If you are thinking about becoming a foster carer then you will have numerous questions which are worth asking and get answered. This page addresses many of the most frequent questions we get asked.
Find out more below…
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This page of FAQs is organised into sections to make it easy for you go straight to the questions you have.
Finances, benefits and tax
This is an amount of money paid to a foster carer or parent to cover the necessities of the care of a child. It is paid weekly to you by your fostering agency. The foster carer allowance is reviewed each year by the government. Foster carers who look after children with specific needs might receive a higher amount.
More details on foster carer allowances
If you are receiving foster carers’ pay (fostering allowance), you are still entitled to receive certain benefits. Ikon’s foster carers automatically receive membership to the FosterTalk, which can provide you with benefit and tax advice, plus informative resources.
Foster parents are paid on average £22,000 per fostering placement per annum. They are eligible for tax relief, so pay none or hardly any tax on their foster care allowance (also known as a fostering allowance). An extra allowance might be paid for children with special requirements like disabilities, or where the foster carer is especially skilled. Additionally, you might be eligible to claim Working Tax Credit.
This is the amount paid to a foster parent for the care of a child. Your fostering allowance covers food, clothing, travel, activities, savings and anything else your foster children may need. It includes enough to help with your own living expenses.
Ikon pays a far greater allowance than the minimum amount set by the UK government. We don’t want you to struggle financially, and you should always be able to give your foster child what they need.
Seeing as every child and young person is different, we’ll also give you guidance on what your fostering allowance should be spent on. This will take into consideration any specific needs they have to maintain a healthy and balanced life.
Foster Parents are classed as self-employed. The government has generous tax allowances in place for those who foster and this means that you will pay little or no tax, depending on how many children you care for.
As a Foster Parent, with a child in place for the entire tax year, you could receive a considerable amount of tax relief. This is made up of three parts:
1. Your personal (tax exemption) allowance of £12,500 (2019/20)
2. A fixed tax exemption rate of £10,000, exclusive to fostering – this is shared equally among any Foster Parents in the same household
3. Additional tax relief for every week that a child is in your care:
- £200 per week per child under the age of 11 years old
- £250 per week per child aged 11 years old or over
If you are fostering a child, aged over 11 years old, you would have a tax exemption of up to £34,500 on your fostering income.
If you are fostering two children, aged over 11 years old, you would have a tax exemption of up to £47,500.
It is important to remember that each individual’s financial circumstances are different. There are many elements that can affect your tax liability so its best to check with the HMRC. Ikon can offer guidance to foster carers to help.
Yes, the UK government requires that foster carers pay self-employed National Insurance contributions. You must register as self-employed when you become a foster carer. If you’d like extra information or some help setting up, call the Newly Self-Employed Hotline on 0300 200 3504. You can call them from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, or 8am to 4pm on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays and bank holidays.
Some foster carers do receive tax credits like Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits (if you have a child of your own). The amount depends on quite a few variables, including how often you work, how old you are, and how much your household income comes to.
Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s best to contact HMRC for an assessment. You can call them on 0345 300 3900. They’re open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, or 8am to 4pm on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays and bank holidays.
Your eligibility to claim benefits depends on your individual circumstances, so we can’t give you a simple yes or no answer. However, there are some general trends you might find useful to know.
If your benefits come from a local council, voluntary organisation, or a private organisation on behalf of the local council, paid foster work shouldn’t affect your benefits. If you claim Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, or Employment and Support Allowance, paid foster work could affect your benefits.
The best way to find out where you stand is to contact your local Jobcentre Plus. You can find the phone number you need on the Job Centre Plus contact page.
It is best to check with your policy provider. Make sure that your policy covers damage or loss caused by a child in your care, including malicious damage and theft of items in your home by the foster child. It may also include legal liability cover for injury or damage caused by the foster child, plus more.
If you are looking after a foster child through Ikon, you’re entitled to claim or apply for perks and benefits. These are in addition to your fostering allowance (what you get paid) and any welfare benefits you claim (like Working Tax Credit) while you foster a child. The perks and benefits can include membership of fostering organisations, discounted tickets and high street retailer discounts, money off leisure activities, free access to support groups for the children/young people… the list is a long one!
Some carers experience inconveniences when they start to care for a foster child. These range from having difficulty picking up prescriptions, to liaising with the school or other important partners. All our carers have the option to get a free Foster Carer ID card to help make things run more smoothly. Once you’ve been approved for a foster child placement, speak with your Supervising Social Worker about getting foster child carer ID
What is Fostering?
