Advice & Guides

How to Become a Foster Parent: The Definitive Guide

The decision to become a foster parent and foster a child is both rewarding and life-changing. At times, however, fostering can seem like a daunting prospect, so we’re here to make it simple for you.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the various steps of the fostering process, to help you understand how to become a foster parent and determine if this is the path for you.

Step 1
Understand Fostering Requirements

It is not unusual for people considering fostering to experience apprehension about expressing their interest. While this is largely due to harmful misconceptions, there are certain foster parent requirements that must always be borne in mind.

What disqualifies you from being a foster parent in the UK?

As a result of these requirements, below are some things that would automatically lead to rejection from any fostering agency in the UK, or that may hinder the fostering process in some capacity:

1. A history of violence

Of course, this will usually be revealed in the DBS check, but it’s important to note that this does not mean you cannot foster a child with a criminal record. If the incident took place decades ago and there is sufficient evidence that you’ve changed as a person, most fostering agencies will consider these factors and refrain from rejecting you outright. In any case, remember to always be honest with your assessing social worker, as by hiding anything that may be deemed important, you will undoubtedly come across as untrustworthy.

2. A lack of a spare bedroom

One crucial requirement is the availability of a spare bedroom. Foster children must have their own separate room and cannot share accommodations with your own children or yourself. Unfortunately, not having a spare bedroom is an immediate no from all fostering agencies.

3. Not being a UK resident

Fostering agencies value diversity and actively encourage individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, sexual orientations and religious beliefs. However, you cannot foster if you’re not a UK resident or have permanent leave to remain in the UK. This requirement also extends to your partner, should you have one.

4. Being under 21 years of age

To be a foster carer, you are required to be above the age of 21, so if you are over 18 and match all other criteria, you will have to wait a few more years before applying to become a foster parent.

Becoming a Foster Parent Myths


Unemployed people cannot foster.

“The elderly cannot foster.”

People with pets cannot foster.


Although there are certainly circumstances which would disqualify you from becoming a foster carer, unfortunately, many people refrain from fostering due to various harmful misconceptions.

We’ve put together some of the most common misconceptions about fostering in the UK along with the reasons why they are untrue.

Step 2
Decide What Kind of Fostering Is Right for You

If you’re wondering how to become a foster parent, it’s important to understand that fostering encompasses an array of options. Different foster care agencies provide different fostering arrangements, which will be catered to their local needs. There are many factors to consider when deciding what type of fostering to pursue, including skills, family dynamics and lifestyle.

Step 3
Commit to the Time Frame

While most agencies aim to complete the fostering process in a timely manner, the safety and wellbeing of children will always remain the priority.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Foster Parent?

Overall, it takes between three to six months to become approved as a foster carer. Some fostering agencies, however — including Compass — offer a fast-track assessment process without sacrificing important safeguards.

Step 4
Evaluate Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Acquiring knowledge on how to become a foster parent is only half the journey, as being a foster parent is a significant commitment that calls for careful deliberation and self-reflection. By assessing your own character, you can determine if you are ready to provide a stable environment for vulnerable kids.

What qualities make a good foster carer?

When assessing candidates, fostering agencies will typically be on the lookout for a number of important qualities. These include patience, empathy, flexibility, resilience and the ability to advocate for the child’s needs. Be sure to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses to see how well they align with these desired qualities.

Evaluate your motivations

Understanding your motivations for becoming a foster parent is also essential. Ask yourself why exactly you would like to foster a child and what you hope to achieve throughout this journey. Remember to also consider your expectations and be realistic about the challenges that come with foster parenting. By taking a moment to self-reflect, you can set realistic goals and better navigate any future obstacles.

Embrace the challenges

Foster parenting can be both extremely rewarding and challenging. With that in mind, it is important to be aware of the difficulties that may potentially arise, including navigating complex emotions, dealing with behavioural issues and working with dysfunctional families. However, it is equally critical to recognise the profound rewards of making a positive impact on a child’s life, watching them grow in wisdom, and providing them with love and stability.

Fostering Website Rectangle Header images (29)
Step 5
Go Through the Fostering Process
Below is a complete breakdown of the registration process, including how long each step is expected to take.

1. Initial enquiry – 24 hours.

This is the earliest stage in the fostering process, when you inform a fostering agency of your intention to foster. You should hear back from them within 24 hours.

2. Initial visits – 48 hours.

After the initial enquiry, an assessing social worker should then contact you within 48 hours to arrange a home visit. While in-person visits are typically preferred, certain agencies, including Compass, will also be able to do this virtually.

3. DBS check – Approximately 8 weeks.

Regardless of agency, all foster carers are required to undertake a DBS check. These check for any convictions a person may have, including whether they are barred from working with children. Bear in mind that anyone in your household over 18 will also need to undergo a DBS check.

4. Fostering medical – 1 to 6 months.

One of the most common fostering requirements is that all foster parents are both physically and mentally healthy. This is why you will also have to undertake a medical assessment. The time this takes to complete will depend on your availability as well as the availability of your GP.

5. Assessment – 3 to 6 months.

Ordinarily, the assessing social worker you meet during your initial visit will maintain close contact with you throughout your fostering assessment. You should expect between 8 to 10 visits, as they get to know your home environment and assist you with the necessary paperwork.

6. Skills to Foster training – 3 days.

Different agencies offer different fostering training courses that potential carers are required to attend. These normally take place during the fostering assessment and take no more than a few days to complete.

7. Checks and references – 3 to 6 months.

Most fostering agencies will also ask you to fill out a ‘Reference and Chronology’ form. These tend to be comprehensive, demanding contact details of any references that may help form a bigger picture of your character.

8. Fostering panel – 1 day.

Once all previous steps have been completed, you will then be invited to attend your Fostering Panel. This is where a final decision is made about your readiness to become a foster carer.


As a family, we’ve learned we’re adaptable. We can handle whatever is thrown at us and can take it in our stride.

Julie & Neil
Compass Foster Carers
Step 6
Prepare Your Home and Family For Fostering

To ensure a positive experience at home for both you and the foster child, it is critical to create a nurturing and supportive environment. By taking proactive steps to prepare your home and involving your family members throughout this process, you can establish a stable foundation for welcoming a new child into your care. Here are some simple, yet effective measures you can implement:

1. Make your home safe and accommodating for a foster child

Consider important factors including childproofing, providing a comfortable bedroom, and keeping essential supplies readily available. To ensure compliance with home requirements and safety standards, be sure to consult the guidelines provided by your fostering agency.

2. Establish a sense of routine and security

Meeting the emotional and psychological needs of the child or young person in your care is just as important as tending to their physical well-being. Adapt your home environment accordingly to cater to their emotional needs.

3. Communicate openly with your family

Preparing your home for foster care will also mean prepping your family for any changes in household dynamics and encouraging their active participation. With that in mind, remember to also address their concerns and questions.

Step 7
Welcome a Child Into Your Home

The last step in becoming a foster parent is a final waiting period, as before welcoming a child into your home, your fostering agency will have to match you with a child.

The foster care placement process is a careful matching and placement procedure that is designed to ensure all foster children are paired with suitable foster families. This process entails close collaboration between fostering agencies and social workers as well as the child’s biological family. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the foster care placement process.

Initial referral

The fostering agency receives the child’s referral from the Local Authority. This is then reviewed, and a placements team will begin evaluating all available foster carers and determine if any of them would be a good match for the child. If a match is not found, the referral is handed back to the Local Authority.

Match found

As soon as a match is found, the carer is contacted and provided with a brief overview of the referral. This includes the child’s gender, age and any specialist care requirements. It also includes information regarding the child’s behaviour, physical health and emotional state. Foster carers will then have time to discuss this with their supervising social worker and decide if they’re a suitable match.

Carer is found to be suitable

If the foster carer is deemed suitable for the child, the fostering agency will then communicate their interest to the Local Authority. This is a great time to request additional details about the child’s care plan or any other specific information you need.

Local authority review

Once all questions have been addressed, foster carers are finally formally offered a referral by the fostering agency. The Local Authority then reviews the offer, and if they agree that the foster carer is suitable, then they will notify the fostering agency of their acceptance.

Final Thoughts on How to Become a Foster Parent

Becoming a foster parent is an ongoing journey that requires continuous learning and support. Consequently, it’s important to make the most of any support services provided by your fostering agency. This may include connecting with fellow foster carers, attending support groups and online communities, and even one-on-one professional counselling.

If you are thinking about fostering in the UK, you should also bear in mind the legal and administrative consequences and make sure you’re prepared to keep everything organised. Stay on top of all paperwork and documentation, including contact details for your chosen agency, social workers and legal professionals.

By actively seeking support and utilising the available resources, foster carers can enhance their skills and well-being, and ensure they are providing the best possible care.


Didn’t find the answer you were looking for?

You can call us on 0800 566 8317 and we would be happy to answer any other questions you may have about fostering with Compass.