become a foster carer


12 essential things you need to become a foster carer

 In: Becoming a Carer
become a foster carer

If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, one of the first things you’ll want to know is whether you qualify.

While having a big heart and a willingness to share your house with a young person in need is a great start, there are a few formal prerequisites every potential foster carer must meet.

As you might expect, the Government has laws about who can become a foster parent in the UK. Of the list of 12 things you need to become a foster carer, outlined below, the first six are either law or industry guidelines.

The remaining six are qualities we look for in potential foster carers from south and east London, who would like to join Lika Family Fostering.

Take a look at the prerequisites below to see if you qualify.

Got Questions?

If you want to know more about becoming a foster carer in London, ask our team here

1. You must be 21 or older

Under UK law the youngest age you can become a foster carer is 18, but the consensus amongst foster care experts and social workers is 21. It’s all about the stage of life you’re at.

2. You must have a spare room

Any young person you’re fostering needs their own space.

In London this can be a dilemma because space is often tight and although many of us grew up sharing a bedroom with others, young people in foster care need their own space. They need somewhere they can move away from other people and process their thoughts. They also need somewhere to do their homework.

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become a foster parent

3. You must be financially stable

Fostering shouldn’t put you in a place of financial insecurity. You need to have a level of income (or savings) to make sure you can pay all your bills, the rent, and so on.

While the money you receive for fostering can top up your income, you don’t want to have to rely on it. That’s because fostering can be so irregular. For example, you might only have a foster placement for a short period of time and it could take months between placements.

4. You must not have a criminal record that means you pose a risk to a child

Having a criminal record won’t necessarily stop you becoming a foster carer. It depends entirely on the kind of offences and the context (for example, how long ago it was, how old you were, what was happening in your life at the time).

But while having a criminal record doesn’t necessarily exclude you, having violent offences or offences against children will. If you live in south or east London and you’re unsure whether your record is likely to affect your application to become a foster carer, you can always talk to one of the team at Lika.

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5. You must have a good command of verbal and written English

Fostering involves some reading and writing, including writing daily activity logs and short reports. You need to be able to communicate with lots of professionals in your foster network, so you have to be able to communicate well in English.

That said, Lika welcomes applications for foster carers with backgrounds as diverse as the communities in south and east London, so having English as a second language is absolutely no barrier to becoming a foster carer. In fact, many of our carers speak multiple languages. We just need you to be able to communicate well in English.

relationship layers
By understanding someone else’s layers as well as your own, you can feel more prepared to talk about, challenge, embrace or feel less fearful of them. Source: Pixabay

6. You are eligible to remain in the UK long-term

You don’t have to be a UK citizen to become a foster carer, but you do need to either be a permanent resident or have indefinite leave to remain. If there’s a risk you could be deported or your time in the UK is going to expire, you would not be able to become a carer because of the effects on the young person in your care if you had to leave the UK.

foster parent in uk
You must be either be a permanent resident or have indefinite leave to remain to become a foster carer in the UK.

The remaining six prerequisites on this list are things we look for in a potential Lika carer.

7. You live in south or east London

Lika Family Fostering operates in south and east London, including the boroughs of Croydon, Hackney, Barking, Dagenham, Lewisham, Redbridge, Ilford and Newham. If you live in one of these boroughs and are interested in becoming a foster carer, we’d be thrilled to hear from you. Give us a call on 020 8667 2111.

8. You show curiosity

Lika is a systemic foster care agency. Systemic therapy is a way of helping young people understand their relationships and behaviours so they can develop new and positive patterns that will really transform their lives.

We provide our carers with extensive training and resources in systemic ideas but in order to really make a difference, a foster carer must have curiosity. It’s the difference between seeing behaviour and thinking a child is being naughty, or angry, and seeing behaviour and understanding it’s the child communicating, and then being able to problem-solve and help.

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9. You show empathy

Without empathy it’s difficult to see a young person as someone who has experienced trauma or as someone communicating a need. This doesn’t mean we accept everything we see or that we don’t hold firm boundaries, but we need to be kind and compassionate. If a child could choose not to be in care, they would most rather be with a family member. It’s our job to offer them security.

10. You show patience

Many of us think we have patience. However, as a foster carer, you are really tested on that front.

Your young person will test you to see if you are as patient as you say you are. They’ll test you to see if you’re as patient as the last adult who said they were patient but gave up. They’ll test you to see if you really do accept them for who they are.

Carers I work with tell me all the time that patience is something that can ebb and flow, but without a consistent level of perseverance, being a foster carer will be a real challenge.

foster parenting
At Lika we look for foster carers who are naturally reflective. Image: courtesy of Santi Vedri, Unsplash

11. You have the ability to reflect

Good foster carers have an ability to look back, reflect and understand what has gone on for them in an interaction. At Lika we look for people who naturally have this skill.

These are people who can see the benefit of slowing down their thinking, seeing what connects the dots and then doing something different to get a better result next time.

Without this ability to reflect, it’s difficult for someone to be able to look at their contribution to relationship patterns developing and notice when they could take a different approach to a problem.

12. You have a motivation to learn

Being a foster carer is a life-changing experience for both you and the young people you care for. You will learn new approaches to looking after children and gain an understanding of yourself you might not have had before.

At Lika we’re looking for people who are willing to be challenged and push themselves, so a motivation to learn is key.

But if you have it, and if you have all the qualities above, then you’d absolutely make a great foster carer. We’d love to hear from you!

Become a Foster Carer in South and East London

We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions. 

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