When babies, children and young people cannot be looked after by their own family, a local authority and fostering agency work together to provide them with someone suitable to look after them. Foster care is one option.
The child or young person will temporarily live with another person or family in their home. The foster carer or parent will go through an assessment process, carry out several training courses and will be supervised, as well as receiving a weekly fostering allowance.
There are different types of foster care placements and they can be very short, or can continue for years. New parents who need support with their baby can also be placed in foster care so they can learn the skills and gain confidence.
A foster carer is an adult over the age of 21 who looks after children on a temporary basis when their birth parents are unable to. They are trained and reviewed by supervising social workers and other professionals in their local foster agency team. A foster carer will receive a weekly fostering allowance – in effect, they are paid. Their purpose is to provide a safe and stable family environment for the foster child to thrive in. Foster carers’ homes must have a bedroom for the sole use of the foster child.
As with most aspects of foster care, the specifics depend on each individual case. We’ll always share as much information about your potential foster child as possible, but sometimes we may only have basic details. This is often the case in emergency situations, where children or young people have to be placed very quickly.
In all cases, our team will work as quickly as they can to piece everything together. And you will always be the one who decides whether you feel the placement is the right fit for your family. We won’t ever force you into a situation where you feel pressured or obligated.
Before you start caring for a foster child or young person, we will agree on the types of children who would fit in with your family and skillset.
Throughout the fostering assessment process, we work with you to identify your strengths and figure out where your hard work will be the most helpful. We’ll also talk about your ambitions. For example, if you’re interested in working with a foster child who has specific needs, we’ll train you up on the appropriate skills
We encourage you to give your foster children the opportunities to experience as much as possible. And going on holiday is a great way for them to feel like part of your family. Your Supervising Social Worker will need to give permission. It’s rare for them to turn down the offer, as it’s usually such a beneficial experience, but occasionally there’s a genuine reason why they cannot.
Fostering can be fairly flexible, within reason. It depends on what the foster child needs, and what you want too. Some placements might be emergencies, so the foster child might only stay a night or two. Other short-term placements might be a few weeks or could actually go on indefinitely. Even though fostering is intended to be a temporary solution, a foster child could potentially stay with you for years, if it’s appropriate and you’re happy with that. (Some long-term foster children become members of your family and stay in touch for years.)
Yes, a foster child will each need their own bedroom. Technically, babies and toddlers under the age of two years can sleep in the same bedroom as their main carer. However, for practical reasons, Ikon requires all our foster carers to have a spare bedroom available for a foster child, regardless of their age.
Who can Foster?
Pets – like dogs – are great and most of the time, they are not a barrier to your application to become a foster carer. We will need to carry out a safety assessment, especially if a home has more than two dogs of any breed, or a breed of dog identified by the RSPCA as having aggressive tendencies; this list includes Alsations, Bulldogs and Dobermans.
We are unable to consider applications to be a foster carer from anyone who owns a breed of dog registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991/1997.
You can work if you are a foster carer, we are flexible. If you are in a couple, we ask that at least one of you is a stay-at-home carer or a part-time, flexible worker. Single foster carers can also do part-time work, and this should also be flexible.
This is so that, in your role of foster carer, you can fully accommodate the needs of the child, including meetings with your local support team or school, training sessions and other times that might need your full attention
Yes, you can be a foster parent if you are LGBT+. We assess people’s suitability for fostering on how well they can tend to a child’s needs and make a secure home where the child can thrive. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning, we welcome your application. Discover more about who can be a foster parent and the kinds of questions we might ask when we assess your suitability.
Being retired isn’t a barrier to applying to become a foster carer, there is no upper age limit. Recent figures show that the majority of foster carers are actually over the age of 50. Maybe your children have made homes of their own or you’re retired or semi-retired. If you feel you have a lot to offer a vulnerable child or young person, age or retired status isn’t stopping you from taking the next step to fostering.
Your ability to care for a child is the most important element in your application. We do accept applications from a diverse range of people and an offence on your Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) report wouldn’t always rule you out.
We recognise there are many ways to get a criminal record and we will look out all applications and circumstances on an individual basis. All applicants have an enhanced DBS check (we pay for this) and we sometimes get information from other relevant organisations too.
If you’re keen to apply but aren’t sure about the effect of your criminal record, please get in touch – we’re happy to talk you through it.
