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Here we provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding the process of fostering.

General Questions on Fostering

Will I get paid?
A Fostering allowance is paid to foster carers to cover the needs of the child. Information on the
current rates can be found on the Allowances and Fees page of this site. Part of the
allowance is a contribution towards extra utility bills that come from having an extra person living in your home, such as gas, water and electricity bills as well as phone calls and wear and tear on appliances. The rest of the allowance is for the child or young person’s food, clothes, trips, pocket money etc.

All foster carers are paid a weekly fee and an allowance and can progress on a payment scale when they build up their experience and attend training. The fee recognises the commitment that foster carers make to children in Somerset.

Connected persons foster carers will receive the allowance for the child or children they are caring during their temporary approval and will then receive the Level 1 fee in addition to this upon full approval at Fostering Panel. The fee is an acknowledgement of the expectation placed on foster carers after approval at panel to attend training courses regularly and continue to develop their skills and experience to support them to continue provide a high standard of care for the children they are looking after who often have complex needs.

Stepping stones carers also receive an allowance for offering a spare room and guidance to care leavers aged 16 and over.
Will the children and young people go to school if they are of school age?
Yes, they should be at school. However, they may need to be at home with their foster carer when unwell. There may be cases when children are suspended or excluded from school and an alternative needs to be found but this can take time to organise.
Will you offer me any training when I have been approved as a foster carer?
Yes, all prospective foster carers are supported to complete the National Induction Standards for foster carers during their first year of fostering. These Government standards have been developed by the Children’s Workforce Development Council and contribute towards NVQ level 3.

In addition we have an ongoing training programme, which is set in advance and is available to all foster carers. We encourage all carers to attend training.
Will I get help?
You will have the support and guidance of your own supervising social worker. They will work with you and help you with any issues or difficulties that may arise.
Do the children and young people in foster care have contact with their birth family?
The majority of foster children will have on-going contact with family and friends. Parents have a right to know where their children are living and it is likely that you will meet birth parents.
The frequency of contact and level of supervision is different for each child and depends on the circumstances.

Can I give a child in care affection?
Yes, all children need a hug or cuddle at times. However, foster children will have had different
family experiences and some may not be used to physical affection. There will be lots of
opportunities to talk to a social worker in more detail about this on the training and during your assessment.
How can coming into care affect a child?
Children coming into care may not have had the same chances as other children, largely due to neglect or abuse, and they may be behind their peers in terms of emotional, educational and social development. Some children will have specific learning and physical disabilities or health problems.

A foster carer should encourage the child to fulfil their potential and nurture them with love and patience. We provide relevant training while you are completing your assessment and an on-going programme of training is available to help foster carers improve their skills and understanding.
How long will a child stay in care?
The aim is always to return the child to the birth family if it’s safe to do so, and this could take a matter of days, months or years. Those who cannot return home will be considered for adoption or permanent fostering.
Why do children come into care?
Children come in to care for a variety of reasons, it could be because of an illness in the family, a family crisis or because they are at risk of abuse or neglect.
What happens if a foster carer goes on to adopt a child?
Children can occasionally be placed for adoption with the consent of their parents. Their consent must be witnessed by an officer from the Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service (CAFCASS) to ensure it is properly given and that parents fully understand its implications. When a formal witnessed consent has been given, the Adoption Agency (Somerset County Council) is authorised to place the child for adoption. Parents may consent to the placement with specific adopters or any prospective adopters chosen by the Agency. They may also consent to the making of a future Adoption Order.

Where adoption is the care plan for a child being looked after in foster care by the Local Authority and consent is not forthcoming from each parent or guardian of the child, the Local Authority must apply to the court for a care order and placement order. The placement order gives the Adoption Agency (Somerset County Council) the authority to place the child for adoption.

In both instances the wishes and feelings of the birth parents must be sought about the kind of adoptive family they want their child to have, including how the child’s religious and cultural needs are to be met wherever possible.

