Fostering information pack

Find out more about the process, the role and other frequently asked questions

Here you will find useful documents and links for Northumberland County Council's foster care processes.

We hope that you have found answers to your initial questions on this site. 

Here is our foster care information pack to download:

Foster care factsheets
Foster carer job description
Foster carer pay and finances
Children who foster

More about fostering unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people (UASC Fostering).
Get quick answers to some frequently asked questions.

I am a foster carer with another agency and would like to look at transferring to Northumberland County Council?

If you have previously fostered or currently foster for another agency or council, 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 Caroline on 01670 62 62 62 or complete this online enquiry form.

Do I need a spare room?

Yes. In Northumberland, a fostered child must have their own bedroom, whatever their age. A private space is important for both the fostered child and you as a foster family. The sleeping arrangements for any children who are already members of the household must not be changed in order to accommodate a fostered child. We have to respect your own children's space, and it is different to moving in to share to make room for another sibling. Fostered siblings are sometimes able to share bedrooms with each other.

What if I have my own children at home?

There should be a two to three-year age gap between the age of your own children and any fostered children. Fostered children are generally younger than your own children. If you have young children at home and are interested in fostering older children, then we would look at your work experience with older children and the needs of your family.

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 to support children with their education.  It is also critical for your foster care role as a means of communicating with your fostering team, other teams around the children and your support network of other foster carers.

You will have a professional email address and use of a secure website for foster carers. The foster carer website is where you will store your documents, diary activities and meetings, hear about information from the service, communicate with all foster carers and other professionals and access a library of resources.

A number of training courses are available to complete online, including training for safe internet usage supporting children and young people. For those who are not confident with general computer use, our local libraries offer a range of free training, in addition to support from the team.


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.  The Fostering Network have a comprehensive page about benefits, credits and a link to an online benefits calculator click here to view the page

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 

Once you join the Northumberland Foster Care Service, you get free membership and benefits to FosterTalk who have specific foster care tax advisors.

I am retired, can I foster?

There are no official upper age limits. As long as you are reasonably fit, healthy 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 LGBT+, can I foster?

We welcome applications from single people and couples who can bring different skills, knowledge and life experiences to the fostering role. We are interested in stability and your ability to care for children.

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, 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 the main foster carer. 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 is required to undergo a medical as part of the assessment process to ensure you can offer stability, can care for a child and meet the other demands of the role. Our medical advisor reviews all applications to foster from a physical and emotional health perspective.  They make recommendations on a person's ability to meet the role requirements including how fostering will fit with their individual circumstances too.

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?

There are few things that would prevent you from offering care to children. You must undergo a medical and be physically and emotionally fit to be a foster carer. If you are not sure, please get in touch - we would rather you ask than rule yourself out.

I’ve had depression – can I still foster?
Yes. Past mental health problems, or any other health problems, will not exclude you from becoming a foster carer. As fostering can be stressful at times, like a lot of jobs, it is important we all consider the emotional impact fostering may have on your mental health. We have a responsibility to ensure we are looking after you and your family, and fostering is right for you at this time. A medical is requested from your GP for our looked-after children’s doctor to review as part of the assessment. 

I want to continue work, can I foster?

Yes. Depending on your other commitments and level of flexilibility within your job, 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. These include transporting children to school, family contact and social activities; and for you to attend meetings, support groups and training etc.

My son/daughter have questions about fostering. Where can they find information?

Click here to view our Children Who Foster booklet

Our recruitment officer and team can answer questions from your children and family as you progress through your application. In the meantime, please see our guide which was developed by children who foster.

Why do you need to contact my past partners?
We consider past partners where you have lived together for more than two years, been married or parented children together. Contacting ex-partners during an assessment is standard practice within Northumberland. The independent review mechanism, which investigates practice into how adoption and fostering assessments are conducted in England, advises it is good practice to contact all ex-partners. It's also useful to obtain references from both families when 'it was apparent there had been acrimonious separations' (British Adoption and Fostering: IRM Annual Report 2010/2011).