Our foster carers come from all walks of life and each brings with them unique skills and talents. You must have patience to work through difficulties and the dedication to invest time and energy into supporting a vulnerable child.
You need to be available around the clock (or have a partner you can share this responsibility with). You will have a spare bedroom for your foster child. As a foster carer, you will be asked to be the voice for our children when they need you to be. A sense of humour is also useful!
You don’t have to be perfect to be suitable to be a foster carer; if you have a passion to help give a child an incredible future, we will provide all the support and training you will need along the way to be the best foster carer you can be.
More people are becoming aware that being LGBT+ isn’t a barrier to fostering – and neither is being single. It’s a myth that fostering is only for heterosexual married couples. What matters is your ability to provide a stable, loving and safe environment for a vulnerable child. If you have any more questions about your suitability to be a foster carer, read our who can foster page or get in touch.
Support & Training?
Our training courses are available to all our foster carers – completely free and delivered locally and online. They range from the mandatory overview courses for new foster parents, through to tailored training for specialist types of foster care. We have a bespoke training program for our carers that is dynamic and changes yearly to reflect the learning requirements of our carers. You will never be standing still at Ikon.
The only special qualifications you need to become a foster carer is your basic training. We provide this training free of charge at our office in Walsall.
We do encourage you to sign up for other training to improve your skills, enhance your confidence and broaden your experience. Just like your basic training, all our training sessions are free and delivered at locally.
As an LGBT+ foster carer, you’ll benefit from our membership of FosterTalk as do all our carers but also have training, input and guidance available from LGBT Birmingham , a charity dedicated to supporting the LGBT+ community. Their services – free to you – include information and training. This is on top of the full support package all our foster carers get – support through your application and throughout your time as a foster carer with us. This includes a dedicated Supervising Social Worker; a professional team of support staff; 24/7 emergency backup; a buddy; and a supportive peer network of other foster carers.
If you’re suitable to foster a child with Ikon Fostering, we will offer you as much training as you can complete! This starts with your mandatory basic training on how to foster a child, with optional training provided on a range of topics. Our training courses are designed so you can use your experience to its best effect, as well as learn new skills to help you foster a child. All our courses are free and delivered locally or online.
We offer courses in a wide range of topics, including specialist training. In practical terms, this might be a course about how to care for a foster child who has challenging behaviours, or who has Autism or Asperger’s. We encourage you to take part in additional training throughout your time with us – it will give you confidence and skills to be the best you can be for your foster child, which will have more positive outcomes for them.
All children behave badly at some time and your foster child will be no different. The way you deal with their behaviours will be similar to how you would manage your own children – for example negotiating better behaviour. If you’re stumped on how to tackle it, you can ask your Supervising Social Worker or another foster carers for advice. In addition, we cover managing foster child behaviours appropriately in your basic training and additional, specialist topic courses (all free).
Types of Fostering
The types of fostering in the UK are many and varied. There are numerous reasons for children needing a foster parent; some are urgent and some can be planned for. All children have different requirements, meaning that there are different types of fostering.
Examples include emergency placements, short term fostering placements bridging to adoption placements, mother and baby placements and respite care. Find out more about the different types of fostering in the UK.
As a foster parent, you can decide what types of fostering placement you would like to do. Sometimes the type of fostering has direct bearing on its duration.
In the UK, a foster child might stay for a long-term placement lasting several months to several years. At the other end of the scale, emergency foster child placements might be for one night or a few days. Short term fostering placements might be up to a few weeks or months.
Bridging to adoption placements, mother and baby placements and respite care are all special types. Find out more about the length of foster child placements in the UK.
Babies, children and young people up to the age of 18 can be fostered. Babies and young children tend to be put up for adoption but will be fostered during a transition period (called a bridging placement). A foster baby is usually placed with an experienced foster carer whose skills will be closely matched the child’s particular needs – for example, if they have a medical or developmental issue. You will need to be open to other types of fostering, like toddlers or children of primary school age.
No – it’s expected that a young foster baby would stay in your bedroom, at least until the age of six months. Your bedroom will need to be large enough to comfortably accommodate a cot and other necessary equipment. A foster baby can stay in your bedroom until the age of 2; they will then require their own bedroom. Read more about fostering a baby and other types of foster care.