The birth parents are offered independent counselling and support from an independent agency, Action for Children. Information for the child to have in the future is gathered at an early stage and is given to adopters when the child is placed with you.
What rights do birth parents have after the adoption?
Once an Adoption Order has been made, the birth parents have no legal rights over the child and cannot claim him or her back.
Will I be told about the child's background?
It is very important that you know as much as possible about the child's past. You will be given information about the child, which includes details about his or her background, school history and any medical needs. This information will help you decide if you could realistically parent a particular child/ren. This knowledge will also help you understand the child when they come to live with you, help the child understand the circumstances of them coming into care and help you to find the best way of supporting them in the future.
Can I foster if I have birth children?
Many people who foster have birth children. If you have a child or children already, either as a single parent or as a couple from a previous relationship, whether or not they live with you, you will need to consider the impact of fostering on them. We offer special events to support birth children and recognise their efforts as part of a fostering family.

Fostering a child when you have a birth child or children will mean parenting in a different way and we offer specialist training to parents of birth children to support and advise you on how to manage the needs of different children.

About You

Do I have to be a certain age to become a foster carer?
You need to be over 21 and there is no upper limit on fostering - we value experience.

We need people to be mature enough to be able to work with the complex problems that children and young people who need fostering are likely to have and to be fit enough to do this task.
What age can children and young people already living in my family home be?
There are no definite guidelines about this although fostering works best when the foster child is the youngest in the family. During the assessment we would need to think carefully about the match between your children and the children and young people that you hope to foster. This match needs to consider issues such as age and gender as well as the specific needs and behaviour of an individual child and how that might impact on the children and young people in your family.
Can I work?
You can work and foster, however, you will need to consider if you will be able to balance your work commitments with looking after a child or children. Children and young people who are fostered have often experienced loss, separation and trauma. They need a stable carer to meet their needs and therefore we would be concerned if a young child was going to need a lot of child care.
What if I am on benefits?
Being on a low income or benefits should not stop you from becoming a foster carer but you will need to consider how a child or children may impact on your finances. We can give you some advice and support on this. Plus we may be able to offer financial assistance if you decide to offer long term care to a sibling group of children who have a disability or a special need of some kind.
All foster carers in Somerset receive a fee and allowance for looking after a child and you can work your way up a progression payment scale. Specialist types of foster carer offer a significant fee to carers in recognition of the commitment you need to offer a child. You will need to look into what benefits or Tax Credits you may be entitled to.
Do I have to be able to drive?
No, you do not have to be able to drive. However, links with public transport would be useful certainly for a young person in placement who was able to have a degree of independence.

If you do drive and need to use your car in relation to a fostered young person there is a petrol allowance paid to carers for the mileage they do for trips over and above those needed for everyday family life. The mileage payment would need to be agreed by the child’s social worker.
Can I foster if I have a criminal record?
It's worth noting that if you have a criminal record for any offences you should declare these to us at an early stage. We will give consideration to the type of offence, when it was committed, the extent to which it has a bearing on being a parent and whether it was revealed at the time of application and how you have reflected on your past actions.
You cannot apply to become a foster carer if you or anyone living in your household has a criminal conviction or has been cautioned for specified criminal offences against children and/or some sexual or violent offences against adults.
Checks are taken up through the Disclosure and Barring Service. We will discuss with you any convictions that are recorded against you.
Do I need a spare bedroom?
You do need a spare room to be able to foster. Fostered children and young people need their own space and privacy, and a place to do their homework.
I don’t own my own home, can I still foster?
Owning your home is not essential to becoming a foster carer. If you have the space and security to care for children as they grow up you will be considered.
We will need to know that you have some security of tenure and that your landlord will be supportive of your plan to adopt/foster or if not what your alternative plan will be. During an assessment you will be helped to think about how to ensure your home is safe for any child placed with you.
Can single people foster?
We have been successfully placing children with single foster carers for many years. It is helpful to think about who would be able to offer you emotional, social and practical support once a child is placed. If you have a partner who is not going to be involved in your application to foster we will still need to have some information about them and their potential role with your foster child(ren), now and in the future.
What will happen if I have had previous contact with Children’s Social Care or Adult Social Care (social services)?
Please tell us about the involvement. We will need to read the files relevant to the contact that you made at the time. We will be open with you about our findings and whether they will impact on your interest in becoming a foster carer.
What happens if I’ve fostered before?
Please tell us and we will contact the agency or County Council for whom you fostered with before. We will need to know about the service that you offered and about your experience of fostering for that agency. You will need to give us permission to contact the agency in question.
What if I have a medical condition?
Please raise this question early on in the process, as you may need to have a medical check to assess your health and how this may impact on your role as a foster carer. All applicants will need to have a medical check but it might be wise for you to do this earlier if the condition is of concern to you or the social worker.
Can I foster if I smoke?
Although you will not be automatically excluded from fostering, we will strongly encourage you to give up because of the known medical risks of passive smoking for young children.
If you hope to foster a child aged 0–5 years, it is likely that you will be asked to give up smoking at least six months before we start your assessment because of the medically recognised associated health risks to children.
We can discuss this with you and we can give you information and advice to help you give up smoking or you can approach your GP for information about smoking cessation programmes.

The Application Process

What checks will be done?
A number of checks will be done to make sure you can safely look after a child. They are:
- Disclosure and Barring Service (Police check)
- A medical report via your GP
- A SSAFA check (Soldier, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) if you have served in the Armed Forces
- A certificate of good conduct or similar – if you have lived abroad for more than 90 days consecutively.
- A household risk assessment
- Employment checks
- Ofsted check if you are or have been a registered childminder
- References from family and friends
- An education reference from your child’s school
- A reference from anyone you have parented with, such as an ex-partner. We are mindful that this is not always comfortable but in practice this rarely presents any difficulties. You can speak to your social worker about this.
I have birth children. Will a social worker speak to them?
The assessment process involves looking at your background and potential capacity as a parent, including your knowledge and experience of caring for children. Sources for this may come from your own children. We will need to interview your children even if they are adult, about your ability to provide a safe and caring family for a child in the future. It is also important for you and us to know that they support you in your wish to be a foster carer. The process will help you and your social worker build on your existing knowledge and skills. The assessment will consider the different stages of family life and how you might adapt to possible changes within your family in the future. The process brings up a lot of emotions and strong feelings but we need to be sure that children will be safe.

Parenting children who have not been born to you and who have been fostered is different, whatever your previous experience with children has been. Even if you have a lot of experience of looking after children, you will need to recognise that most children who need foster families will have had a number of difficult experiences, unlike those of most of the other children you may know. In caring for them throughout their childhood, your expectations both of them and yourself need to be realistic as this will be a crucial factor in achieving long term success. The assessment will enable you, your social worker and ultimately the panel to determine whether your family will be able to care for a child who needs to be fostered.
Will my ex-partner know I am fostering a child?
Key information will come from former partners who have jointly parented or cared for a child with a prospective foster carer, such as a former spouse, civil partner or person you have lived with in an enduring family relationship. We will approach your ex partner unless we consider that there are exceptional reasons for not doing so.
Where former partners have not jointly parented or cared for a child with the prospective foster carer, they will only be approached if there is a specific reason to do so.
Who decides if I can foster?
Your assessing social worker will write a detailed report about you to present to the foster. You will see the report and you can attend the panel.
The panel decides whether to recommend your approval and a senior manager considers their recommendation to reach a decision.
Can I attend the foster panel?
You will be invited together with your assessing Social Worker to attend the Panel Meetings. At the Panel Meeting you will have the opportunity to answer and ask questions.
You can find out more about what the foster panel stage is like from our foster carer videos on this website and our Facebook page 'fostering in Somerset'.