Becoming a foster carer

  • What is the difference between a local authority and an independent fostering service like Heath Farm?

    Local authorities have responsibility for placing looked-after children coming into care with foster carers. They may use their own fostering services or ask an independent service to find carers for them. Heath Farm specialise in finding homes for children with more complex needs, and our fees, training and support reflect this commitment.

  • How does fostering differ from adoption?

    Adoption transfers the child’s legal relationship from their birth family to the adoptive family. One of the benefits of fostering, is that it allows children regular contact with their own family. This can be vitally important to them, regardless of what’s happened at home.

  • How long does the application process take?

    It can take between six to eight months from making an official application. The process is thorough to ensure our children will be safe and well cared for.

  • Are there restrictions regarding age?

    No. Provided you are over 21 and you don’t have any medical conditions that may put you or the child at risk, you can foster. Some of best carers are retired.

  • Do I need to own my own home?

    No, you can be renting, but we’ll need to get written permission from your landlord, council or housing association.

  • Can I foster if I have a disability?

    Having a disability does not rule you out, but we would need to ensure that you have the support and ability to care for a child with complex needs. Please contact us to discuss your circumstances.

  • Can I foster if I have a long-term medical condition?

    We’ll consider your condition during your initial assessment. You do need to be physically and psychologically fit to cope with fostering – especially younger children. But please don’t rule yourself out until we’ve talked to you.

  • Can I foster if I have a pet?

    We assess your pet for their suitability to be part of a fostering household. With the right temperament and behaviour, they can be a real asset!

  • Do you need experience to foster?

    You don’t need experience or qualifications but having the right personal qualities and circumstances helps. What you don’t know we’ll teach you, but you should enjoy learning and be committed to on-going training.

  • English is not my first language. Can I foster?

    We look after many children whose first language is not English, and aim to match them with carers from similar backgrounds. As long as you are able to communicate with our team and support the children’s education, you’re welcome to apply!

  • I’m a smoker. Will that affect my application?

    No, but we cannot place children under five-years-old with smokers. To care for a child under five, we would need evidence that you have given up for at least 2 years.

  • What if I have a police record?

    If it’s a minor offence – and especially if it was a long time ago – please don’t rule yourself out, but chat with us in confidence. All applicants receive CRB checks, so we encourage people to be up-front from the start.

Fostering with Heath Farm

  • How are we matched to children?

    On approval, the panel will recommend what age, gender and type of fostering you can offer. With training and experience, this may change. We’ll then consider geography, backgrounds, interests and personality.

  • How many children can I foster?

    You are approved for a certain number of children, taking into account your ability and home circumstances. Nobody can foster more than three children.

  • Can I choose whom I foster?

    Yes. You’ll meet them, and it’s your choice whether or not to offer a placement.

  • Can the children share a room?

    No. If you only have one spare room, you can only care for one child or young person.

  • How long will they stay with me?

    That will depend on the circumstances outlined in the child’s plan, whether the placement works out, and the type of fostering we approve you to offer (short term, respite, long-term). The majority of children at Heath Farm require long-term fostering – perhaps until adulthood.

  • Will I get holidays?

    Yes, you have 23 days’ respite per year.

  • Will I be talking to the child’s birth parents?

    The local authority decides upon the extent of contact between the child and their birth parents in their care plan. We may ask you to drive the child to one of our contact rooms to meet them, or to work with the whole family in a neutral location – never your home. We offer lots of support with family contact.

  • Can I go on holiday with the children?

    We encourage you to take them on holiday – either abroad or in the UK – so yes! You receive an additional summer holiday payment to help. Request our brochure for current fees and allowance rates.

  • Do I transport the child to school?

    We do organise regular pick-ups to take children to school or therapy. We may sometimes ask you to drive them.

  • Can I organise hobbies and activities for the child?

    We want the children you care for to have the same opportunities as others, and we’ll support you to find suitable hobbies and activities for them. The children’s allowance covers the cost.

  • What if it’s not working out?

    If it’s not working out, you can speak to your supervisor. It may be that you need specific support or training to help, but if there is a real problem, it may be best for the child to move to a new home.

  • Can I work and also be a foster carer with Heath Farm?

    It’s important that the primary carer is home-based and available to attend meetings and training during the day, or at weekends. There may be certain home-based jobs that will give you this flexibility, but you’ll need to ensure you’ve plenty time set aside to care.

Finance and Insurance

  • Are foster carers paid?

    You receive a payment fortnightly for each child. This covers a set personal allowance for the child, and a contribution towards maintenance costs associated with caring for them, such as your mortgage, rent, utility bills and groceries. A proportion of this fee rewards you, personally, for your time and skill. See Fees and Allowances.

  • Who pays for the children’s activities and things they need?

    You will pay for them using the children’s allowance.

  • You will pay for them using the children’s allowance.

    No, but our fees are calculated to cover these short periods. You will receive help to budget for this.

  • Do we need to pay tax and national insurance?

    Foster carers are treated as self-employed for tax purposes and there is a simplified scheme in place called the ‘qualifying care relief’. You do not pay tax on amounts reserved for the children’s allowances and maintenance costs. It’s unlikely that you will be required to pay tax on your remaining fee. All self-employed people pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions. You receive detailed advice on registering as self-employed and all tax matters.

  • Will my payment affect my benefits?

    In the main, fostering payments are disregarded when calculating welfare benefits. You may also be able to claim working tax credit.

  • Can I work for more than one fostering agency?

    No, you can only work for one. Find out more about transferring to Heath Farm.

  • Am I insured if a child damages the house?

    You should let your household insurance company know that you are fostering and report non-accidental damage to the police.