You decide how long you foster a child for, in the context of the types of placement you will accept. During your foster carer assessment, your social worker will work with you to define what kind of fostering arrangement will suit you (and your family if you have one). You might not want to commit to foster a child for long periods at a time, for example, so you might decide you only want to accept emergencies or provide respite care at weekends. On the other hand, you might be keen to commit to a long-term placement. We will match your needs to those of the foster child, so the arrangement suits everybody. Read more about how long you can foster a child for.
If you work full time but you’d still like to foster a child, providing emergency or respite foster care at the weekends might suit you. Emergency placements are just that – they happen suddenly and you might only have an hour or two’s warning. Respite foster care can be a planned event, even a recurring one. This is where you foster a child (who possibly has special needs or a disability) so their family can have a break. Read more about the different ways you can foster a child.
Becoming a foster carer
Our website is a great resource, covering all aspects of how to become a foster parent – from real life carer stories to the nitty gritty about finances.
Importantly, we can also support you even before you apply from office. Ikon is staffed by a professional team who can help. You can make contact with your local team by filling in our enquiry form for a call back.
During the call, you can ask us about anything. We want you to have the information you need to make your decision. If you decide to go ahead, the recruitment team will guide you through the application process. Read more about the process of becoming a foster parent.
It doesn’t cost you anything to become a foster parent with Ikon. We don’t charge any fees for you to apply to become a foster parent.
We pay for your Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, and we also pay for the GP check-up, as one is required during your assessment. Once you become a foster parent, we continue to support you with free 24/7 support, free training and access to other free resources. Find out more about becoming a foster parent.
You have every right to transfer to us from another fostering agency, or even if you are registered with a local authority. It’s a straightforward process. Please get in touch with your local office by completing our enquiry form. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible
It’s straightforward to transfer from your current fostering agency or local authority to Ikon. The process will vary slightly depending on the agency you’re with now and also whether you have foster children living with you. Make an enquiry with us to find out more.
We have specific framework to approve and induct you as a foster carer with Ikon. Your first step is to get in touch with our team. We will arrange to meet with you and your family at your home for an Initial Home Visit.
Together, we will start compiling your Form F and prepare you for your assessment by the Fostering Panel. If you are approved, we give you essential training and get you ready for your first placement.
Once you get in touch, your application will take on average, from four to six months. Caring for children and young people is an important commitment, so we need to get to know each other well and be sure it’s right for everyone concerned. During this time, we will also do background checks, a medical check with your GP, assessments and training. You will have your Assessing Social Worker with you every step of the way. Read more about the process of becoming a foster parent.
We’ll get your permission to perform background checks on you and your family, including criminal checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), medical checks with your GP, background checks with local authorities, and suitability checks with three referees (non-family members) provided by you. Where there is a charge for these checks, we will pay for them.
We will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis throughout your assessment period – the first is your Initial Home Visit. You’ll get to know each other well and they will complete your assessment report with you. Together, you’ll work out what types of fostering fit your lifestyle best and what types of foster child you will be most helpful to. Read more about the process of becoming a foster carer and the support you can expect.
Once your Assessing Social Worker has collected all the information they need, your Form F and background checks are passed to a Fostering Panel. The panel is made up of fostering, educational and care professionals. You will be invited to attend the meeting at your local fostering office or another local venue. Members of the panel might ask you some questions to help them make a decision. Your Assessing Social Worker will be at your side to offer support throughout.
When you apply to become a foster carer, you will work with with your Social Worker to put together all the information needed for your assessment and approval. This is assessment is officially called a Form F. It summarises your suitability for fostering and details your skills and experiences.
During your assessment to become a foster carer with Ikon, you are required to take part in three sessions of a Skills to Foster course. This course is mandatory and, like all our training courses, free of charge. It will be delivered at Ikon’s office in Walsall. Skills to Foster has specific modules that prepare you for your new role. We encourage you continue training for as long as you are a foster carer – you can choose from a wide range of courses, both online and local to you.
The placements team at Ikon begin matching you with a suitable child or young person to be placed with you. When a match is found, we will liaise with the local authority and pass your details on. You might meet with your potential foster child beforehand or they may be brought to you immediately, depending on the urgency of their requirements – for example, if an emergency placement is required. You might be feeling nervous about your first placement, but don’t forget you will be supported by the team at Ikon, especially your Supervising Social Worker. They will do all they can to help you care for the vulnerable child or young person placed with you.
Yes. If you have a family when you apply to become a foster carer, your family will be involved too. You foster together, as a family. This means your whole family will be assessed when you apply. Read more about the process of becoming a foster carer.
