Who can foster?

cat and kids


It is natural to have lots of questions when you are considering becoming a foster carer.  We hope our FAQs help to answer some of these questions. If you have any further questions please contact our friendly team today!

Can foster carers have pets?

We would make an assessment of all pets within the home and usually there would be no problem for pet owners fostering, unless the pets are known to be dangerous. If you are a dog owner we may ask for a professional dog assessment to be undertaken as part of the approval process. If you own many pets we will want to be assured there are no health risks and that you have enough time to care for and prioritise a child.

Can I foster if I smoke or vape?

Smoking will not necessarily rule you out from fostering. Consideration will be given to this and to all health and lifestyle-related issues, and we will want to know of any specific health risks to you or to the children who may be placed in your care. 

According to national medical advice, children under five and those with particular medical conditions should not be placed in smoking households (including those who vape or use e-cigs). You will need to be smoke-free for at least six months before an enquiry for an under five would be considered.

Am I too old to foster?

We take enquiries from individuals who are aged 21 and over but we don't have any upper age limits. Our only requirements are that you have enough energy and experience to take care of lively children! In fact, over 60 per cent of our foster carers are aged over 50!

Can I foster as a single man?

It doesn't matter what gender you are, both women and men make great foster carers. In fact, almost half of our foster carers are male. If you have energy, resilience and understanding, you can help to transform a child's life.

Can I foster if I am gay?

Being able to Foster is not about being gay, straight, transgender or bisexual, we welcome applications from people who can bring different skills, knowledge and life experiences to the fostering role, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.

Can I foster if I am not a homeowner? 

You don't need to own your house to foster. As long as you have a spare and suitable bedroom for the foster child, you can foster. Some of our foster carers live in rented accommodation and some own their homes (if it is rented you will need permission from the landlord). What is more important is that you can provide enough space for children to sleep, play and do their homework.

In some cases we can explore an application if you do not have a spare room, however this would only be if you wanted to care for babies under the age of 2 years, we would need to look at the space in your bedroom to see if this would be suitable. Please still call and talk to us and we can explain.

I have never had any children of my own, can I foster?

Although having your own children is a great way to gain the experience and knowledge you need to become a foster carer, you don't have to be a parent to foster. All we ask is that you've cared for children or young people through family contact, volunteering or employment. If you do have your own children living at home, we'll carefully match foster children or young people to the needs of your family and circumstances.

I am single. Can I be a foster carer?

We don't have any requirements about your marital status. Our foster carers may be single, married, in a civil partnership or living with a partner. If you are a single foster carer it is important have good local support networks. Almost 25 per cent of our foster carers are single. Foster families come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.

I have no experience of working with children. Can I still foster?

Almost 60 per cent of our foster carers come from backgrounds not related to childcare. We'll offer you excellent training, development and support so you're prepared for the challenges and rewards of fostering. We just ask that you've got some experience caring for children or young people through your family or volunteering.

Would my ethnicity be an obstacle to fostering?

We need all types of carers to reflect the types of children and young people who need a place to stay when they can't live with their birth families. We welcome applications from all people who can bring different skills, knowledge and life experiences to the fostering role, whatever their ethnicity.

Can I foster and continue to work?

Fostering doesn't necessarily require people to be at home full-time, different children will have different needs; the important thing is that you can arrange things to meet those needs. The fostering payments we provide may give you the flexibility to look at how you manage your working hours. Don't rule yourself out because you work.

Can I foster with a disability?

Being disabled should not automatically exclude anyone from fostering and it is widely recognised that disabled people can often provide a very loving home for a child. Disability is only one of the many aspects that we will consider so don't rule yourself out before you have spoken to us. Even if you believe that you might need some additional assistance to foster a young person, we may be able to provide this support.

Would my criminal record stop me from fostering?

If you have a criminal caution or conviction for offences against children or certain sexual offences against adults then you will not be able to foster but, with the exception of these specified offences, a criminal record will not necessarily rule you out. The key is to be totally honest in your application.

Does foster carers' pay affect benefits?

Your fostering allowance will not affect your eligibility for Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, or Carers’ Allowance/Disability Living Allowance for your own child. Fostering counts as self-employment, so you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. 

Can I make a difference as a foster carer?

By fostering, you'll transform the lives of the most vulnerable and neglected children and young people. With over 700 children and young people in care in Cumbria, and the vast majority of them in foster homes, we need people like you.

Get in touch

If you're thinking about fostering then we'd love to help.