Frequently asked questions

Can I foster if:

Do I get financial assistance?
Yes. A fostering allowance is paid for each child / young person you look after every 28 days.  The allowance is to cover the costs associated with day to day care.  You cannot claim child benefit for a child / young person you are caring for, as this payment is included in foster care allowances.  Your supervising social worker will advise you about other benefits you may be entitled to.

I am currently unemployed?
Yes, but your availability to foster will be reviewed should your employment circumstances change. Being at home can offer stability and consistency to a child in care. We understand, however, that some foster carers may need to work and we accept this to be part of family life. All work undertaken by carers will be viewed in terms of the impact on the child / young person and their individual needs.

I am working?
Yes, provided you have enough time to devote to meeting a child / young person’s needs.

I do not own my own home?
Yes. You will need to show that you can care for a child / young person in a safe and secure environment and have the physical space to accommodate a child / young person (preferably in their own room but definitely in their own bed). This is the same regardless of whether you own or rent your home.

I already have children of my own?
Yes, but it is important that you discuss your interest in fostering with your children and ensure they are happy with your decision.

I have a criminal conviction?
It depends on the conviction, when it was committed and how you have lived since. However, people with a police record for violence or sexual offences against children will automatically be excluded. A criminal records check will be made on all applicants.

I have recently suffered bereavement?
If you have recently suffered significant loss ie. miscarriage or death of a close family member, we advise you to wait for a period of time before proceeding with fostering.

I own pets?
Most pets are considered to be a valuable addition to a fostering household. However, difficulties may arise if your pets pose a threat to the health and safety of a child / young person placed with you.

Will I be expected to take children / young people to see their family?
The child / young person’s social worker will organise contact arrangements. Foster carers are sometimes involved in these arrangements, ie. bringing the child / young person along to the contact venue. All such arrangements are discussed and agreed in advance between foster carers, their supervising social worker and the child / young person’s social worker.

What is the difference between fostering and adoption?
Fostering is generally for a limited period – whether it be for a week, a month, a year or more. Adoption is for life. When a child / young person is adopted the sole legal responsibility for that child / young person lies with their adoptive family. In foster care, the legal responsibility is likely to be shared between the child / young person’s birth parents and social services. However, day to day care will be provided by the foster carer.

What if I feel unable to accept the placement of a child / young person suggested by the social worker?
Just because you have been approved as a foster carer does not mean you are obliged to accept any child / young person we may approach you about. You and your supervising social worker will discuss and agree the type of child / young person you would be able to care for. The final choice will always lie with the foster carer.

Do I need to be able to drive?
A driving licence is preferred but is not essential.

Can I become a foster carer if I am gay or lesbian?
Yes we have gay and lesbian foster carers throughout Trusts.

How much authority will I have for a foster child?
The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has published Guidance on Delegated Authority to Foster Carers in Northern Ireland (Feb 2010). Click here to read more.

Will my State Pension be affected?
The Government has announced changes to State Pensions for carers effective from 6 April 2010. To find out more please visit NI Direct Government Services.