All you need to know about fostering a child

With thousands of children in need of a safe and secure place to live – there is a desperate need of Foster carers in your area right now.

Becoming a foster carer to a child is a life-changing and deeply rewarding opportunity for anybody who takes it on. But taking your first steps into the world of fostering can be difficult as you wrestle with the many questions that inevitably go alongside such a big decision. And if you don’t get the right answers, it can easily put you off.

At Diagrama Fostering, we appreciate that knowledge and understanding of the realities of fostering are key to making that decision as stress-free as possible.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of our most frequently asked questions from prospective foster carers. We’ve pulled together all the information you might need to join the thousands of people who have made a real difference to the lives of vulnerable children by taking the decision to provide a safe and secure home for them to live in.


What is foster care?

Employment and foster caring

Foster care support

How to become a foster carer

How long can you foster for?

Fostering children who need extra support

Why foster a child with Diagrama?

What is Foster Care?

  • What children need foster care?

When it comes to children requiring foster care, every circumstance is different. From parental illness to drug abuse, there are a host of reasons why a child might not have a permanent home.

What they have in common is that they will all have suffered some type of trauma.

Some children or young adults in need of care:

  • have specific learning difficulties
  • have their own children
  • are part of a sibling group
  • are refugees.

For most, fostering will be a short-term solution but sometimes this becomes long term and may eventually lead to adoption.

Can you foster teenagers?

Many children in care are teenagers. They’ll need foster carers who listen to them with patience and understanding and help them make sense of the world around them.

Up to what age can children live with foster carers?

Children can live with their foster family from birth until their 21st birthday.

Read more about the children who need foster care here.

Can I foster a child?

At Diagrama Foundation, we welcome foster carers from all backgrounds, but we would need you to be able to speak and write English. Before you take a child into care we will assess whether we think you are a suitable fit for our charity.

You can find more about this in our blog – What Do I Need To Become A Foster Carer?

How old do I have to be to foster a child?

Anyone over 21 can apply to become a foster carer and there is no upper age limit as long as you are fit and healthy in order to meet the needs of the young person you’re caring for. Your age and health may be taken into account when considering the age and needs of the children suitable for placement with you.

Do I need any qualifications to be a foster carer?

No formal qualifications are needed to become a foster carer. If we believe fostering is a good fit for you, we’ll provide the relevant training for free. You will however have to complete mandatory training that our team will guide you through.

Can I foster a child if I am single?

Foster carers can be single, married, in civil partnerships or an unmarried couple.

Do I need to own my own home to foster a child?

You do not need to own your own home to become a foster carer. We only ask that your foster child has their own bedroom, as they will need their own private space and that your home offers appropriate, adequate and stable accommodation.

Can you foster if you already have your own children?

Having your own children is a great way to gain the skills and experience you need to become a foster parent. If your children are still at home their needs will be considered when we’re matching you with foster children and young people.

Can I foster a child if I have pets?

Family pets can be a great asset – however, every animal is different and your pets will be assessed as part of the process of fostering with Diagrama, taking into account their temperament and behaviour.

Employment and Foster caring

Can I still work while fostering?

In some circumstances you can foster and continue to work, providing you can balance the needs of your foster child/children with your career. If you foster as a couple, one of you will usually be designated the “main” foster carer and the other could then work in another role.

For more information read our blog: ‘How I fit fostering in with my career’

Can I work full-time while Fostering?

If you plan to work full-time while fostering, you may be more suited to a ‘part-time’ foster care role, such as respite care. Talk to our team about this to find out more or learn more in our blog: Being self-employed as a foster carer

Can I take a break from fostering?

Respite foster care allows families – whether that be a foster family, adoption family or birth parents – to take a short breather, usually a weekend at a time, but sometimes up to two weeks.

Do I have to cover the costs of the foster child?

Foster carers are given a weekly allowance which is split into expenses which cover the costs of the foster child’s needs and pay for the foster carer’s skills and care.

How much does a foster carer get paid?

As a Diagrama Foster Carer you will work on a self-employed basis and will become a valued member of our team. Expenses will be covered, and you will also receive a minimum fee of £400 per child, per week depending on the individual needs of each child.  Fees are negotiated with the Local Authority on an individual basis.

Parent and child fees are charged at a full fee for the child and parent if under 18, or half fee for the parent(s) if the parents are over 18. Full fee is paid for each additional sibling.

Additional bonus payments of £100 are paid to help with birthdays, holidays and Christmas.

Do I need to put away savings for the foster child?

You must make weekly savings (currently £10 per child) and provide age-appropriate pocket money. This payment also covers expenses for clothing, including school uniforms, shoes, coats etc as well as any clubs and costs associated with that.

If you have any other questions regarding Foster Carers pay, book a call with a member of our team to discuss further.

What support do foster carers get?

