It can seem strange to think of fostering as a career, and it’s certainly true that most people who go into this line of work are doing it for reasons other than the money. The role of a foster carer is to look after other people’s children of all ages and circumstances. Sometimes, foster care arrangements are within the family, such as an aunt or grandparent looking after a nephew or grandchild, but often a foster carer has no blood relationship with the child or children they are looking after. Some foster carers look after children for short periods while a parent is in hospital or temporarily unable to care for their child, and others have children for much longer periods.

Qualifications, Checks and Skills

Not everyone can apply to be a foster carer, and there are lots of checks carried out on people who wish to take children into their own homes and care for them. As a minimum, applicants must be 21 or over, a British citizen or have permanent leave to remain in the UK, and have a spare bedroom in their home for each child they wish to foster. The application process for becoming a foster carer is extensive, and is run by the social services department of the local Council. Prospective foster carers will be interviewed at length, there will be training and workshops for those who pass the initial screening, and detailed DBS checks carried out on the foster carers and any other adults who live in the household. Getting approval for foster caring is not a quick process, and social services may decide to approve carers for certain numbers, sexes or ages or children. Expect the whole process to take at least six months.

Duties of Foster Carers

Foster carers look after children whose parents are unable to care for them, and their main duty is to treat them as they would their own children. This includes the basics of feeding, clothing and caring for them, making sure they get to school, keeping them safe and setting boundaries. Foster carers also must advocate for children in their care and represent their views when dealing with social services. Foster carers are on duty around the clock, and may be looking after children with significant emotional and behavioural difficulties. Social workers provide support to foster carers to help them in the care of children placed with them.

Salary and Benefits

Foster caring can be a full-time job, especially when caring for very young babies or children who have very difficult backgrounds. The pay received by foster carers will depend on the number of children who are placed with them, and their needs. Minimum legal payments for foster carers are set by the government and vary depending on where in the country the foster carers live, and the age of the children being looked after. Pay ranges from £123 per week to £216 per week minimum, although some fostering agencies will pay considerably more. Foster carers are classed as self-employed, and must pay their own National Insurance and do their own tax returns.