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Frequently Asked Questions

About Fostering

Local authorities recruit foster carers to care for children and young people, and hold legal responsibility for them. However, if they do not have an appropriate placement with one of their own foster carers, they will seek the services of independent fostering agencies (IFAs), such as Five Rivers Child Care, to see if they can offer a suitable foster home with one of their foster carers instead. IFAs work closely with local authorities to meet the demands placed on care services, which could become overwhelmed without this extra support.

Five Rivers Child Care is an independent fostering agency that operates as a Social Enterprise, providing a specialist fostering service to local authorities. This means that any surplus income is reinvested into the services we provide, strengthening the services we provide to children and young people in our care, our foster carers, staff and others involved in fostering.

While fostering is a large part of the child care services we offer, we also provide Residential Child Care, Education, Assessment & Therapy and Crisis Intervention services. Five Rivers Child Care is registered and inspected by Ofsted, which is a legal requirement of IFAs.

Learn more about fostering with us.

The main difference between the two is legal and this is because children placed in foster care are still under the care of the relevant local authority, whereas adopted children become the legal responsibility of their adoptive parents.

This means that while adoptive parents can make substantial life decisions on behalf of their children, for example medical or academic choices, foster carers do not have the authority to make such decisions and instead need to obtain permission from the birth parents or local authority.

Another key difference is the time commitment. While some foster placements can be long-term and permanent, it is often a temporary solution while plans for the child’s long-term future are made and implemented.

Another factor to take into consideration is that you will receive a high level of support to help you in your role as a foster carer. Adoptive parents do not receive the same level of support and do not have access to the resources of a fostering agency to call on when they need help and advice.

Foster care provides vulnerable children and young people with a safe, stable and loving home environment where they are supported throughout their child and adolescent life.
Not only do foster carers provide day-to-day care, but they advocate on behalf of the child to support their education, health and social wellbeing.

Foster carers are often faced with children displaying challenging behaviours, so a commitment to ongoing development and support to help the child or young person navigate their trauma and adverse experiences is crucial.

Learn more about becoming a foster carer.

When a child is put into foster care, they’ll be placed with foster carers who have been specially chosen as a match based on the individual needs of a child or young person. The foster family a child or young person is placed with will be capable of providing the individual with a safe, stable and loving environment.

The child or young person will be given the chance to live in a secure, loving and caring home where they’re able to live a normal family life and be cared for and supported day-to-day.

Children and young people can be placed in foster care for a number of reasons, which vary on a case by case basis. The reason why a child requires a foster placement can also affect the duration of their time in care. There are some common reasons as to why a child or young person may need to be placed with a foster carer, which include:

  • There are safety concerns over the child or young person remaining in their home environment.
  • Their parents or carers may suffer from physical or mental health problems.
  • Their parents or carers may be misusing drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Their parents or carers may be experiencing a difficult time or are temporarily unable to cope.
  • There has been an unexpected bereavement.

Children entering foster care are often vulnerable and may display behavioural issues on admission, however your social worker will always try to provide as much information as possible during the handover process so that you can tailor the care to the child or young person’s individual needs.

Foster carers are needed to provide a stable, safe and loving environment for vulnerable children and young people. It’s important that foster carers are able to provide love and support to help make a difference to a vulnerable child or young person’s life.

Without foster carers children and young people may be moved around the care system more often, which can be traumatic and disruptive to their childhood. They may be placed into residential children’s homes, which is a last resort as providing a child or young person with a foster home environment is in many cases better for the individual.

Becoming a Foster Carer

No, you will never be expected to take on a placement that you are not 100% comfortable with.

During the application and assessment process, your personal circumstances, relevant skills and physical capacity will all be taken into consideration to establish which type of placement you’ll be most suited to. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with your social worker to talk through the different types of foster care and which would be your preferred option.

It is worth noting that fostering siblings can be very rewarding. It doesn’t just benefit the children; it may also benefit you. Siblings who are placed into foster homes together often settle quicker.

As part of your application to become a foster carer with Five Rivers Child Care, we would complete a health and safety check on your home.

You will need to give your consent for all checks to be undertaken as without it, we cannot proceed with your application.

Learn more about the fostering application process.

As standard, we would complete the following checks as part of your application to become a foster carer with Five Rivers Child Care:

  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS Check), formally known as CRB
  • Local authority check
  • 3 Personal references, which will include a reference from someone in your extended family, adult children of the family who live away from home, employers, ex-partners (where applicable)
  • Social media checks
  • Medical assessment
  • Financial assessment

You will need to give your consent for all checks to be undertaken as without it, we cannot proceed with your application.

Learn more about the fostering application process.

