Children need to be looked after by foster carers when their parents or carers are not able to look after them. Sometimes the parents ask social services to look after their children; other times social services removes the children without parental agreement. The law states that children can only be removed without parental consent if the child is at risk of ‘significant’ harm – this can include serious emotional, physical or sexual abuse or severe neglect. All foster carers undergo training around these issues and how to help the child recover from their traumas – the training is delivered in a way that is easy to understand and it helps the foster carers to feel more confident about caring for the foster children.
Around 10,000 more foster carers are currently needed to care for the thousands of children who need a safe home and a loving family.
If you believe that you can help and love a child who has been through considerable suffering and trauma, then you should consider becoming a foster carer.
In particular, we need more Muslim carers to look after the Muslim children who would otherwise end up in non-Muslim homes. All carers will offer love, care and attention, but Muslim carers would be better able to meet the religious needs of the Muslim children.
We advocate that the best placement for non-Muslim children, whatever their religion, is most likely to be with carers of the same religion; however, when this is not possible, Muslim carers are happy to open their homes to non-Muslim children (particularly for emergency or short-term placements).
We also need foster carers from different ethnic backgrounds to meet the cultural needs of the foster children. Whenever possible, children would be matched according to ethnicity as well as religion.
The majority of children in foster care have been through some level of abuse, which causes varying levels of trauma. Even babies removed from birth suffer the effects of separation from their mother. The children may be confused and angry and they may miss their family (even through their family may have abused them). The children may not understand how they feel and they may not be able to express their feelings in a constructive way; the child may be disruptive or exhibit challenging behaviours (such as toileting problems or eating disorders). Foster carers need to be patient with these children and continue to show love and acceptance of the child until the child is ready to heal. If your family is not ready to look after a small child that cries through much of the night, or an older child that slams doors or swears at you (on occasion), then fostering would not be suitable for you. Not all fostered children exhibit these behaviours, however, a foster carer should be willing and prepared to manage these behaviours if they occur.
Will I be paid as a foster carer?
Foster carers receive an allowance to help them with the cost of caring for the children – this covers the standard costs for caring for a child, including clothes, trips, pocket money, child savings, toys and increased bills in the home. The allowance can vary between £100 to £550 per child per week. This can seem like a lot of money; however, foster carers who are only looking after one child often state that they are struggling financially.
Furthermore, many carers struggle to get regular placements, so they may not have any income from fostering for a considerable part of the year. Because of this, your social worker will do a finances check to ensure that you are not in debt and will not be relying on a fostering income.
Unfortunately, some people become foster carers because they think it pays well. These foster carers tend to be unsatisfied with the fostering role and are often found to be unsuitable carers. Being a foster carer can be extremely hard work so money cannot be a primary motivation.
That said, carers who look after two or more children on a regular basis can have a comfortable income from fostering. Furthermore, being a carer should not affect your benefits entitlements. Having a sufficient income allows carers to devote more time and attention to the children in their care.
Foster carers should not rely on fostering for an income because there may be several months between placements. Therefore, it is helpful if at least one person in the household has paid work. However, when a child is placed they may need a lot of your time and attention to become settled. This could involve some sleepless nights, lots of school visits (and disrupted education) and lots of professional meetings. You need to think about how you would manage a job alongside all of these commitments.
The main sticking point for many people is the need to have a spare bedroom. If you do not have a spare bedroom, you can still care for a child under the age of 3; however, it is very difficult to get placements for this age range. Realistically, only the local authority would approve you – you would need to contact your local authority to see if they have a need for carers without a spare bedroom. Fill in the contact form and we will contact you with details of your local authority.
Even if you do have a spare bedroom, your house needs to be in good condition. Social workers should not place children in homes that they do not feel comfortable in themselves. Children in foster care have suffered a difficult life – the least they deserve is to be placed in a well-kept home. This means that if your home has damp or you are planning to do a major redecoration project, you must complete this work before applying to foster.
It is not necessary to have a car; however, you must plan for how you will take the child to contact with their families, to school and to other activities. Because of this if you don’t have a car you will probably only get placements for children who live quite close to you. This will limit the number of placements you will get.
The fostering agency will carry out extensive checks, which will include police checks, social care checks, employer and personal reference checks. If there are any children in your home their school/college will also be contacted. If you have lived in other countries checks will also be carried out for those countries.
If you have ever been investigated by the police or social services you must tell the fostering agency straight away. Also, you must say if you have previously made enquiries to be a foster carer. None of these issues would necessarily rule you out as a foster carer, but social workers expect full honesty so they can assess if your previous behaviour impacts on your ability to care for foster children.
Do I need to be married or settled with a family of my own to foster?
Sometimes it is better for a child to be placed with two foster parents, but there are other times when a single carer might be more suitable for the child. For example, an older teenage boy might be better suited to live with a single male. The ideal situation is to have a range of carers in different circumstances. The minimum age to be a foster carer is generally considered to be 21; however, applicants of this age need have experience of a fostering household or have done considerable work with children.
If you have older children (or adults) in the home, you need to speak to them about fostering and make sure they are also keen to become foster carers. Children as young as 3 can understand the basic principles of fostering so you should speak to them when you are quite sure that you will be approved as foster carers.
You should bear in mind that some of the children who are in foster care present with challenging behaviour and/or may have a high level of need. You will need to think about how you can give these children as much time and attention as they need without making your own children feel left out.
Also, you should think about how the challenging behaviour of the foster children may affect your own children and how you will help your children to cope with that. You may need to have age restrictions or restrictions on the number of children you foster at one time to help you manage your time. This is something that will be discussed with you during the fostering assessment.
Do I need qualifications?
To become a foster carer you will need to have a good idea of what it takes to look after a child. Anyone who has cared for children knows that this cannot be gained from a paper qualification alone. What is more important (for foster carers) is life experience – if you helped look after younger siblings, work with children or have children of your own, you are in a strong position to become a foster carer.
That said, fostering agencies will support you to gain qualifications if that interests you. Also, you will be required to attend some basic training which ensures that you have most of the knowledge required to be a good carer.
Is the application process very difficult?
Less than 10% of initial fostering enquires result in approval. The main reason for this is because many applicants do not understand the fostering task or requirements. Muslim Fostering therefore insists that applicants have read all of the information on these pages before we can support them on their journey to approval.
If you have difficulty reading or understanding everything on this site you may also struggle with the required paperwork. For some services, it is fine to have someone to help. Please let us know when you contact us if this applies to you.
Another common reason why applications are not successful is because sometimes applicants are not completely honest with their social worker. For example, if you have an historical conviction for assault (against an adult), it is unlikely to prevent you from being approved as a foster carer. However, if you didn’t tell your fostering social worker about the conviction (or any other police investigations) then you will be ruled out. A fostering social worker must have absolute trust that foster carers are completely honest with them.
Furthermore, omitting information (thinking that the social worker doesn’t need to know), will also be considered to be dishonesty. This high level of scrutiny must be maintained to ensure high levels of care for the children.
The process is very thorough. There are lots of checks (including police, social care and reference checks) and the social worker asks for a great deal of information about your views, your past and your relationships. These checks are necessary so the social worker can be reassured that they can trust you with the life of a vulnerable child. You should be prepared for the whole process (from your initial enquiry to approval) to take several months – your agency won’t be able to give you a definite date for approval until they have done most of the assessment because they won’t know what issues or questions may come up.
Some Muslim foster carers have reported that the process is particularly difficult for them because they are asked inappropriate questions such as ‘how religious are you, will you be at the mosque every day?’ and one carer was asked ‘since it is not against your religion to do so, would you consider marrying any of the underage foster children?’ Other foster carers have reported being made to feel like extremists because they tried to explain some of the common religious practices within Muslim homes (such as not having dolls in the bedroom).
Muslim Fostering wants foster carers and applicants to tell us about their experiences so we can stop this sort of ignorance and discrimination by providing training, offering consultancy, producing research/literature and campaigning for religiously sensitive practice.
Do I need to speak and write a good level of English to be a foster carer?
As with many other aspects of fostering, it depends on the views of the service you apply to. Some agencies (especially local authorities) are happy to give foster carers additional support with their language skills. Other services may feel that you need to have good English language skills so you can fully understand and contribute to meetings. Foster carers are required to keep diaries and records for the children and you will also need to attend multi-agency professional meetings – you need to be able to understand and contribute to these meetings, but many agencies will agree to you having someone to help you with these aspects of fostering.
Many children in foster care do not speak English at home, so it is important that there are foster carers who can speak the same language as the child would have done at home. Muslim Fostering wants to create a network of Muslim foster carers from of various ethnicities and cultures. This would allow us to make the best matches for fostered children.
No, you do not need to be a British Citizen, but you do need to evidence that you can stay in the country long enough to complete the assessment and provide a reasonable amount of care to the children. The fostering agencies would need to decide if they should put the time and money aside to approve and supervise you if you are not staying in the country long-term. In reality, many fostering social workers do not know that citizenship is not a legal requirement or they feel that it should be a requirement, so they will refuse you on this basis.
When a child is adopted, the adopting adults gain ‘parental responsibility’ for the child – they become the legal parents. When a child is in foster care, the parents retain parental responsibility and in some cases the parental responsibility is shared with social services. This means that foster carers need to gain permission for certain aspects of the child’s care, such as taking the child on holiday or for medical treatment.
Adopters are encouraged to maintain contact between the child and their parents, but ultimately the adopters can make their own choices about contact. Foster carers must facilitate contact between the child and its parents, as long as the parents do not present an immediate risk to the child. Contact is usually in a contact centre (supervised by trained staff) or in another public area.
