Tact fosteringAccording to UK government research, there were 80,080 children in care in March 2020 – an increase of 2% from 78,140 the previous year.

With this increase comes an even greater demand for new foster carers. So, there’s never been a better time to take on this incredibly rewarding role and give a child or young person a new start in life.

With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with the UK’s largest dedicated foster care charity TACT, to discuss what fostering involves, who can foster, and what the benefits and challenges are.

What is fostering?

What is fostering?

Fostering involves looking after children and young people who are unable to live with their biological parents and are in need of a safe, stable family environment.

Children and young people in foster care will be from a diverse range of backgrounds. The role of a foster carer is to provide a secure and nurturing home to help young people heal from previous experiences and go on to achieve their full potential.

Who are TACT?

Who are TACT?

TACT is the UK’s largest dedicated fostering charity. Their goal is to meet the needs of children coming into care by sourcing more foster carers throughout the UK.

Unlike many other independent fostering agencies that are commercial profit-making organisations, TACT’s non-profit status means that the children and young people in need of foster care are the sole focus of their mission.

What types of fostering are there?

What types of fostering are there?

Children and young people can find themselves in care for various reasons, so TACT offers a range of different foster placements in order to meet individual needs.

These include…

1. Fostering teenagers

According to government research, the majority of children in care are teenagers. Some people are put off the idea of fostering teenagers due to the common misconception that those in foster care are troublemakers.

However, as affirmed by research from TACT, like any other age group in foster care, teenagers will have been removed from their family for a wide range of reasons – a large percentage having experienced abuse or neglect.

2. Fostering sibling groups

Fostering sibling groups can allow children in care to maintain a level of family safety, familiarity, and comfort.

There may be times when siblings cannot remain together – for example, due to concerns of behaviour or risk, but in most instances TACT works to keep siblings together.

3. Short-term fostering

Short-term fostering is for children and young people whose care plan is uncertain. For example, a child could be placed in short-term fostering after being removed from their family home due to concerns, or following the breakdown of an arrangement with another foster carer.

Short-term fostering can last anywhere from a few days or weeks to a number of years.

4. Long-term fostering

Long-term fostering is for children for young people who will not be returning to their birth family. This type of foster care requires foster parents to commit to providing care for as long as is required.

This could be until a child is 18 years old, or even beyond.

5 . Fostering children with disabilities

Fostering children with disabilities involves providing specialist care to children with complex needs. This can include physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or medical conditions.

Many people find the idea of becoming a disability carer quite daunting, but TACT provide all the necessary training and guidance you need to carry out this hugely rewarding role.

6. Respite fostering

Respite fostering involves providing short-term care for a child or young person – for anywhere from a weekend to a fortnight.

This provides families and foster carers with a support network and opportunity to have a small break when required.

7. Child and parent fostering

Child and parent fostering involves offering a home to both. The parent may be under 18 and therefore be looked after as a child themselves. Or sometimes, the mother will be placed with a foster carer during her pregnancy so they can help her prepare.

In all cases, the main aim of this type of foster care is to ensure that the child and parents(s) stay together.

8. Unaccompanied asylum seeking fostering

In light of the current situation in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world, TACT are seeking foster carers to specialise in unaccompanied and asylum seeking fostering.

This type of foster care includes providing support, guidance, and care to help vulnerable young people become settled in the UK.

9. Remand fostering

Remand fostering offers safe family accommodation for alleged young offenders aged between 10 and 17, while they await trial or sentencing.

Remand foster carers provide vital support to young people when they need it most. This can make a huge difference to the future direction of their lives.

10. Step down fostering

Sometimes, a child or young person requires an environment only provided by residential children’s homes.

Step down fostering involves helping children make the transition from a residential home back into a family unit.

11. Emergency fostering

Emergency foster carers step in to provide immediate support and help to children and young people when they need it most.

This requires a great deal of flexibility as there’ll often be minimal notice before a child is placed with you.

Fostering fees and allowances

Fostering fees and allowances

Fostering is a paid role and as soon as you’re approved by TACT and begin caring for a child or young person, you’ll immediately begin receiving an allowance every fortnight to go towards their day-to-day care.

This is known as Foster Carer Allowance (FCA). For almost all foster carers, FCA will be tax free and won’t affect any other benefits you may currently be receiving.

The amount of allowance received will vary depending on a number of factors including the number of children being cared for, their age, and the complexity of their needs.

TACT foster carers will also receive extra payments for the child’s birthday, holiday allowances, and some additional travel costs.