Foster carers receive a fee while they have a placement and we require a carer to be available within the household to meet the child’s needs on a full-time basis.

In some cases, it may still be possible to continue working part- or full-time, but fostering must be your primary focus. You will need to be available to attend training, support groups, and children and young people’s meetings.

If we identify a suitable match between you and a child or young person, our Placement Officers will discuss their details with you and you can then decide whether you would like to be considered. To help you make an informed decision, we provide you with as much information about them and their background as possible, including any difficult behaviour and how to manage it.

It typically takes between 4 and 6 months to become a foster carer.

We need to complete a number of background checks, including a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, as well as make a number of home visits, complete risk assessments and conduct family interviews as part of the foster carer application process. You will also complete Skills to Foster training.

When starting your foster carer career with us, you’ll be assigned a Five Rivers social worker who will support and guide you through the entire process. They will also attend a Fostering Approval Panel hearing with you where experts will review your application and hear from your social worker about your suitability to become a foster carer.

If successful, the Panel will inform us that you have been approved and that you can await your first foster placement. While there’s no set timeframe from enquiry to first placement, most of our foster carers have a child placed within six weeks.

Learn more about the application process.

No, you can rent your home from a private landlord, council or housing association. But you will need their written permission to say that you can use the house to foster.

Possibly. It would depend on the nature of the conviction and when it occurred.

At an early stage, every applicant undergoes a DBS check. This is a Government database check to check your suitability to be able to work with vulnerable groups, so we would expect you to discuss any previous or current convictions with us as soon as possible. We then determine whether or how it might affect your application to become a foster carer. This information would remain confidential at all times.

Learn more about the fostering application process.

There’s no set timeframe from enquiry to your first placement but typically once approved, most of our carers have a child placed within six weeks.

Once you have been approved, our placement officers will be informed immediately and will start work on finding you a suitable placement.

Learn more about the application process.

This can be the case due to the Attachment & Trauma Informed Care (ATIC) model of care we adopt at Five Rivers Child Care and the other fundamental services we offer as a child care services provider.

As a foster carer, this means you’ll receive a high-level of support, a professional fee, and a generous fostering allowance to cover your costs. In addition to providing 24/7 support all year round, we also provide our foster carers with regular training and specialist support to enable you to meet the needs of the foster children and young people in your care.

To be considered as a foster carer you will:

  • Be passionate about making a difference for a child or young person
  • Be over the age of 21
  • Be committed to undergo training and development
  • Be able to work in partnership with the team involved in caring for the child/young person.

Enquire to foster

Yes.

Even though you intend to be the main foster carer, we will need to complete checks for anyone sharing your home that will have some involvement in and influence on the fostering task.

We would expect you to both participate in the assessment process and training. Checks will also need to be completed for all adult members of the household.

Learn more about the fostering application process.

You can state a preference; however, our procedure is to approve our foster carers to foster children and young people from the ages of 0-18 (or 5-18 if there is a smoker in the household).

We identify a child/young person within that range who we believe you would be well suited to. We encourage you to be open-minded and willing to explore all ages and, preferably, genders as well. This means we can achieve the very best match between the individual needs of our children and young people with the skills, experiences and home environment of our foster carers.

Foster carers are entitled to 14 days paid respite per year.

These breaks are planned to take into account the needs of the placed child(ren) and/or young person(s). This entitlement is given to allow foster carers to have a break, which can be particularly important when caring for children and young people with complex behaviours.

A break period provides foster carers with an opportunity to have time with their own family, especially if they have their own children still living in the household.

Moving a foster child or young person can be disruptive and may leave them with a feeling of being left out from the family, so many foster carers and families choose not to use their break entitlement for this reason.

It is the responsibility of the Supervising Social Worker to find the respite placement and work with you to ensure a smooth transition for the child or young person in care.

Foster children must have their own bedroom. Having their own bedroom and personal space plays a pivotal role in a child or young person’s experience in foster care. It provides them with a ‘safe space’ where they can reflect on their own, help them grow an independence and awareness for caring and maintaining their own space, amongst many other benefits.

It is possible for siblings in placement to share a bedroom if appropriate and agreed by all professionals involved, after bedroom sharing risk assessments have been completed and agreed.

You’ll be appointed a Five Rivers social worker at the start of your application process who will be happy to discuss living and bedroom arrangements on the initial home visit.

Having debts won’t stop you from fostering but they will need to be highlighted and explained during your application and assessment process. We complete a series of checks, including a financial assessment, so your appointed social worker will be able to discuss this in more detail with you and answer any questions you may have.

We encourage you to include your foster child or young person in as much of your everyday life as possible, giving them the opportunity to experience new things and new places. Going on holiday is something many families enjoy each year, be it in the UK or overseas.

