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If you have you ever considered fostering but didn't know where to start here is some help in making the leap from thinking to fostering.

I'm interested in fostering - where do I start?

The first thing you need to decide when you look into fostering is whether you want to foster for your local authority or getting into a foster care agency. There are big differences in the way of support to finances to training. Private fostering agencies tend to look for carers for children that social services can't find homes for.

You will be asked why you want to become a foster parent, what experience you have, what you can provide and what you are expecting, among other things. This is also your chance to ask questions.

Types of fostering

Fostering could either be long-term or short-term.

Emergency

Emergency foster care is a short-term provision that will be required at short notice, perhaps if a single parent is taken into hospital and does not have anyone to look after their child.

Short-term

A short-term foster carer provides a home for a couple of days to a couple of months. A child is placed until they can return to their own home or until a more long-term care solution is arranged.

Long-term

In some cases you will be required to care for a child much longer. It could be that they need a loving home for a couple of years, or longer.

Leaving care

When a child becomes older they might want to live independently however need help to get used to life on their own.You will help a young person find their feet and learn valuable life and social skills.

Respite/Short-break care

You'll provide respite care, for a few hours or a day during the week or weekend, so that a child's family or full-time foster carer can have a break.

Parent and baby

Younger parents who need help and support to raise their baby are offered parent and baby care. As a foster carer, you would open your home to both parent and baby and teach them the basics.

Support care

If a family has been identified as having problems but foster care has not yet been implemented they can take part in a scheme that will help them deal with their difficulties before it becomes greater.

Will I receive any training/support during the application process?

When your application is being looked into - the process usually takes around 10 to 12 weeks. You’ll be invited to attend a training week/weekend where you can talk to other carers.

Training is ongoing and some courses are mandatory i.e. NVQ, First Aid, Equality/diversity and Rights etc.

What other 'vetting' processes will I encounter, such as interviews, etc?

Once your form has been completed, you have completed your competencies and have done the initial training you’ll be invited to face a panel. The panel is made up of social workers, education liaison officers, doctors, lawyers, agency staff, a local authority social worker and a link worker. A student and other individuals may also be present. The panel will discuss whether your application has been successful and you will know whether you have been approved on the day.

How does the pay structure work?

Your earnings are tax-free - the first £10,000 is free and then you are allowed £200 per week for a child under 11-years-old and £250 for a child over 11-years-old so what you are left with is non-taxable. You are self-employed with a private agency but they will have their own solicitors and accountants to help with self-assessment tax returns, etc.

There are lots of benefits to fostering. It is a very rewarding job as you are helping a child by providing a safe, loving, caring, nurturing, educational and social environment for children who desperately need it.

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