how to become a foster parent uk

How to become a foster parent

You’ll be in good hands throughout your application to become a foster parent with ISP - we're here to support you on your journey. Find out more about how you can apply to be a foster carer.

Become a foster parent

Becoming a foster parent is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do – you’re giving a child who may not have had the best start in life, a chance to flourish with your love, care and understanding.

The fostering process may not be as difficult as you think – we’ll aim to complete your fostering assessment within 4-6 months. However, we’ll always move at a pace that’s right for you.

This guide shares how to become a foster parent – from initial enquiry to fostering panel, and everything in between. And when you’re ready to take your first step, you’ll have a local, dedicated team to support you.

Steps to become a foster carer

  • Talk to us about fostering

    The first step is to enquire online and speak to our team about fostering a child.

  • Home visit (or video call)

    We'll visit you at home or virtually through a video call to get to know you better.

  • Fostering assessment

    When you're ready to take the next step in your fostering journey, you'll complete an application form and if accepted, we'll start your Form F assessment.

  • Preparatory training

    With over 30 year's experience in therapeutic fostering, we'll give you all the skills you need to make a life-changing difference.

  • Panel and approval

    This is the final step where your assessment will be reviewed by an independent fostering panel, before our agency decision maker confirms your approval.

  • Your first child

    Our dedicated referrals team will get to know you and expertly match you with your first child or young person.

Introduction Into Fostering Download

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Our Introduction to Fostering guide is the perfect place to start. Download it today and discover the world of fostering.


Step 1 - Speak to our team

If you’re interested in applying to become a foster parent and meet the initial requirements, then the first step is to get in touch for an informal chat.

Simply complete our online contact form and we’ll give you a call – you’ll learn about what we do and the children we work with, as well as give us the opportunity to find out a little more about you.

Take your first step

Step 2 - Home visit

If you’re ready to move to the next step, we’ll arrange for someone from your local ISP fostering team to visit you at home – virtual home visits via video call can also be arranged if you’d prefer.

During your home visit, we’ll speak about:

  • The role of a foster parent
  • Our therapeutic approach to foster care
  • The application process and fostering assessment
  • Our specialist training programme for foster parents
  • Wrap-around support for foster families
  • Fostering pay and additional allowances

It’s also a fantastic opportunity for us to get to know you better, so we’ll ask some questions about you and your family, and why you’d like to foster a child, as well as answer any questions you may have. By the end of the visit, you should have a pretty good idea about whether fostering is right for you.

If you’re suitable to foster and are ready to progress, the next step is to apply to foster using our online application form. We can also arrange for a paper version to be sent to you if you’d prefer.

Step 3 - Fostering assessment

Once your application has been accepted, you’ll be assigned an assessing social worker who will carry out your fostering assessment – also known as a ‘Form F assessment’. This involves a series of visits – usually around 8-10 – to explore various aspects of your life, including your home, childhood, birth children, current and previous relationships, physical and mental health, and more.

We’ll also undertake various background checks, such as a full DBS (Disclosing and Barring) and gather a number of personal and professional references. The Form F report will help to build a clear picture of you and your family, and your suitability to foster.

While it may sound like a daunting process, many applicants tell us how important it is to help them understand whether fostering is right for them and their families.

Fostering assessment

Step 4 - Skills to Foster training

As part of your preparation to become a foster parent, you’ll be invited along to our Skills to Foster training course at your local ISP centre. The course covers a variety of topics that are essential in providing safe and secure family environments for looked after children, including attachment, the hierarchy of need, and loss and separation.

You’ll also learn about our key therapeutic foster care principles and be introduced to some of the additional fostering services we provide as standard, including therapy and education support.

It’s also a great chance to meet other applicants and some of our experienced foster parents, who are always happy to share their insights and experiences.

Foster parent training

Step 5 - Panel

Once you’ve completed the assessment process and initial training, you’ll be invited to attend a fostering panel at your local ISP centre.

This is where your Form F report will be reviewed by an independent group of people from related professions, including education, health and social care, as well as care leavers too. They may ask you some questions about yourself and the report, and will then make a recommendation on your suitability to foster.

Their recommendation and the assessment report will then be reviewed by our agency decision maker, who will make the final decision about your approval.

Fostering panel

how to become a foster carer

Step 6 - Your first child

Once you’re approved as a foster carer, one of our experienced referrals officers will be in touch to get to know you and your family. We build strong relationships with our foster parents, so we can expertly match the needs of children and young people with our families and ensure stability for each foster placement.

We receive thousands of referrals from local authorities every month and will identify the children and young people that we believe are a suitable match for your family dynamic, skills, experience and the type of foster care you’re interested in.

We’ll send you all the information that we have on the child and will try to find out additional information if you have any specific questions, so you can decide whether you’d like to be put forward to care for the child.

The local authority will look at the various foster families who have been put forward and will make the final decision.

Referrals and matching

How long does it take to become a foster carer?

It takes around four to six months to become a foster parent. This includes a series of home visits with your dedicated assessing social worker, background checks and references, and some preparatory training.

It's an important process to make sure that you're right for fostering, and that fostering is right for you.

What do I need to become a foster carer?

The minimum requirements to become a foster carer are that you’re over 21 years old, have the right to live and work in the UK and that you have a spare bedroom in your home that’s always available to a child in foster care.

You’ll also need to be committed to making a positive difference to a child, resilient, kind and nurturing. Find out more about the fostering requirements

How to apply to be a foster carer?

If you’ve enquired about fostering with us and are ready to take the next step, you can apply to become a foster carer using our online application form.

How long does the fostering process take?

The fostering process takes around four to six months, which includes the initial training, assessment and panel. While it may seem like a long process, it’s important to make sure that fostering is right for you and that you’re fully prepared for caring for a vulnerable child.

Speak to our team today

Whether you're looking for more information on how to foster a child or you're ready to apply for foster care, we're here to help you take the next step to fostering and start your journey.

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