We appreciate people can be apprehensive about this, particularly when the relationship didn't end amicably. However, the foster care social worker is trained to assess responses accurately and judge this against other positive information available.

Contacting an ex-partner is more relevant when you have parented together. This information is essential to developing our understanding of you as a parent. Unless there are issues relating to domestic violence, or those that would put the applicant or children at risk in any way, contact would need to be made with an ex-partner. Depending on individual circumstances, we may also choose to contact past partners where there has not been any shared parenting. If you have any concerns or queries about this, please talk to the team.

LGBT+ Fostering Week Logo

New Family Social logo

 New Family Social is the UK's leading charity ran by and for LGBT+ adopters and foster carers.  It aims to tackle the myths that may prevent you from exploring adoption or foster care with the campaign theme 'why not you?' 

We've created 5 myth busting videos about fostering, featuring Caroline from Children's Services, answering our most frequently asked questions. You can watch these videos by clicking here.

Will I need to have contact with the foster child’s birth parents?

Yes. Where appropriate for the fostered child you will be expected to work with birth parents and be non-judgemental in your approach. We 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.

Does your service have a privacy statement?
Yes, click to read a copy of the Family Placement Privacy Notice

Why do I need to be assessed?
The purpose of the assessment is to check you are safe people to be looking after our children and young people BUT it also aims to guide you into deciding the right route into foster care for your skills, experience and family situation.

Why is the assessment that long?
On average the assessment takes about 16 weeks after your skills to foster course, during which a social worker will visit you about eight times.  The assessment takes this time to complete to enable the social worker to write a detailed report on your suitability.  Working through the assessment also helps prospective foster carers prepare for the role.

What questions will I be asked, for example, what information do you want on me and my extended family?
The assessment will cover a wide range of areas such as your home, approach to education, family attitudes, health, employment, religion and culture, social life and life experiences.  It also covers potentially sensitive areas of your life, where we can suggest further discussion and areas for further development through training.

Is there an exam included in the assessment process?
No there is not an exam.  Prospective foster carers will need to be active participants in the three-day skills to foster programme which is completed prior to assessment.  During assessment, prospective carers’ skills and qualities are assessed to show how they are suitable for the role and have an understanding of the needs of young people in care.  The assessment is also a chance for any areas for development to be identified.

What references will be taken up? 
Personal references, and where applicable work references, will be taken up to further highlight your skills and qualities for the role of fostering.  These are an important part of the assessment process. Click here for more information about checks and references.
How soon will a child be placed with me once I am approved as a foster carer?
It is likely a child will be placed with you straight after being approved, depending on how wide an age range you are able to care for.  Your worker will discuss any placements with you first, before they come to stay.

Do I have say on which children are placed with me?
Yes, all carers can say if they do not feel they are the appropriate people to look after a proposed child.  However, it is important for carers to consider there are children and young people from a range of backgrounds who need placements.  Your support worker will work with our placements officer to identify suitable matches.

The range of placements you are approved for and open to work with may change as you develop and build your confidence as a foster carer.  It can also change as your own circumstances change, such as your own children getting older, or your own family commitments changing.

What support will I get once I am a foster carer and what out of hours support is available?
The following link provides information on support you receive as a Northumberland foster carer: What if my own children don’t like the children who are placed?
It is important to be aware of how fostering may affect your own children.  While many children enjoy their parents fostering, it can be a challenge getting used to having other children in the house who perhaps have very different backgrounds and experiences to their own.  Please see the following link to the Children who Foster book, which can be used as a resource to prepare your own children for having foster children in their home.  And of course, if they have questions, they can always talk to us.

Is there a network where I can speak with other foster carers?
Yes, there is a wide network of other foster families.  All new foster carers are linked to a current foster carer – our buddy mentor scheme – so you can gain knowledge and support from a more experienced carer in your area.  You also attend a regular fostering support group in your local area.  There is also a secure website for our foster carers, with a Northumberland email account and access to a library of useful information, including a discussion forum to share tips and swap equipment.
Below are useful links for fosters. Please click on them to explore: