Fostering places a child into the care of a family when it cannot live with its own parents. This may be because its parents have problems, cannot cope and need a break or to help the child itself through a difficult time. Some children return to their own family if and when the problems are resolved and the parents are able to look after them properly; others may stay in foster care until they’re adopted or able to look after themselves independently.
The foster carer will be expected to provide a safe environment for the child and, working with a local authority, provide it with high quality care. The foster carer may also need to interact with other professionals such as therapists, teachers or doctors to help the child deal with emotional problems or physical or learning disabilities.
As long as you have the right qualities to properly look after a child, and tick all the boxes required by the local authority, you can become a foster carer whatever your age, marital status, sexuality, religion or race. It doesn’t matter whether you are in or out of work or whether your own a home or rent.
Steps to follow:
Apart from the preliminary group preparation sessions you will need to attend before your application is approved, if you become a foster carer, you will be regularly visited by a social worker and will need to have an annual review. This will throw up any additional training you’ll need to ensure you’re suitable to carry on fostering. Some carers also take a national qualification such as an NVQ level 3 Caring for Children and Young People (SVQ in Scotland).
All foster carers can get an allowance to cover the cost of looking after a child in their home which varies depending on where you live and how old the child is that you are fostering. Many local authorities, voluntary and independent fostering agencies now also pay foster carers a fee. The amount you get may depend on the needs of the child plus the skills, abilities, length of experience or professional expertise you have.
There is a fixed tax exemption of up to £10,000 per year (less if for a shorter period) which is shared equally among any foster carers in the same household. This means you don’t have to pay tax on the first £10,000 income you make from fostering.
You also get tax relief for every week (or part week) that a child is in your care. This means you don’t have to pay tax on some of your earnings over £10,000 (current tax relief is £200 per child under the age of 11 and £250 per child over 11.
If you foster, you’ll be eligible for National Insurance credits, which counts towards your state pension and payments for fostering don’t affect the amount of benefit you get if the payments come from a local council, a voluntary organisation or a private organisation on behalf of the local council.
When you are fostering, legal responsibility for the child stays with its parents or the local authority. If you decide you want to adopt the child, all legal parental rights and responsibilities are transferred to you. The child becomes a full member of your family, taking your surname and has the same rights and privileges as a birth child. You will need to ask to be assessed as a possible adopter for the child and your suitability will be considered in the same way as anyone else applying to adopt (Overview of adoption).
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