Some foster carers go on to adopt the child in their care; however, this is not the norm and you should not rely on it. However, it is not unusual for children to secure long-term placements with their foster carers – but again, you should not rely on this because you may not get a long term placement for several years. If you become a foster carer you should be emotionally prepared for the time when children go back to live with their families or move to other placements. This is an extremely difficult time for foster carers because they miss the children they have come to love, but you will be supported through it and you will be reassured of the positive difference you have made to the child(ren).
In light of the current world events, there is heightened interest and desire to help families coming to the UK in crisis. We anticipate that there will be a significant need for Muslim foster carers over the next few years to help look after unaccompanied and orphaned refugees. Anyone interested in looking after refugee children should be prepared to deal with issues such as post-traumatic stress, culture shock and separation anxiety. Foster carers will be given high levels of support in managing these issues and high levels of effort and patience will be required by the foster carers.
That said, foster carers must be willing to do whatever is in their capabilities to help children, regardless of background. Therefore, whether the child is British or a refugee is not as important as whether you would be best suited to help the child through whatever trauma or difficult experiences they have suffered.
Muslim Fostering is aware that most fostering services do not have the necessary knowledge or experience to understand the cultural and religious needs of refugee children. Therefore, Muslim Fostering is working with several refugee organisations to put together training and information packs tadvise those who care for refugee children.
Foster carers can specify which kind of placement they would be most comfortable with. For example, placements can be emergency placements, short-term (under 2 years), long-term placements; permanent placements; respite (short break from other carers), and pre-adoption placements. In reality, newly approved foster carers are only likely to get emergency, respite and short-term placements.
Foster carers can also specify what age range or level of need they can cope with, including siblings, mother and baby, disability, male/female only, specific age range (between 0-17 years on admission) and baby placements.
Your fostering service will only consider placing children with you who they think are well matched to you and your circumstances. Before they place a child they will phone you first and tell you everything they know about the child. You will then be given a short amount of time (maybe a few hours) to decide if you would like to care for this child. You are entitled to refuse any placements; however, if you continue to refuse placements your service may not support your continued approval as a foster carer.
It should be noted that Muslim foster carers report that they find it harder than non-Muslim carers to secure placements. Therefore, the more specific you are about who you are willing to foster, the less likely you are to get a placement.
Should I foster through the local authority or a private fostering agency?
When children are first placed into care, the local authority (social services) will ask their own foster carers if any of them are able to look after the child. It is only if the local authority foster carers aren’t able to look after the child that independent fostering agencies will be asked to care for the child.
Fostering agencies are either charities or private agencies who find and supervise foster carers. Most of the children placed by fostering agencies are older (over the age of 7), in sibling groups, present more challenging behaviour, or have specific needs (such as a disability).
Independent fostering agencies will state that they offer higher levels of pay and support than local authorities, but local authorities will state that they offer additional benefits such as furniture claims and extra clothing allowances. Furthermore, there are so many fostering agencies it can be very difficult and confusing to identify the best ones in your area. We will help you find the most appropriate service for you.
Will I get regular foster placements?
Only about 5% of the British population are Muslim - there are similar proportions of Muslim children in foster care. Also, Muslim children are more likely to be looked after by someone in the community so they are less likely to end up in private or local authority foster care.
Fostering agencies often cite these reasons for not wanting to take on Muslim foster carers – it is very expensive for the services to approve foster carers who will not get regular placements. This means there are relatively few Muslim foster carers and services are content to place Muslim children in non-Muslim homes.
However, in England alone this still amounts to around 3,000 Muslim children in foster care. Research by Muslim Fostering has found that up to 50% of Muslim children in foster care have lived in non-Muslim foster homes. There is likely to be a significant increase in these numbers over the next few years, due to the UK’s recent pledge to support orphaned and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The majority of these children will struggle to find Muslim placements and are likely to spend at least some time with a non-Muslim family.
Furthermore, Muslim foster carers and social workers have frequently commented on the levels of ignorance and prejudice amongst fostering social workers. For example, some social workers do not want to place a child in a home which only has halal meat, even if the carer has agreed to take the non-Muslim children to cafes to eat bacon or pork products. Often, Muslim foster carers are asked extremely inappropriate questions during the assessment, which not only makes it more difficult for them to be approved as foster carers, but deters many people from completing the application process. Even after approval, foster carers are reporting that Muslim children will be placed with non-Muslim carers for reasons such as the foster carers living closer to the school, but when non-Muslim children are placed, Muslim carers are rarely considered regardless of their location. In some cases, fostering social workers have struggled to distinguish the difference between placing with Asian Hindu carers and Asian Muslim carers. Muslim Fostering will support foster carers who go through these experiences by raising awareness and training social workers.