Would you like to find out more about becoming a foster carer in Northern Ireland? Call 028 90 020 247 or register your interest here

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FAQ’s

If you have any burning questions before embarking on your foster care journey, you’ll likely find the answers you’re looking for on here.

If you need any extra help, don’t hesitate to add your details to the form at the bottom of this page. We’ll call you back and go from there.

Almost anyone can be a foster carer, as long as they have love to give, the patience to work through difficulties and the dedication to invest lots of time and energy. Most importantly, we ask that you have the space in your home and the support of family to create the right caring environment for a vulnerable child/ young person, and that you genuinely care about the welfare of children and young people. Many people can become foster carers:

  • You can be single, married, co-habiting or divorced
  • Couples will need to arrange their working hours so that one carer can be at home full time or have flexibility for part time employment
  • Single foster carers will need to be at home full time, or have flexibility for part time employment
  • You may be a home owner or a tenant
  • You will need a bedroom for the exclusive use of the looked after child
  • We welcome applications from all ethnic, cultural, religious backgrounds and sexual orientation
  • You must be a British Citizen or have permanent leave to stay in the UK
  • Experience in looking after children and/or young people would be advantageous

No, you do not. Many of our Carers have previous experience of fostering or of caring for other people. Some of our Carers have worked as teachers or in the health or social services, or have gained experience in working with children/young people through voluntary organisations such as scouts, youth clubs etc. Certainly, any previous experience of caring, particularly for children/ young people, would be an advantage, however, having the right personal skills to care for a disadvantaged child/ young person is just as important.

It is really easy to join our foster care family and start making a difference. You can contact us by telephone or email, or you can click here to request a callback. You will be contacted by our dedicated Carer Recruitment Officer, who will answer any of your questions, give you more information and start to gather information about your application. They will then book a face to face meeting with one of our Social Workers.

The assessment process usually takes around four to six months, and involves a thorough look at your life. The Supervising Social Worker is highly skilled and experienced in undertaking these assessments and will support you every step of the way. At the beginning, we will require your consent to undertake the following checks on you and your family:

  • Access NI
  • Local Health & Social Care Trust check

We also pay for you to have a full medical check with your own GP, and if you have children who are in full time education, we will take up an education check with the relevant school/college.

We ask you to provide three referees (only one of which can be a family member) who can comment on your suitability to become a foster carer.

We will then invite you to attend our the three-day ‘Skills to Foster’ training course, which will give you the opportunity to learn more about the fostering process, meet an experienced foster carer and meet other local people who are also in the fostering assessment process.

A Supervising Social Worker will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis to enable them to collect all of the information for the assessment report. Once completed, this report is checked by Kindercare’s Quality Assurance department, prior to be presented to the Fostering Panel. You’re invited to attend the Panel, where a recommendation will be made.

Although this process sounds like a big commitment, most people who go through the assessment have told us they found the experience very satisfying.

Children who require care must have foster carers who can meet their needs. Throughout the fostering assessment process we work with you to identify your strengths and skills to assist you in identifying the children and young people you could care for. We will also identify specific training needs to assist you in expanding your skills as a foster carer.

Before you are approved by the fostering panel, we will have agreed on the type of child who will fit in with your family. This includes the age, gender, ethnicity and religion of potential foster children.

Once approved, our Supervising Social Workers will consider you as a potential match for children referred to us. Where a potential match with a child is being considered, brief details of your suitability will be provided to the local Health and Social Care Trust by one of our Supervisory Social Workers.

Short term foster care can be from a few days up to two years. When a child is placed in foster care, a minimum period of stay is normally given.

Long term foster care is when children are unable to return to their birth family. In these circumstances, many younger children are placed for adoption. For some older children however, it may be more appropriate for them to remain in long-term foster care.

This normally means that they remain with a foster family up until reaching a period of adulthood when they are able to take care of themselves. Children in long-term foster care are very much a permanent part of the foster carer’s family.

Respite fostering gives support to families who are in need of a short break. Normally these families may be experiencing unusually high levels of stress and need to have short periods without the pressures of caring for their child or children. In many cases, families with a disabled child need a little time away from caring for a child with special needs. Children are linked with a foster carer who will provide regular periods of short-break care, perhaps alternate weekends or at holiday times. Many foster carers who work full-time are able to provide this type of fostering. Foster carers don’t always do one sort of fostering – often they combine different fostering types to fit in with their lifestyle or the needs of the child.

All our Carers are professionals who do a valuable and often difficult job. We expect them to be rewarded for this, especially, as it may be difficult to take paid work elsewhere, since on some occasions Local Health and Social Care Trusts ask them to be available for the children/ young people in their care on full-time basis. As well as providing a reward for the work the Carers do, the remuneration also includes Allowances designed to cover the costs of having a child/ young person placed with you. All Carers are regarded as self employed and must seek their own tax and financial advice.

No. A placement fee is made to carers only when they have a child with them. For this reason, it is important to consider the financial viability of becoming a foster carer. Whilst the agency does its best to only approve carers who they feel have a high chance of getting a placement, we cannot make guarantees.

There is no specific upper age limit to fostering. When you apply to become a foster carer with us we look at your individual circumstances including your health, experience and lifestyle. Life experience can be extremely valuable in fostering and we would encourage people of a variety of ages and backgrounds to apply.

Absolutely! We welcome applications from the LGBT community. In fact, diversity is a crucial element of fostering. Each carer will have their own set of skills and experiences, and this will be taken into account when matching a young person in need of care. All we would ask in that the relationship in stable and established and you have a mutual desire to foster.

