax return. Within your self-assessment, make sure you tick the box for ‘If you are a foster carer or shared lives carer, put ‘X’ in the box’.

Will I be paid in between fostering placements?

No, foster parents are only paid an allowance when they're caring for a child. For this reason, we advice foster parents to be open to a wider age range, as only fostering young children can lead to longer gaps in between placements.

However, we receive hundreds of referrals every day from local authorities and have a dedicated Referrals Team who match these children with the skills and experience of our foster parents.

In addition, we work closely with our foster parents whose children are approaching the date that’s planned for them to move on from their care and work with local authorities to identify any potential placements that can be planned in future.

Do foster parents need to keep receipts for all expenses?

No, there’s no need to keep a record of your day-to-day expenses, as the Qualifying Care Relief represents the standard costs associated with fostering – for example, mortgage or rental payments, heating, electric, food, clothing, etc.

However, depending on the young person in your care and their needs, you may find yourself with additional, tax-deductible costs that are associated with their care; however, evidence of costs is required, so make sure you keep your receipts for these additional costs.

There’s no set list of things that can be deducted on your tax return, each case is handled individually. So, make sure you keep a tab of any additional costs you may be enduring. For example, you may have a child who frequently wets the bed, therefore receipts from the additional washing powder should be stored.

Do foster parents receive child benefits?

You will not receive the child benefit for a child in your care because you'll be paid a fostering allowance instead. Fostering will not affect the child benefit of any birth children or adoptive children in your family.

Transfer agency

How do I transfer to your agency?

If you're thinking about transferring, the first step is to give us a call on 0800 3698513 or you can submit an online form and one of our experienced team will give you a call back. 

We'll need to know if you have children in your care currently or not as the process is a little different in both cases but the team will talk you through this. 

How long is the process for transferring?

From the outset, we try to make the move as smooth and stress-free as possible for you and any children in your care. We aim to complete your assessment within 12 weeks if you're transferring from another fostering agency or local authority and are on hand to support you every step of the way. 

Do I have to complete a new Form F assessment?

Yes, the Form F is not transferable and your current Form F belongs to the agency you currently foster for. However, the Form F process can be quicker as you have been through it before.

Am I able to transfer with my current child in placement?

In order to transfer agencies with children in place, a protocol meeting will be held between ourselves, the local authority responsible for the children and your current fostering agency to ensure everyone is in agreement.

About us

What is the difference between a fostering agency and the local authority?

Unlike a local authority, fostering is all we do. As a fostering agency, our role is to 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 (IFA), like Orange Grove, is a private organisation which recruits, trains and supports its own foster parents.

Local authorities don't always have the resources to meet the increasing demand for foster homes and frequently send referrals to IFAs to find suitable foster parents for children in need of care.

 

 

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