Dispelling the myths: A guide to becoming a foster carer

A child and an adult hold hands.
The UK is facing a shortage of 9,000 foster carers this year, Action for Children has said. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/DPA/Press Association Images

The UK is facing a shortage of 9,000 foster carers this year as many people mistakenly believe they would not be allowed to foster children, a children's charity has said.

Action for Children found that many people believe they would not be allowed to foster children due to a number of "myths".

The foster carer myths

  • I'm too old - Legally you must be over 18 in England and Wales or 21 in Scotland to foster. However, there are no upper age limits.
  • I'm male - It does not matter what your gender is, both men and woman can become foster carers.
  • I'm gay - Whether you are straight, gay or bisexual it makes no difference, applicants are welcome from anyone regardless of their sexual orientation.
  • I live in rented accommodation - You do not need to own your own house to foster a child. As long as each child has their own bedroom you can foster.
  • I do not work full time - Do not worry, carers are needed who can give their full-time attention to the children and young people staying with them and the role is paid.

Source: Action for Children

There are approximately 91,000 people currently in care in the UK. Credit: Edmond Terakopian/PA Wire

How to become a foster carer

  • There are a number of fostering services that you can contact - they will send further information about fostering for them and ask questions about your suitability to foster.
  • The local fostering service will then either invite you to attend an information session or offer for a member of their team to come visit you.
  • Your application to become a foster carer will then begin.
  • The fostering service will assign a social worker who will support you throughout the process and carry out a thorough assessment of you and your household.
  • Thorough background checks from the Criminal Records Bureau, local authority and personal and professional referees will be undertaken during the application process.
  • Once the assessment is complete, your social worker will submit a full report to the fostering panel who will consider your suitability to foster and make a recommendation.
  • The fostering service will make a final decision about your approval to foster and inform you in writing if you have been successful along with your terms of approval.

Source: The Fostering Network

Useful links

If you live in England or Wales, you can also use this website to contact your local council and apply to be a foster carer.

Click here to find fostering services in your area

The British Association of Adoption and Fostering offers support and guidance.