Are foster carers allowed to smoke?
It's a common misconception that smoking will automatically exclude you from fostering. This simply isn't true, you can smoke and foster, however, there are some restrictions.
As a smoker, you won't be considered to care for:
- A child under 5 years old
- A parent and child or baby
- A child who experiences any kind of respiratory illness
These restrictions are in place if you smoke, vape or use e-cigarettes, and apply to everyone in the home, not just for the main foster parent.
An important part of your role as a foster parent is to promote a healthy lifestyle, and so if you or anyone else living in your home needs to smoke, you'll need to do it outside of your home or car and away from the children in your care.
As part of the application process, we'll ask you about your smoking habits and so we simply ask you to be open and honest - so long as you're happy with the above, then there's no reason why you won't be able to continue your journey to foster.
How old do you have to be to foster?
Foster carers must be at least 21 years old – this is a requirement that’s shared across all fostering services in the UK.
I’m now retired; am I able to foster?
Absolutely, there’s no age limit to start your fostering journey, so long as you’re fit, healthy and have enough energy to meet the needs of a child in care.
We have foster parents in their late 60’s and 70’s still fostering with us and making a huge difference to the lives of vulnerable young people.
We’ll expertly match you with children and young people who suit your skills and experience and surround you with a professional team of social workers, education specialists, therapists and more. Plus, you’ll have 24/7 access to our helpline, so you’re never on your own.
As with everyone wishing to foster, you’ll need to undergo a full fostering assessment where we’ll look at your suitability to foster. This includes a medical examination by your GP, who will assess your health and highlight any potential issues that may affect your ability to foster.
Who can apply to become a foster parent?
We welcome individuals from all walks of life to join our team of foster parents. You can be:
- Male or female;
- Single, married, divorced, co-habiting;
- Straight, gay, bisexual or transgender;
- From any ethnic group or religion;
- Any age over 21 – so long as you’re fit and healthy, and able to meet the needs of a child in care.
Of course, you’ll need to meet the initial criteria to foster, which are that you’re over 21 years old, have the legal right to work in the UK and have a spare bedroom that’s always available for a child in care.
Do I need any experience to become a foster parent?
While experience with children is beneficial, it’s not essential as our preparatory training course will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to care for a child. Plus, with our professional circle of support - including social workers, therapists, fostering advisors, advisory teachers and other foster carers - you’re never more than a phone call away from specialist advice.
Some of our foster parents have previous experience with young people, either through work or bringing up children of their own. Others don’t have any previous experience but hold a strong desire to make a difference.
I have a disability and I’d like to become a foster carer. Is this possible?
Having a disability won’t automatically disqualify you from becoming a foster carer. It’s much more about how you manage your health condition or disability and how it may affect your ability to meet the needs of a child, and whether the challenging nature of fostering may negatively impact your health.
The fostering assessment will, therefore, check that your health condition or disability won’t hold you back from fulfilling your duties as a foster carer and also that the role won’t have a detrimental impact on your health.
We always recommend that you speak to one of our fostering advisers, so we can understand your condition a little more.
I can’t drive; does this mean I can’t foster?
One of the important duties of a foster carer is around transporting a child in your care to various meetings, including contact with their family, therapy sessions (if needed) and school, which isn’t always nearby. In addition, you’ll also need to attend regular meetings and training at your local ISP centre. Therefore, having access to transport is vital for you to be able to fulfil the role of a foster carer.
Whether you can make it work as a non-driver will completely depend on your personal circumstances. For example, you may have a partner who will be able to do the school run, transport to contact and therapy and you can make alternative arrangements to get to the ISP centre for training and meetings, or you may have excellent public transport links within your area – for example, London and other major cities.
We always recommend that you speak to one of our fostering advisers, so we can understand your personal circumstances and see if we can find a way to make it work.
How to 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.