Your supervising social worker will need to approve any travel plans and grant permission. It’s rare that you wouldn’t be able to include the child or young person in your care in any vacations as it’s usually a beneficial experience, but occasionally there may be a genuine reason as to why it’s not suitable or appropriate.

There are a few initial criteria that you’ll need to meet to qualify to be able to apply to become a foster carer. You will need to:

    • Be passionate about making a difference for a child or young person
    • Be over the age of 21
    • Have a furnished spare room that is not in use by anybody else
    • Be committed to undergo training and development
    • Be able to work in partnership with the team involved in caring for child or young person.

While these are the initial set of criteria you’ll need to meet, there is a foster carer application process that you’ll need to go through, but you won’t need to do so alone as you’ll be assigned a dedicated social worker to help guide you through the process and answer any questions or concerns you may have along the way.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer then you can register your interest in a number of ways online, in a way that’s convenient to you.

You can either complete our online Enquire to Foster form or fill out our Book a Call form to speak to a member of our carer enquiries team at a convenient time for you.

We’ll get in touch to discuss becoming a foster carer and run through the fostering application process and answer any questions you may have.

Five Rivers Child Care provides different types of foster carer, so we are keen to hear from those who want to provide short stays, not just long-term foster care.

The application process to become a short break foster carer is very similar to the standard application process – you’ll just need to let our carer enquiries team know that respite foster care is the type you’re interested in. They’ll be able to discuss this in more detail with you once you enquire to become a foster carer or book a call.

As a foster carer, you can decide what types of foster care you would like to do, which usually directly affects the duration of a fostering placement.

A long-term foster placement can last for months or years, whereas an emergency foster placement may only last one night to a few days. There are many different types of fostering, so finding the right fit for you is something your appointed Social Worker will work with you to determine.

You can have a maximum of three foster children at any one time under Schedule 7 of the Children Act 1989.

If you’re interested in fostering siblings or would like to foster more than one child or young person, please get in touch with our carer enquiries team to register your interest.

Enquire to foster

Emergency foster care is often required at very short notice and we may not always have the full background story as to why a child or young person may need emergency care. We also don’t always know how long emergency foster care will be required, so it’s important that as an emergency foster carer that you are flexible and able to accommodate last minute arrangements.

We provide different types of foster care at Five Rivers and welcome different types of foster carers to join our fostering family, be it long-term or emergency foster care.

The application process for emergency foster carers is very similar to the standard application process, so you’d just need to make our carer enquiries team aware that you’re interested in providing emergency foster care. They’ll be able to discuss this in more detail with you once you enquire to become a foster carer or book a call.

You don’t have to be married or in a civil partnership to become a foster carer. If you’re single or dating or you’re LGBTQ+, that’s fine too.

Any adult living or regularly visiting the household will need to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS Check), formally known as CRB check. You will need to be available to attend training, support groups, and children and young people’s meetings.

If you have any previous or current convictions that involve a child, then you will not be able to complete the fostering application process to become a foster carer.

There are some other variables, which are covered in the checks and assessments we conduct as part of your application to foster. If you fail to pass the following checks then you won’t be able to foster:

  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS Check), formally known as CRB
  • Local authority check
  • Fail to provide 3 personal references, which will include a reference from someone in your extended family, adult children of the family who live away from home, employers, ex-partners (where applicable)
  • Social media checks
  • Medical assessment
  • Financial assessment

Foster carers need to:

  • Be passionate about making a difference for a child or young person
  • Be over the age of 21
  • Have a furnished spare room that is not in use by anybody else
  • Be committed to undergo training and development
  • Be able to work in partnership with the team involved in caring for child or young person.

To become a foster carer, you will need to apply to foster or book a call to speak with our carer enquiries team. During this call, we’ll run through the basic requirements listed above and discuss the type of fostering you’d like to provide.

While these are the initial set of criteria you’ll need to meet, there is a foster carer application process that you’ll need to go through, but you won’t need to do so alone as you’ll be assigned a dedicated social worker to help guide you through the process and answer any questions or concerns you may have along the way.

Having a disability does not prevent you from being a foster carer. Part of the application process to become a foster carer includes a health assessment to ensure you are physically and psychologically fit enough to care for children and young people and meet their needs.

Having a pet will not prevent you from becoming a foster carer, however there is guidance to be followed to ensure it is safe for a vulnerable child or young person to live in a household with pets.

Pets can be a therapeutic addition to a child or young person’s environment, which can be beneficial where the child or young person has been exposed to negative or traumatic experiences.