Do you get extra money to fund birthdays and Christmas for foster children?

Additional bonus payments of £100 are paid to foster carers to help with birthdays, holidays and Christmas.

How much holiday do you get as a foster carer?

Diagrama Fostering provides 14 days’ paid holiday every year to carers and their families.

Do you get support from the Government for fostering?

The Government offers additional tax exemptions for foster carers:

For example, if you have one child (aged under 11) in your care for 52 weeks a year, you would receive just under £21k a year, before expenses, and would be tax-exempt. This could rise to £41,600 a year for fostering two teenage children (equivalent of a taxed salary around £57k).

What support would I receive to manage any challenges with my foster child?

In addition to the mandatory training you receive at the outset, Diagrama also offers ongoing training to help you understand and better manage any challenging behaviour during your foster child’s stay with you. Training is specific to your needs and gives you insight into why your foster child may behave in a certain way so you know how to successfully navigate this if and when it arises.

Diagrama also provides regular peer support meet-ups where you have the opportunity to meet with other foster carers and benefit from their experiences.

And finally, every foster carer will have a dedicated supervising social worker who will be there to support you every step of the way. Our social work team are available around the clock, 365 days a year to provide support as and when you need it.

How do I become a foster carer?

How do you become a foster carer?

The first step is a vetting process which aims to ensure that fostering is right for you. Then, as you explore fostering as a career with our team, we will help you to identify the options you are most suited to.

At Diagrama Fostering, our team is committed to supporting you and ensuring you have the skills to support the children and young people in your care. We provide a comprehensive training programme for all our foster carers.

The vetting process usually takes around 6 months to complete.

What are the steps in the foster carer training programme?

Step 1: Pre-Approval training. The first training you will be asked to complete, which is a mandatory training as part of your application to become a Diagrama foster carer, is the Skills to Foster training course.

Step 2: Post-Approval training. Once approved as a Diagrama foster carer, we then offer regular training opportunities which cover a wide range of topics to help you understand how best to support children with a variety of complex needs.

Read more about foster care training here.

Are there many stages to becoming a foster carer?

Your application to become a foster carer has six stages and takes approximately six to eight months to complete. Booking a call with one of our experienced and friendly social workers, or attending an information event, are great ways to find out more about the fostering process from the people who understand what’s involved.

Here are the six steps to becoming a foster carer

1. Your application enquiry

You can get in touch with our fostering team by calling 0800 802 1910, by email or by attending one of our information events. We will help answer any questions you may have and we’ll ask you to tell us a bit about yourself and why you are interested in becoming a foster carer. You’ll also receive one of our introduction packs which will explain in detail more about what’s involved for you.

2. Your foster care home assessment

Next, one of our team will visit you at home and go through the registration process. This will take around two hours and gives you a chance to ask questions and discuss your expectations, skills and experience. It also gives us a chance to see where you live and assess your home. Providing we’re both happy to proceed, you’ll then be invited to complete an application form.

3. Statutory checks and foster care training (also known as Stage 1)

As part of our rigorous vetting process, you’ll be asked to undergo Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and local authority checks, as well as a medical examination by your doctor. We also take up personal and employment references. These will all be paid for by Diagrama Fostering. You will then be booked onto the mandatory Skills to Foster course.

4. Form F Assessment – assessing your abilities to be a foster carer (Stage 2)

A social worker then assesses your abilities to be a foster carer. They may visit several times and everyone in your home will be included in this. Your Form F will be written up and will include our recommendation on your suitability to become a foster carer. This will be presented to our fostering panel who will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker.

5. Matching you with your foster child

Now you’ve been approved as a Diagrama foster carer, we will work together to draft your profile, which will highlight your qualities and skills and include photographs and information about your home and family. We’ll share this with local authorities looking to place children in care. As soon as that happens, finding a match can happen very quickly.

6. Support for you as your foster child/children arrive

Soon your first foster child will be placed with you – and this is really just the start of your journey together. We provide a comprehensive fostering support service whenever you need it – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you’re never far from someone who can help if you need it.

Read more about the fostering approval process here.

What is a Fostering Panel?

Diagrama’s Fostering Panel essentially makes a recommendation on your suitability to be a foster carer. Our fostering panel is made up of people with a wealth of knowledge and experience who meet regularly to consider information about individuals applying to become foster carers.

Fostering panels can be daunting but are a necessary step in the approvals process. At this point, you’re likely to have lots of questions but representatives from Diagrama Fostering will be on hand to help explain everything to you before you reach this stage.

Who is on a Foster Panel?

Our fostering panel is made up of independent social workers, independent community members, people with personal experience of fostering and adoption, a therapist, and a medical adviser. They all have different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and faiths.

What does a Foster Panel process meeting look like?

You’ll meet the panel on a Zoom call. We know it can be uncomfortable to be put on the spot, but we will do our best to prepare you in advance for the likely questions.