You will need to apply, go through an application process, and undertake training. First of all, we recommend doing your research thoroughly if you think you want to apply to foster a child. It’s a big commitment and potentially life-changing, so you want to know you’re making the right decision. Use our website to explore the fostering application process, the different types of fostering and the qualities that make you suitable to foster a child. If you still feel fostering might be for you, get in touch.
This is a question only you can answer – but we’ll do all we can to help you make an informed decision. It’s true that foster carers need certain qualities – like patience and warmth – do you think this sounds like you?
Fostering is challenging, so you need to be up for this too. It’s also very rewarding, so if you really want to feel you’re putting your efforts into a truly worthwhile direction, then fostering might just be for you! Take a look at other reasons to foster.
You should talk about the idea to start fostering with your family, especially if you’ll all be living under the same roof. We have had a lot of positive feedback from the children of foster parents, who feel they’ve been enriched by the experience of having a foster sibling.
We do support you and your family from the start. Rest reassured, we make every effort to place a child with you that mutually suits your circumstances and specific family dynamic. If you’d like to know more about this aspect of fostering, fill in our quick enquiry form or give our recruitment team a call on 07928666121.
Naturally, the dynamic in your home will change with the addition of another person who has their own likes and dislikes. You’ll need to adapt routines and incorporate the needs of the young people you care for. Thanks to your assessment process and training, you’ll understand potential changes you might need to make and you’ll be prepared.
Also, our wonderful community of foster carers and your local team will help you find your feet and make it a positive experience. Fostering is incredibly rewarding. Knowing you’ve all made a worthwhile decision to make a significant difference to someone’s life is something your family could feel excited about. Find out more about the rewards and benefits of fostering.
From time to time, your children and foster children will fall out or have a clash of personality. It’s normal – after all, siblings can fall out just as easily. Your own skills, experience and training will help you resolve their problems. Over time, you’ll find yourself becoming quite fluent in finding practical solutions.
If you get stuck, you can also ask your Supervising Social Worker – they are there for your children as well as you and your foster children. Our community of expert foster carers are also happy to offer support and practical advice, as many will have been through this too! They prove that, even when it’s challenging, fostering is very rewarding.
Like everyone and anyone, foster children behave according to age, development and experiences. Whereas may seem happy all day long, others act out as the result of personal trauma. Some may have been in foster care for a number of years, but others will still be coming to terms with separation from their families and friends.
When a foster child is overcoming painful experiences, they often have complex feelings they can’t express. This could result in behaviours like lying, stealing and self-harm, loss of sleep, eating disorders and general withdrawal from society.
At all times, you both have the support of a professional team because we recognise how your care and perseverance will truly help your foster child. We train you to build resilience and in tactics that help you support and nurture the children in your care. By showing how you care, improvements can be made, no matter how severe their initial behaviours are.
Children and young people need fostering for many, very different reasons. It might be due to periods of family instability caused by difficult circumstances. Sometimes, children and young people need fostering because they are at risk of harm or neglect from a member of their family. Or, fostering might be used to support families and children with special needs. Each case is different but fostering has the potential to bring about positive outcomes. Read more about why you should foster.
After investing your time and energy into caring for a foster child, it’s inevitable you’ll miss them when they leave. More often than not, they’ll have gone through significant changes for the better and you’ll feel – rightly – proud to have contributed.
As ever, you’re not alone. Your Supporting Social Worker, Ikon support network and peer groups are by your side. Share your feelings and ask for advice. Many members of our team have been foster carers; our advice for the best way to get past this feeling is to take on your next foster child and start helping them.
Over time, you will develop strategies for coping and it does become easier to say goodbye and we will support you every step of the way. Read more about why you should foster.
Your decision about fostering a child has far-reaching implications – so yes, it’s safe to say it will change your life. You might have to give up your job or reduce your hours, for example. If your children have left home, you’ll have to get used to having a child around again. You will make new friends, learn new skills, and discover things about yourself you didn’t know.
We often describe fostering a child as an adventure, and it is – for everyone concerned. It has potential to change the lives of your family and friends as well. And, of course, your foster child’s too.
Start your fostering journey with Ikon Fostering
Dedicated and Supportive
We place young people and children with foster carers across the UK, including: Walsall, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Bilston, Aldridge, Lichfield, Tamworth, Telford, Birmingham, Coventry, Stafford, Warwick, Worcester, Brierley Hill, Stourbridge, the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Shropshire, surrounding areas and many other parts of the UK.
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