We know that you will have many questions about fostering- below are answers to those which we are asked most frequently:
How long is it likely to take to become an approved foster carer with St Helens Borough Council?
On average, it usually takes approximately six months from the point of initial enquiry to becoming an approved foster carer and having a child placed with you. If you have previously been approved as a Foster Carer for another agency or Local Authority we may be able to FastTrack your application.
Can I foster if I work or study full time?
St Helens Borough Council strive to provide support to all carers to ensure that a child's needs are met. We endeavour to place children with families where they will reach their fullest potential and be encouraged to fulfil their aspirations, which is something that they may not have experienced before.
Working carers can provide our Looked After Children with a structured family life, and instil them with a strong work ethic.
What's required from you will depend on the child's age, the arrangements for contact with their birth family and whether they've started school for example. Once you make an initial enquiry we can discuss your situation and how fostering may fit in to your life.
I'm on benefits - can I foster?
Anyone can apply to foster, whether you are living on benefits, working part time or working full time or are retired for example. Each application is assessed on an individual basis and fostering allowances will not usually effect your benefits. You do not need to have a big house, just one that is warm, safe, clean and welcoming.
How much contact does the birth family have when a child is fostered and how involved will I be?
Each child's situation is unique, but most children in foster care continue to see their families to some degree. The level of contact is usually higher when children are in short-term foster care and efforts are continuing to get them back into the care of parents or relatives. For children in long-term foster care, contact may be monthly or less often. Contact is always planned and co-ordinated and as a foster carer you will be informed well in advance of any changes. Our team of support workers usually supervise contact sessions, which normally take place at Children's Centres or a similar venue.
Are there any age restrictions if I want to become a foster carer?
There is no maximum age restriction to be considered to become a foster carer, you just need to be fit and healthy enough to cope with the demands of looking after a child. You do need to be aged over 21.
Do I have to have criminal and medical checks?
Yes. The medical check-up is to make sure you're in good health and can care for a child now and as they get older. Having a health complaint does not necessarily mean that you cannot foster. For example if you have a bad back you may be advised to foster older children who do not need lifting and carrying.
A Disclosure and Barring Check (DBS check) is carried out to prevent children being placed with unsuitable carers. Criminal offences will be looked into on an individual basis and many won't stop you from fostering. However, if you've been convicted of an offence against children your application will be rejected.
I am single… can I foster?
Yes! We welcome applications from people who are single, living together, married, divorced or separated. If you're single, you may want to consider the support networks, including family and friends, that you will be able to draw on as a foster carer. We need all kinds of people to foster all kinds of children, We know that some foster children thrive in a quieter home where they have more one-to-one interaction, whereas others will benefit from a busy household.
Can I foster if I am gay?
Yes! Anyone can apply to foster, regardless of sexual orientation. What is important is the life that you could offer a child. We actively encourage applications from people from all walks of life. The children in our care are all unique individuals with their own set of circumstances and requirements. We endeavour to recruit a diverse range of carers in order to allow us to place children with families who can best meet their individual needs.
Would I be employed by St Helens Council?
No, you would not be a council employee. You would be a Foster Carer in receipt of a weekly allowance.
How much will I get paid?
We provide very competitive allowances. Minimum weekly allowances start at £250 per week. We have a skills level payment scheme and once approved there is the opportunity to rise to level 2 and 3 depending on you being able to demonstrate skills, experience and have completed relevant training. With each level the allowance rises.
In addition we provide additional payments for holidays, religious festivals and birthdays and we pay mileage to and from essential journeys. We will also supply all of the equipment that you may need to care for a child, including: car seats, prams, bedroom furniture and bedding for example.
Do I need a spare bedroom?
Yes, all children requiring fostering placements require their own bedroom. In some circumstances it may be appropriate for same sex siblings to share a bedroom. Babies can also share a foster carers bedroom in line with safer sleeping, however they will need to be able to move into their own bedroom when they are old enough.