January 20 marks the beginning of Barnardo’s Fostering Week, where we encourage people who may be considering becoming foster carers to explore what it involves. We highlight pathways and support for foster carers, share stories of foster care and bust some of the more common myths.
At the centre of everything we do is striving to protect, support and nurture the UK's most vulnerable children. Attracting and maintaining a strong and diverse fostering community is one of the important ways we work towards that. The children who need loving foster homes come from all backgrounds and walks of life, with different needs and support requirements, and the best way we can help them is to have foster carers as diverse as they are, ready to welcome and care for them.
Children who need care
Foster care can be for a long time, or just for overnight care. It can be for people who are looking to adopt, supported lodgings for a young adult who is leaving the care system, or even for a parent and child developing their parenting skills by living with a foster carer. We place children aged 0-18 years (but primarily children over the age of five), as well as children from a BAME background, brothers and sisters and disabled children who need all kinds of fostering.
There are many more kinds of foster care than most people likely think, so we have broken down the types of foster care children might need here and explain a little about what they each involve.
Who can foster
We welcome foster carers from all walks of life. Whether you’re a homeowner or renting, a parent or not and whatever your marital status or sexual orientation – it doesn't matter. We support all kinds of people in becoming foster carers.
You only need to be 21 or over, have a spare bedroom, plus have the time and commitment to care for a child or young person. It’s also important that carers can offer a smoke-free environment. We’ve delved more into the specifics of foster care on our Fostering FAQ page.
Support for foster carers
With such a mixture of care types and care needs, it’s important to know that with over 100 years experience, Barnardo’s supports each carer every step of the way.
As well as having direct contact with a dedicated and qualified social worker, carers have access to our team of social workers who are available 24 hours a day. There’s free certified training, both in person and online, to ensure looked-after children are always receiving the support they need, as well as generous financial support for necessities including food, clothing, travel, and household expenses, in addition to a taxable income. Barnardo’s arranges for other carers to look after your foster child for planned short respite breaks, link carers up with local support groups to share your experiences with other new and established foster carers, as well as provides organisational membership to the Fostering Network and Fairer Fostering.
Fostering may seem like a big job, but rest assured we’re passionate about working with you to see foster children and young people supported, happy and loved.
To support Fostering Week, we’ve asked a few of our foster carers to talk to us about their experience of fostering with Barnardo's in a selection of written accounts and videos. Explore some of the stories of Barnardo’s foster carers here.
If you think you have the space, the love and the willingness to support children and young people who need your help, you can visit our Fostering Week page, or submit an enquiry using our online form. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 0277 280 - our phone lines are open from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.