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Becoming a foster carer

Fostering provides children who cannot live with their own families for whatever reason with alternative care where they can benefit from a loving, safe and stable home for as long as they need it.

Who can apply?

Anyone can apply to be a foster carer so long as they have the qualities needed to look after children who cannot live with their parents. There is no maximum age limit for being a foster carer.

You can be a foster carer

  • whether you have your own children or not
  • if you are single, married or living with a partner
  • if you are in or out of work
  • whether you live in your own home or rent
  • whatever your race, religion or sexuality

How to apply

There is a real need for more foster carers in Northern Ireland. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, the first thing you should do is contact your local fostering service.

This can either be the social services department in your local Trust or an independent fostering agency. They will explain what is involved and will help you decide whether fostering is right for you and your family.

Following some training, you will be asked to complete an application to foster. At this stage you will be asked for a medical with your GP. Some safeguarding checks including an Access NI check and a social services check will be carried out. You will also be asked to provide references.

A social worker will complete an assessment of you and your family. It is a thorough process but is necessary to ensure the safety and welfare of any child that might be placed with you. At any stage of the process you are free to withdraw your application.

The fostering team may also feel unable to proceed with your application and in this case will give you reasons for their decision.

Finally, your application will be sent to a fostering panel who will recommend whether or not you can become a foster carer.

Regional Adoption and Fostering Service

The five Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts have responsibility for the welfare of all Looked After Children in Northern Ireland. Each Trust provides a vital fostering service to the people in their community. Together, the five Trusts’ fostering services form a regional HSC Fostering Service.

HSC foster carers in Northern Ireland are made up of emergency, short term, long term, family and friends and respite carers.

You can find out more about becoming a HSC foster carer from the regional  Adoption & Fostering Service website.

Private and Voluntary Fostering Agencies

There are also a number of private and voluntary agencies that provide fostering services in Northern Ireland, including Barnardo’s, Kindercare Fostering, Action for Children and Foster Care Associates.

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