Fostering FAQs

Fostering FAQs

Get your free guide to fostering here

Get quick answers to some frequently asked questions.

Questions about my home

Do I need a spare room?
Yes. In Northumberland, a foster child must have their own bedroom, whatever their age. A private space is important for both the foster child and you as a foster family. The sleeping arrangements for any children who are already members of the household must not need to be changed in order to accommodate a fostered child. Fostered siblings are sometimes able to share bedrooms with each other.

What if I have my own children at home?
You can foster providing none of your own children are less than three years old. There should also be a two to three-year age gap between the age of your own children and any foster children. Foster children are generally younger than your own children.

I rent my home, is that a problem?
Your property is taken into consideration in the approval process in terms of health and safety; so as long as you have a spare bedroom and can offer stability, security of tenure and a safe home, it does not matter if you rent or own your home.

What if I don’t live in Northumberland
That’s fine, but you must live in the nearby surrounding areas. We try to keep children as close to their home area, as long as that is safe for them, so they can maintain links with their family, friends and school.

Do I need to have internet access?
Northumberland County Council expects foster carers to have internet access as a means of communicating with your fostering team and support network of other foster carers. Internet access is also important in terms of education for young people. Training courses exist for safe internet usage for young people. For those who are not confident with general computer use, our local libraries offer a range of free training.

Questions about my personal circumstances

I am retired, can I foster?
There are no official upper age limits. As long as you are reasonably fit and have the energy to make a commitment to care for other people’s children for some years, then you can foster.

I am single, can I foster?
You can be a married or unmarried couple, single - male or female. It doesn't matter if you are a parent or not.

I am gay, can I foster?
Whether you are straight, gay or bisexual, we welcome applications from people who can bring different skills, knowledge and life experiences to the fostering role. We are interested in assessing your ability to care for children, not your sexuality.

I don’t have specific qualifications, can I foster?
You won't need any special qualifications – but you will need a practical understanding of children and their needs. We'll give you the training you need as a foster carer, however training is not optional and we’ll expect all adults in the household to attend the skills to foster course as part of your assessment. Training and development is a core part of being an approved foster carer, where you must attain the national training standards and complete mandatory courses within a given timescale.

I have a disability, can I foster?
Everyone who applies to foster will need to undergo a medical as part of the assessment process to ensure you have the ability to care for a child. If you have a disability, our medical advisor will consider the factors and make recommendations on your ability to meet the demands of the role.

I smoke, can I foster?
You will not be excluded on the grounds you smoke, but you must stop smoking in the family home. No child aged less than five years or with respiratory or similar health conditions will be placed in a smoking household. Northumberland County Council encourages participation in a smoking cessation programme.

I have a health issue, can I foster?
You must undergo a medical and be physically and emotionally fit to be a foster carer.

I want to continue work, can I foster?
Yes although you may want to consider fostering on a part-time basis, such as providing respite care at weekends and school holidays, or you can join us as full-time foster carers. As long as you can make a regular commitment, our team are here to guide you about feasible options for you and the children who need your care. Our greatest need is for full-time foster carers who do not have any other work commitments.

I (or a member of my household) have a criminal conviction, can I foster?
Criminal convictions do not necessarily ban you from fostering. Much depends on the seriousness of the offence, how long ago the crime was committed and how you have lived your life since. You cannot foster if you have committed serious offences, like violence, or any offences against children.

Any other criminal convictions and cautions will be considered by the head of children’s services, who will decide whether or not an application can proceed. All household members aged 16 or over, need to agree to an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check, and any other additional safeguarding measures considered by the agency to be appropriate.

I don’t drive, can I foster?
Yes, but you must have the capacity and means to meet the travel and transport requirements of the role, which will include transporting children to school and social activities; for you to attend fostering meetings and training; etc.

My son/daughter have questions about fostering. Where can they find information?
Click here to view our Children Who Foster booklet.

Questions about finance

How much will I get paid for being a foster carer?
This depends on what service you are offering our children and young people, and also your skills and experience. The basic payments information is on the support for foster carers page.

Will being a foster carer affect my benefits?
You should still be able to claim the same benefits when you become a foster carer. Fostering allowance payments received while a child is with you are not normally taken into consideration when calculating benefits, as allowances are to pay for the care of the child. Foster carers may also be able to claim working tax credits. We cannot offer advice on your whole family financial situation – the Citizens Advice Bureau and local benefits can help instead.

Will I be affected by the bedroom tax?
A foster carers’ first spare bedroom is exempt from the bedroom tax. Northumberland provides extra financial support to foster carers with two or more bedrooms via the discretionary housing fund, subject to a full income/expenditure assessment. This also applies to people going through the foster carer recruitment process.
I will be classed as self-employed - where can I find tax and self-employment advice?
Help and advice is available online with HMRC - foster carers' e-learning: Tax for Foster Carers. Alternatively, there are live and pre-recorded webinars: HM Revenue & Customs: self-employed webinars.

Other questions

Will I need to have contact with the foster child’s birth parents?
Yes. Where appropriate for the foster child you will be expected to work with birth parents on a regular basis and be non-judgemental in your approach. We will provide training and support on contact with birth family members.

Can I take my foster child/children away on holiday?
This is generally encouraged, however, it would be included in the information and guidance you receive before a child comes to stay with you. The decision depends upon the child’s individual circumstances and lies with the child’s social worker but where possible, we would encourage you to take the child along.

Existing foster carers

I am a foster carer with another agency and would like to look at transferring to Northumberland County Council?
If you currently foster for another agency or council and would like to transfer to Northumberland, we would like to hear from you. We are keen to recruit experienced foster carers. The process is quicker than a standard application. Please call us on 01670 62 62 62 or complete this online enquiry form.

If you have already entered the fostering process, you will find additional information by clicking here.