Each animal is different and will need to be assessed as part of the fostering application process when becoming a foster carer. We’ll assess the pet’s behaviour and temperament, so that we can find a child or young person who would benefit from being placed in a home with animals.

Pay & Allowances

As a foster carer, you will be deemed as self-employed for tax purposes, so the amount of tax you pay will depend on your personal circumstances.

You’ll need to complete a self assessment form each financial year that you receive a fostering income. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to seek professional advice and get the help of an accountant to help manage your tax return. Each year, Five Rivers Child Care provides you with an annual statement of payments and expenses to assist with this.

Find out more about foster carer pay and allowances.

Foster carers are paid in the region of £21,800 per annum.

Fostering pay varies according to the type of placement, which will be discussed with you when we first visit you at home.

In addition to your professional fee for your services, you’ll also receive an allowance to cover the extra costs you will incur to cover things like food, clothes, basic travel and household bills.

Find out more about foster carer pay and allowances.

Emergency foster carers are paid according to the number of nights of care that are required and the needs of the child placed.

Find out more about foster carer pay and allowances.

What respite foster carers get paid varies based on the number of nights of care that are required. Respite placements are based on a nightly rate that is payable to the main carer.

Click to read more about fostering pay and allowances.

Training & Support

If a child or young person has a disability or special needs and requires on-going medical support, this will be explained to you before the placement is made to ensure your receive all the assistance and training that you require.

Our role is to support you in your foster carer role, which may include providing specialist equipment or training.

Find out more about foster carer training & support.

We pride ourselves on providing our foster carers with all the help and support they need, any time of day.

You can call for help or assistance at any time, with access to our out-of-hours on-call service, which is staffed by our supervising social workers, supported by a Manager and an Operations Manager.

You’ll also receive support from your supervising social worker who meets with you each month and who is in regular contact with you by phone and email. They’re on hand to answer any questions or concerns you have and can provide ongoing specialist advice and support.

We’re passionate about building a fostering community, so you’ll be invited to our foster care support group meetings, and you’ll also receive a free membership to Foster Talk and the New Family Social (if applicable).

Find out more about foster carer training & support.

Yes.

You will need to complete a preparation training course with us called ‘Skills to Foster’ during your assessment process. Once you are an approved Five Rivers foster carer, you’ll receive comprehensive on-going training and development, as well as having access to foster carer resources and our nationwide fostering teams.

Find out more about foster carer training & support.

We do not expect prospective foster carers to hold any official qualifications, but you should be passionate about helping and supporting children and young people to make a difference in their lives.

We provide specialist training and support for our foster carers, both new and existing. All Five Rivers foster carers complete a preparation training course with us called ‘Skills to Foster’ during the assessment process. Once you’re an approved foster carer, you’ll receive comprehensive ongoing training and development, as well as having access to foster carer resources and our nationwide fostering teams.

Our fostering teams are on hand 24/7 all year round to answer any questions you may have and provide the support you need.

Types of Fostering

Parent and child foster care is a specialist placement that will require you consistently observe the parent and monitor their relationship with the child. You’ll need to assess and report on whether they are in tune with their emotional and physical needs, if they’re able to stick to a suitable routine in terms of feeding, naptimes, etc. and so on.

Regular reporting on the situation and any developments or concerns will be a key part of your role. This will be reviewed at weekly meetings with your supporting social worker who will be on hand throughout the whole placement to provide you with guidance and feedback. Your reports will help determine whether the child should remain in the parent’s care or removed and placed in the care system for their safety and wellbeing.

Babies and young children tend to be put up for adoption, but will often require foster care during the transition period. In these cases, the baby or young child will be placed with an experienced foster carer whose skills and experience are aligned with the child’s individual needs.

Though we do place children from ages 0 – 18, we typically place children aged 5 and upwards.

An emergency foster carer is someone who provides an emergency foster placement for children and young people who require somewhere to stay and be cared for at short notice.

Common reasons for children entering emergency foster care include:

  • It may be unsafe for the child or young person to remain in their home environment
  • Their parents or carers may be suffering from physical or mental health problems
  • They may be exposed to parents or carers misusing drugs and/or alcohol
  • Their parents or carers may be having a difficult time or are temporarily unable to cope
  • Unexpected bereavements.

Circumstances vary and often children or young people entering emergency foster care will have additional needs such as physical or learning disabilities, challenging behaviours, childhood trauma, and more.

Long term foster care is where a child or young person remains in a foster placement until they reach adulthood. It’s likely that they’ll be brought up by one foster family over several years, which really provides stability and consistency for the foster child or young person. </span>

Short term foster care is when a child or young person needs to remain in temporary foster care. This can be for a few weeks to several months, and is the most common type of foster care.

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