All you have to do is explain to the panel why you want to be a foster carer – it’s as simple as that!

What happens in a Foster Panel meeting?

Our staff will already have read your assessment and had a chat with your social worker. They will ask you a few questions and they will understand that you might well be nervous. They will have done this before and will do their best to put you at ease.

After the meeting, you will be put in a breakout room while panel members work out their recommendation. The panel chair will then join you to tell you and your social worker in private what their recommendation is.

What happens after my Foster Panel process?

Once the panel has made a recommendation, it goes off to the Agency Decision Maker, who has seven days after receiving the minutes of the meeting, to make a formal decision about your application (this is called a Qualifying Determination). You will be informed verbally and in writing of the decision.

What happens if my application to become a foster carer is approved?

If your application is approved, you will then move onto the matching stage for the fostering process.

What happens if my fostering application is rejected?

If the Fostering Panel does not recommend your application to become a foster carer, you’ll be told the reasons why and you then have three options:

  • To accept the proposed decision.
  • To make representations back to the panel.
  • To apply to the Independent Review Mechanism – Adoption and Fostering (IRM) to see if the decision can be changed.

Your Diagrama social worker will be there to support you throughout this stage.

What type of foster placement options are available?

Short term placements: These are needed when there is an ongoing legal process to consider the future of the child. ‘Short term’ can be up to two years.

Long-term placements: Long-term placements offer stability and consistency for children, young people and sibling groups.

Respite and holiday placements: These last as short as overnight or up to two weeks to help give regular foster carers, birth families and children, rest and support.

Fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs): Our experienced foster carers can manage challenges associated with caring for refugee children, including acting as advocates throughout any legal process.

Fostering for adoption: Our sister agency Diagrama Adoption supports prospective adopters who can consider fostering before adoption (Early Permanence) – for when adoption looks likely for the child in care, but there is a chance they could be reunited with their birth family.

Sibling placements: Offering multiple placements to keep brothers and sisters together. We help our foster carers fully prepare for sibling placements. Keeping siblings together under one roof is always a priority.

Parent and child placements: This is where the child is placed with a parent for support and assessment as to whether they can look after their child. This is usually a short-term role to ensure safety for the child. Parents can range from teenagers to more mature parents and the children can be anything from new-borns to older children generally under school age.

Special requirements: Placements for children with special needs are provided on a full time or respite basis. We have foster carers with specific skills and experience to manage a range of special needs.

Emergency or unplanned placements: Our emergency placement foster carers will accept children at very short notice – often on the same day – and until longer-term arrangements for care can be made. These placements can then remain in place indefinitely.

Can I foster for only a few weeks?

It is possible through a short-term placement programme to foster a child for short periods of time. This type of fostering is more suited to respite foster care. Talk to our team to find out more.

Can fostering lead to adoption?

If you are considering adopting a child, we suggest you speak first with our sister agency Diagrama Adoption who can explain the options and will support you through your journey. Fostering for adoption is considered when adoption looks the likely path for babies and children in local authority care, but when there is still a small chance they will be reunited with their birth family.

Fostering children who need extra support

Does Diagrama offer extra help for children who require additional physical, behavioural or educational needs?

Where children require additional physical, behavioural or educational needs, Diagrama offers dedicated support so that our foster carers feel they have all the tools they need to address any complex needs.

We also support foster carers who have taken in refugee children with any additional emotional, practical, language and cultural needs.

Every child is different, and it is therefore impossible to know how to support every child’s specific needs. At Diagrama Fostering, we strongly believe you should never feel alone or confused about how to handle difficult situations and that’s why our team is on hand to support you every step of the way.

Can you foster children with special needs?

Yes, you can, although this is a full-time job so having other employment is not encouraged as the child will likely need your consistent and constant attention. We will place children with special needs with particular foster carers who have a specific set of skills and experience aiding children with these attributes.

How do I get the skills and knowledge to foster children with special needs?

Diagrama is able to support foster carers with relevant training to help them manage the additional needs of any child placed with them. Talk to our team for more details.

Can I foster more than one child?

Yes, you can, in fact we actively encourage it, particularly a case when there are multiple children from the same family. Siblings can take great comfort from one another at traumatic times of separation from parents. While having more than one foster child may seem a bit daunting, at Diagrama Fostering, we try to keep brothers and sisters together wherever possible and appropriate. On occasion it may not be in their best interests to be placed together and each cased is considered individually at the time.

Is it possible to foster a refugee?

The current crisis in Ukraine has increased the demand for specialist carers who are able to offer a home to children who are asylum seekers.

At Diagrama, this process is called fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs): Experienced foster carers can manage challenges associated with caring for refugee children, including acting as advocates throughout any legal process.

Why should I become a foster carer with Diagrama?

Why should I choose Diagrama Fostering?