You can find out more about Foster Carer Allowance, including examples of what fees to expect on the TACT Fostering website.

What are the benefits of fostering?

What are the benefits of fostering?

Fostering is one of the most rewarding roles that you can do, and one of the best ways to directly influence a young person’s life. There are many potential benefits of fostering, including…

1. Fostering can transform a child’s life

Most foster carers speak positively about the incredibly rewarding experience of helping children who haven’t had the best start in life grow, develop, and thrive in their care.

The influence of a good foster carer can completely change the direction of a child’s future.

2. Fostering allows you to build long-lasting bonds

No matter how long a child is in your care, they’ll often remain in your heart forever. Many foster carers stay in touch with their foster children, even once they’ve grown up and moved on from care.

It’s not uncommon for foster carers to share key moments in their foster childrens’ lives – for example, weddings and university graduations.

3. Fostering can teach your family important life lessons

Many foster carers find that the experience of fostering benefits their entire family.

For birth children, fostering teaches important attributes of compassion, empathy, sharing with others, as well as a better understanding of what those less fortunate may face.

4. Fostering allows you to develop new skills

Fostering is a profession, and while it naturally calls for caring qualities, there’s still a lot that can be learned – for instance, about children’s psychology, behaviour, and medical issues.

At TACT, you’ll receive foster carer training that’ll enable you to develop the skills necessary to handle any situation that you face.

5. Fostering can open a new circle of friends

TACT hosts regular support groups and meetings where you can connect with other foster carers and has a national network of foster carers offering peer support.

6. Fostering allows you to contribute to the community

The impact of fostering extends beyond your family and the children in your care. Fostering changes lives and is a way to give back to your community.

What are the challenges of fostering?

While incredibly rewarding, fostering can be challenging too. Every child that comes into care will have experienced some form of trauma in their lives which has resulted in them being separated from their birth parents.

Some of the most common challenges include…

1. Dealing with a child's trauma

Some children in foster care may have experienced trauma or neglect. Taking on someone else’s trauma can be extremely challenging and emotionally taxing, so foster parents need to be resilient.

2. Children may present difficult behaviour

As a result of previous trauma, it’s common for children to lack trust – especially at the beginning of a foster placement. A common coping mechanism is to test boundaries and challenge foster carers.

It’s important to look past this behaviour, persevere, and work to understand the thought process behind the actions. This can be challenging, but consistency and patience is vital to support young people in care and rebuild their trust.

3. Interacting with birth parents

The ideal end goal of fostering is to safely return children to their birth parents. However, this is not always possible and in circumstances where children are unable to return, foster families – where appropriate – may be expected to facilitate contact with biological parents.

This can be difficult as some birth parents may feel resentful or not be as cooperative or helpful as you’d hope.

4. Time management

Caring for any child requires good time management and planning, but as a foster carer, you’ll also have additional responsibilities including completing documents, attending meetings, and collaborating with your social worker.

Who can foster through TACT?

Who can foster through TACT?

People often believe they’re not suitable and rule themselves out as potential foster carers. However, marital status, sexuality, age, and owning a home don’t determine someone’s suitability as a foster carer.

To become a foster carer through TACT, you must…

  • Have a spare bedroom available in your home.
  • Be a full-time resident in the UK or have indefinite leave to remain.
  • Have good spoken and written English.
  • Be aged 21 or above (there is no upper age limit).
  • Have the time and availability to dedicate yourself to fostering.

Foster carers at TACT come from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. Alongside the necessary requirements, skills like the ability to listen, empathise, and provide a safe, stable, non-judgmental, and loving home for children are among the most important attributes.

To find out more, why not take TACT’s ‘could you foster?’ quiz? Or, have a watch of the video below where young people explain what they think makes a good foster carer.

What does the fostering process at TACT involve?

What does the fostering process at TACT involve?

The fostering process at TACT consists of six main stages; starting with an initial enquiry and culminating with a first placement, which usually takes between six and eight months.

The stages in between include a home visit, introductory training, application, assessment, and final approval. You’ll find a detailed overview of each stage of the fostering process on TACT’s website.

Making an initial enquiry can help you get more of an idea of what to expect, and determine whether fostering could be for you. The video below explains what you can expect from an initial enquiry.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, TACT has adapted their fostering process to allow people to complete it virtually.

Final thoughts...

Fostering is one of the most rewarding things that you can do. By providing a safe and stable home, foster carers have the opportunity to transform a child’s life forever.

It can feel like a daunting prospect to begin with, but TACT will be there with you every step of the way.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer through TACT, you can visit their website for more information.