This would depend on the nature of the conviction. Having a criminal record does not necessarily prevent you for being able to foster. Openness is essential at the earliest stage and throughout the application process. We will look at the nature of the conviction, the circumstances around it and how long ago it was. Your enquiry will be discussed in complete confidence.

Carers can live in large or small houses or flats, as a tenant or owner occupier. A secure tenancy is important and permission should be sought from your landlord. The most essential requirements are that each foster child has his/her own bedroom and that your home is welcoming and safe. Same sex sibling groups of very young children may be able to share a bedroom.

Absolutely! The only animals that are automatically excluded are animals classified under the Dangerous Dogs Act. All other pets need to be safe, well cared for and friendly with children. A pet assessment will be carried out by the assessing social worker and in some cases it may be asked that a vet undertakes the assessment – this is usually where there are or have been any concerns about the animal’s behaviour towards children or adults. Some children enjoy having pets in the home however others may be frightened or may tease animals.

We like to get a balanced picture about current lifestyle, fitness and capacity to care for children. All applicants who are offered a fostering assessment will have a medical with their own GP. This will enable each case to be considered on an individual basis. Children under 5 or any child with medical conditions or disability cannot be placed with smokers.

Yes, however, you will need to be very flexible. You will need to consider the responsibilities of fostering such as facilitating school runs, covering school holidays, contact meetings, attending training sessions and meetings with local trust services. Fostering is a 24/7 vocation so this would need to be your priority.

Yes if you live together as both of you will be providing care to any child placed with you. If you are not living together, your partner/spouse will still need to be checked and will be heavily involved in the process.

We carefully match the needs of the child or young person referred with the resources and skills of the Carer and their family situation. You may be able to take a sibling group (several children/ young people from one family), a young parent and baby, or you may only have room for one child or young person.

Many of our placements will be for children/ young people with challenging behaviour, but they will only be placed with Carers who have the resources to deal with their special needs. We will work with you to identify your strengths and limitations and place children and young people accordingly. Ultimately, you have the choice whether or not to accept or decline the placement of a particular child/ young person.

We discuss every placement with our carers and it’s their decision to accept a child into their home. We share as much information about the child or young person and their background as possible. However, sometimes children come into foster care with very little information, especially in an emergency situation.

In these circumstances the professional team will work as quickly as possible to piece together information. We have highly skilled staff who match children with the right foster family, but the decision to take a child in and look after them always rests with our carers.

Like all other children, foster children have their own individual personalities relating to their age, experiences and development. ‘Looked after children’ have the added difficulty of family separation and may be dealing with difficult past experiences. Some children cannot express their complex feelings with words alone and display their emotions through behaviour, which can be viewed as disruptive. Such behaviours might include: difficulty sleeping, eating disorders or being withdrawn or aggressive. With patience and support, foster carers can help children and young people to feel safe and secure and slowly begin to build successful relationships, which will increase their chances of achieving positive social outcomes. Your love and perseverance can help foster children in ways that are hard to imagine. By showing them they are cared about, combined with the support of a professional team, great improvements can be made, no matter how severe their initial behaviours are.

Yes. You will be approved for an age range however this will depend on a few things such as other children in the household and if anyone in the household is a smoker. We only approve families who we feel have the capacity to meet the needs of the children and young people referred to us, and who have a high chance of getting placements. The wider the age range you are able to accommodate, the higher chance you will have of a child being placed with you. Children placed in foster care can be any age from 0 to 18.

When you become an approved foster carer you will have your own supervising social worker who will guide you through the fostering process. You will also have access to specialist local training, foster carer support groups and social events. You are never on your own – you will be part of a wider team of professionals who work together to improve the life chances and quality of life of a foster child. The support service is available to Foster Carers twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Kindercare Fostering Northern Ireland also facilitates Foster Carers support groups where valuable advice can often be found from other Foster Carers.

Foster children are encouraged to experience as many things as possible and to be a part of your everyday family life and routines. If you are planning a holiday or a period of time away from the family home, we discuss your plans with the foster child’s social worker. They ultimately make the decision, but holiday plans can usually be agreed. Wherever possible, our expectation is that Foster Children are included in your family plans, especially holidays.

We think it is essential that all our Carers, whether or not they have previous experience, are prepared to spend time developing their skills and experience.

We also expect our Carers to help the child/ young person in their care to thrive and develop. We provide ongoing, relevant training for our Carers, based on their individual training profile. This can include courses in dealing with challenging behaviour or sexual abuse, for example.

We try to match children/ young people with the skills, experience and personal circumstances of each individual Carer to ensure a lasting and rewarding relationship for all involved. However, if things don’t work out as expected, we will work with the Carer and the Local Health and Social Care Trusts to make alternative arrangements. However, at Kindercare Fostering NI, due to high level of tailored support and training, we are very proud of the fact that we have an extremely low placement breakdown record.

Without doubt, the children you care for will make a huge impact on your life, and the life of your family, and you will surprise yourself with your ability to help a child move on. You will have a period of missing a foster child once they are gone. However, you will have made a difference when it mattered, and go on to make a difference for many more children. Throughout your time fostering, you will not only be supported by your Supervising Social Worker, but with tailored support and training.

Our Carers automatically receive free membership of the Fostering Network, which entitles them to free subscription to their quarterly publications, invitations to fostering events and training, and information on local fostering issues