Becoming a foster carer step by step

Becoming a foster carer is a big decision and we know that simply getting in touch to enquire about the process can be a big step. It may have taken a number of years and a lot of careful consideration and research. Here, we look at each stage of the assessment; from enquiry to approval, step-by-step.

We know that you will have lots of questions, so please read through the information below or, if you prefer, please contact our team who will be happy to talk you though all you need to know.


Getting in touch

Before the main assessment begins, you may have attended an Information Session, or you may have called or e-mailed the Brighton & Hove Fostering Team directly. Information Sessions are a fantastic way to meet current Foster Carers and to find out what fostering is really like from people who have experienced the rewards and the challenges.

Initial home visit

If, after making contact you are happy to proceed, an Assessing Social Worker will arrange to visit you in your home. An Initial Home Visit is an opportunity for prospective Foster Carers to discuss their circumstances and motivations in a familiar, comfortable environment. The Assessing Social Worker will answer questions, conduct a health and safety assessment of the home, and ask to meet other members of the household such as partners, birth children and pets.

Stage 1

Stage 1 marks the beginning of the main Foster Carer Assessment. It is principally about gathering basic, factual information and includes mandatory checks and references such as Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, medical checks, Local Authority checks, Child Protection Register checks and online checks. Employment and personal references will be sought, as well as ex-partner references if you have previously been in a significant relationship, especially one in which children were involved.

Skills to foster

Following, or sometimes during Stage 1, you will be invited to attend a mandatory three day training course designed to help you explore and understand some of the issues involved in fostering. It will begin to prepare you for life as a Foster Carer and introduce subjects such as safe care and identity.

Stage 2

Stage 2 involves several home visits and focusses on getting to know you better, assessing and developing your knowledge and experience, and exploring your motivation to foster. An Assessing Social Worker will gather information about your lifestyle and look at how fostering will fit into your life.


Once Stage 2 is complete, the Assessing Social Worker will compile a report, to be presented to an Independent Fostering Panel. The panel is made up of health and education professionals, Foster Carers, and independent members representing a cross-section of society.


Following the Panel meeting, the Panel will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker, who will give the final say on your approval as a Foster Carer.

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Yes. You must have a spare room and you must have significant childcare experience.

We mean that you need to understand how it feels to be fully responsible for caring for a child overnight and on a regular basis.

If you are or have been a parent then you will have enough experience.

If you don’t have children of your own, you will need to have varied experience of caring for other people’s children within your home, including overnight stays. Give our team a call if you want to talk through your individual circumstances.

The assessment process should take around six months and you will be supported every step of the way by our dedicated team.

A foster carer should be able to;

  • Provide a good standard of care for other people's children. This will involve promoting their health, education and leisure interests.
  • Listen and communicate with children in a way that is appropriate for their age and understanding.
  • Help a child to keep in contact with their friends and family as appropriate.
  • Set appropriate boundaries and manage children's behaviour without the use of physical punishment or other unreasonable behaviour.
  • Ensure a child is cared for in an environment where they are safe from harm and abuse.
  • Work as part of a team with a child's social worker, teacher and other professionals.
  • Provide a safe and stable home
  • Ensure a child's racial, linguistic, cultural and religious needs are met.

​Ultimately, you will need to have enough time in your life and space in your home to care for a child or young person. As a carer you will need sensitivity and flexibility, as well as an ability to empathise with children who may be troubled or display difficult behaviour.

There is no such thing as a typical foster carer. Like the children they look after, Foster Carers come from all sorts of different backgrounds, cultures, religions and age groups. We have single carers, couples, some with their own children, some without. What they have in common is a genuine desire to help support children through a difficult time in their lives.

There is no legal minimum age to become a Foster Carer although like most fostering teams, Brighton & Hove's policy is that you need to be over the age of 21. There is no maximum age to foster with us. If you are in good health, mentally and physically, all you need is the drive and energy to make a commitment and a difference.

No, you do not have to have any specific qualifications to become a Foster Carer as we offer a comprehensive training programme, including a three-day ‘Skills to Foster’ course. This training, and other mandatory training will take place as part of your assessment, and once you are approved there will be ongoing opportunities to widen your skill set through additional training.

If you already foster with an Independent Fostering Agency your assessment will be the same as for a new carer, but we are able to fast track some parts of your application.

In England, the law states that you can only have three children in a foster placement at one time, (although this does not apply to sibling groups). If a Foster Carer has more than three children placed, their local authority must agree to an exemption to the ‘usual fostering limit’ of three children.

Fostering involves the whole family and will affect your children (if you have any). The children of Foster Carers play a key role in the fostering household and should be included in all stages of the fostering process.

It can be tough for children who find themselves sharing their parents with children who have led very different lives. However, many children also say that they have enjoyed sharing their home with foster children and learnt a lot from the experience. Read Louis and Hannah's story.

Your health will be considered when applying to foster and any long-term conditions are taken into account. The most important factor is whether you are physically and psychologically fit enough to cope with the demands of caring for a child – this may vary depending on the age of the children that you are approved for.

Having pets does not prevent you from fostering - in fact they can be an asset to a foster family. Your pets will be assessed as part of the assessment process, taking into their temperament and behaviour. As a pet owner, you will need to think about how you would feel and react if a child in your care was injured by your pet, or if one of your pets was injured by a child. Dogs have always been part of Daniel and Mark's fostering family and they play a valuable role in helping to settle the children they care for.

Becoming a foster carer does not have to mean giving up employment. It’s true that foster carers are expected to be available to care for children, support contact between a child and their family and to attend meetings, training and support groups, but depending on your circumstances, you can sometimes foster and continue to work flexible hours; it just may make a difference to the type of fostering that you can do. Visit our Working and Fostering page to find out more.

If you smoke you cannot foster a child under five or a child with disabilities.

If you have been convicted of an offence against children or an offence of a serious nature, then you cannot apply to become a Foster Carer. All applicants will undertake an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

There is no requirement to be a British citizen to be a Foster Carer in the UK. Children from a wide range of backgrounds need foster families and there is a need for foster families from all walks of life. You must have ‘leave to remain’ in the UK if you are a thinking of becoming a Foster Carer. Please visit the UK government website for more details. In general, you cannot apply to become a Foster Carer with a UK-based fostering service if you are living outside of the UK. There are exeptions to this including Family & Friends Foster Carers and British Armed Forces families who are posted overseas. You may wish to apply to become a Foster Carer in the country in which you are resident. Please visit the International Foster Care Organisation (IFCO) website for more information. 

For a large number of children in foster care, English is not their first language. It can be helpful for them to be placed in a household where their first language is spoken but it is not essential. You will need an adequate level of spoken and written English to be able to communicate with professionals, support children’s education and to keep records. If you have any particular communication needs, the fostering team are happy to discuss this with you.

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