Frequently asked questions

What sort of people are you looking for? Am I that sort of person?

Fostering gives you the opportunity to use all your personal qualities, skills and experience to the very best of your ability – giving desperately needy children the chance of a family, a home, to feel wanted and to feel loved. You will discover the satisfaction of helping to shape and change a child’s life for the better.

We are not looking for saints – our foster carers are very ordinary people. As long as you have a spare bedroom, do not have offences against children, and you are fit & healthy, very little would count you out automatically. Our foster carers have a very wide range of backgrounds, education and circumstances.

Do I need to own my home?

As long as your rent or mortgage payments are up to date, your house is suitable, you are settled and can offer a child their own bedroom, it doesn’t matter if you own or rent your home, or if you live in council or housing association accommodation. However you may need to get permission from your landlord to foster in your home, so it’s wise to check first.

Do I need to be married? What if I’m gay?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re married or single, gay or heterosexual, as long as you are committed to fostering and are able to offer a child a safe and secure environment. That’s the most important thing.

How will fostering affect the other children in our family?

Most foster carers make the decision to foster as a family, meaning that any children in the household are kept fully involved.

Because your own children have to share you with a foster child, who may be quite challenging, we advise new applicants to wait until their own children are settled in secondary school.

Will the foster child need to have his or her own bedroom?

Yes – and if a bedroom is not available when you apply to foster, then we will be unable to go ahead with your assessment.

How long does the assessment process take?

On average fostering assessments tend to be completed within six months.

What is involved in the assessment?

We make the assessment as straightforward as possible. The first stage is collecting basic information and giving you the opportunity to help you decide if fostering is for you. The second stage is more in-depth, and working with you we look at your background, skills and experiences to help us jointly decide what type of child might suit you best. This usually takes about 4 months. You will always know what stage you are at and what happens next. You can drop out at any time.

Are there a lot of checks?

Obviously because we’re dealing with children, we need to be stringent in the way we check out potential foster carers. Although these checks may seem intrusive, we have to make sure that all foster children are safe from harm whilst in our care.

We carry out Disclosure & Barring Service checks to ensure potential foster carers have no history of violence, or convictions or crimes – particularly against children. We carry out an NSPCC check and a Local Authority check to see if you have previously been involved with Social Services.

You’ll need a medical check to ensure you’re fit enough to care for children. Also, if you have other children in your household, we’ll need school references. If you’ve ever worked with children or vulnerable adults, we’ll need employer references including an up to date one from your current employer.

What kind of health and safety checks do you carry out?

Obviously we need to make sure that your home is a safe place for a child, so we will complete a Home & Safety Checklist with you. Also, we don’t place children under five years old in a household where anyone smokes.

How do we know which age or gender of child will fit in with our family?

During the assessment, we’ll explore with you how your family works at the moment, your routines, family rules and the leisure activities you enjoy. This will help us work out who will best fit in with your family.

Are foster carers classed as self-employed?

Yes. All our foster carers are self-employed and therefore responsible for their own tax and national insurance. Tree House Care can offer you help and advice on self-employment issues – but, on the whole, we find organisations like the Inland Revenue to be generous when it comes to foster carers, recognising them as valuable professionals.

Will I be paid?

We understand that you may be worried about the financial implications of fostering. We pay a generous allowance and many of our foster carers earn their living just through fostering.

Can I carry on working?

Most of our foster carers don’t have another job; being a foster carer is a career in itself. One member of the household need to be available full time.

What are the tax benefits if I foster for Tree House Care?

When you foster with us, you’ll be classed as self-employed. You will be entitled to tax relief on your fostering income and you’ll pay very little, or no tax. The tax relief you’ll receive depends on your financial circumstances and you’ll still need to complete a tax return.

HMRC give foster carers a fixed tax exemption of £10,000 per year. This means you don’t have to pay tax on the first £10,000 you earn through fostering. You may also be able to receive tax breaks on earnings over £10,000. We can put you in touch with accountants who are experts in this field for advice and support.

I receive benefits; will I still be entitled to them if I foster for Tree House Care?

When you foster with us, you’ll be pleased to learn that you shouldn’t lose any existing benefits.

You will still be able to claim Child Tax Credit for your own children. You’ll also still be eligible for National Insurance Credits, which count towards your basic state pension. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be eligible for Working Tax Credit.

Who decides which children I will foster?

When it comes to matching a child with you we have vast experience in this and we would only ask you to consider welcoming a child into your family if we think it is right for everyone. We will respect your wishes and you will always have the final say.

Many new foster carers worry about whether they will bond with a child and whether the child will like them. Don’t worry – this is common – all the training we provide will help with this and we can provide you with the understanding, tools, skills and expertise so that this isn’t a problem

What about the child’s birth family?

Many new foster carers are worried about the child’s birth family. Don’t be. Contact is always managed closely and tightly, often through a legal order and we wouldn’t put you in a position where you were at risk in any way.

I am an existing foster carer, how do I find out about transferring?

As you may know the government made some amendment to the law, effective from 1 July 2013, that makes it simpler and easier for existing foster carers to transfer agencies.

We have a two stage assessment – the first is basic information gathering; the second stage is more in depth but we will draw heavily on your previous assessment and experiences.

If you are an existing foster carer, your current agency must, by law, give us access to your file within 15 days of us making the request. Of course we will never contact your existing agency until you are ready and agree for us to do so.

In summary, we try to make your transfer to us as efficient and easy as possible.

We know that money is an important consideration. We like to be up front so when you send your registration of interest form back to us we will ensure this is discussed when we first visit you. We value our carers highly and make sure our payment rates are competitive. We don’t expect carers to lose out financially by transferring to us, so if this is an issue please discuss this with us.

Our foster carers also get significant tax breaks from the government.

Our referral rates are high – we have averaged over 400 children referred to us per month for the past two years. We were successful in tenders with the East Midlands, the North West, Birmingham and the White Rose Yorkshire consortium. We are on the Preferred Provider List for most Local Authorities in the Midlands and North of England.

We will be open about the chances of being able to make placements with you.

We have an office in Doncaster covering Yorkshire, an office in Grimsby covering Lincolnshire and Humberside, and an office in Warrington covering the North West. We plan to open offices in the Midlands soon.

Our reputation is one of integrity, openness and stickability. We value this very highly – but don’t take my word for it, please ask around. We can put you in touch with one of our foster carers who can tell you how it is.

We hope this will help you make an informed decision – we know it’s an important one. We are confident that if you choose to transfer to us you won’t regret it.

So, give us a call if you still have some queries. Better still, contact us today and get the ball rolling straight away!

What if I need to make a complaint?

Hopefully you will be satisfied with the high levels of service and support provided by Tree House Care. However in the unlikely event that you do feel the need to make a complaint, call us on 0800 012 6507 or email us at havingmysay@treehousecare.org