There are lots of fostering agencies out there and it can be tricky to know which one to go with. They’re all different and the important thing is that you feel you have a team around you who will offer comprehensive, professional support whenever you need it.

Diagrama Fostering is different from many other foster agencies in Croydon, Kent, Surrey, London and Medway in that it is part of a charitable foundation. This means the decisions we make as an agency are not driven by profit as any surplus funds are ploughed straight back into providing the very best support possible for the children in our carer and for the foster carers in our team.

Does Diagrama Fostering offer 24/7 support to their carers?

No matter what type of foster care you decide is right for you, our team at Diagrama Fostering will be on hand 24/7 to offer you support, guidance and training throughout your journey. We make sure you never have to face a challenge on your own. As a foster carer with Diagrama you will not only receive excellent training, foster care pay and allowances – you will also benefit from expert foster care support throughout every stage of your fostering career.

Are Foster Carers part of a team at Diagrama?

Our foster carers are right at the heart of our team. We make foster carer training and supporting our foster carers in Croydon, Medway, London, Surrey, Kent and beyond a priority because we know that foster carers who have confidence in their own ability to care for children are the ones who are best able to provide a home where vulnerable children and young people can thrive.

Who monitors Diagrama’s foster care service for quality?

At Diagrama we take the quality of our service and the safeguarding of the children in our care very seriously. The quality of Diagrama’s Fostering Service is monitored (and inspected) by a number of qualified professionals, including Ofsted. You can read more about this here.

What are the benefits of Diagrama Fostering agency?

While Diagrama Fostering has bases in Medway – in Chatham, Kent and in a foster agency office in Croydon, we support foster carers in Kent, Surrey and London too. There is always a member of our fostering team on call for you to talk to 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Our team of foster care experts can help you work through any challenges you are facing with your foster child and find the right solution. We believe providing excellent fostering support is paramount to ensuring the best experience for you and the best outcomes for the foster children in your care.

We also offer 14 nights respite cover per year – where Diagrama Fostering pays other foster families to look after your foster child or children while you enjoy a well deserved break. Our respite carers often look after the same children for short breaks and over time are often seen as extended foster family.

As a not-for-profit fostering agency you can rest assured any decision we take as an agency is made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the child, and is never profit driven, unlike commercial fostering agencies.

Am I able to meet other Foster Carers through Diagrama?

Our foster carers are encouraged to get to know one another, and you will be able to meet up at regular support groups, activities and events held. These are great places to discuss techniques you have found and used which have benefited your foster children. Sometimes foster carers live quite far apart, but they’ll make use of regular online video calls to allow them to speak about a huge range of subjects and to support each other and build friendships.

Are you encouraged to continue additional training by Diagrama?

We are always keen to hear from foster carers who want to broaden their skills, work with a therapeutic, child-focused agency and give their foster children the best possible chance in life.

Ongoing foster care training is provided to help you meet the needs of the child or children in your care.

Can I transfer Fostering agencies?

Everyone has the right to transfer agencies and the process is governed by the Fostering Network ‘Protocol for The Transfer of carers between Agencies’. At Diagrama Fostering we don’t actively seek to recruit foster carers from local authorities or other agencies as this is against guidelines. However, we understand there are occasions where it is appropriate for foster carers to transfer, and we can support you with that.

Read more about transferring to Diagrama Fostering here.

How do I find out more about becoming a foster carer with Diagrama?

If you are thinking about becoming a foster carer in Croydon, Kent, Medway, Surrey or London, taking the next step is simple – you can contact our team here.

How can I find out more about Fostering?

Attending one of our fostering information events is a great starting place to find out more. You’ll hear from people who have many years’ experience of fostering and be able to ask them ask any questions about fostering a child that you may have.


You can read more about Diagrama Fostering here.

Does Diagrama hold information events about fostering?

Yes, at the moment we are hosting online information events that normally last for around 2 hours. They begin with a short presentation followed by short talks from current foster carers (subject to their availability). There is then time for a Q&A. These tend to run once a month.

If you would like more information on our events, visit our events page on our website:

Can I make a difference through fostering?

Finally, this is the question we are probably asked more than any other – and the answer is a resounding YES! If you live in Croydon, Medway, Kent, London or Surrey, and are thinking about becoming a foster carer, we would strongly encourage you to do so. Fostering is challenging, but is also incredibly rewarding, with the unique opportunity to make a life-long difference to the life of a vulnerable child. With a desperate shortage of carers in your area right now, we would love to hear from you.

Start your foster care journey today

At Diagrama Fostering, we understand what a huge undertaking fostering is. It’s a life-changing experience and it brings immense reward – but we also know how important it is you feel supported on your journey.

Whatever your walk of life and whatever your experience, if you’re thinking of fostering, get in touch today. It could make a huge amount of difference to the life of a child or young person.