Think you’re too old or young to foster? Think again

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According to a 2013 survey by the charity Action for Children, over half the nation (54 per cent) think you won’t be approved for fostering if you are older than 55. Anne, a pensioner from Kent, knows better. She has been fostering through GLF for the last five years.

She said: ‘Children have played a big part of my adult life, but while my three kids weren’t yet ready to have children of their own, I felt I had a lot of love and experience to offer to a child that was just going to waste.’

At GLF we encourage foster applications from people of all ages – as long as you are able to commit to the responsibilities of fostering and answer the needs of a child we will consider your application.

So yes that means that just as there isn’t an upper age limit, the lower one is much lower than you think too – you must legally be older than 21, unless you have very special and rare circumstances, but that is where the restrictions end. Yet recent research showed that only 22 per cent of people under the age of 25 think they would even be accepted as foster carers. So the team at GLF were delighted for Stacey Heywood who was recently recognised in the 2016 Pride of Britain awards for becoming the UK’s youngest foster Mum at the age of 17. It proved to us what we have always known – that the love and dedication it takes to provide a safe and caring foster home is not age dependent.

Of course the different stages of life can bring with it different challenges – so if you have concerns that your health may not be what it once was, or at the other end of the spectrum, you’re not yet sure if you can offer a stable enough home, get in touch so we can talk through your individual case.

Returning to Anne in Kent, she added: ‘Sometimes people wonder why I want to foster children now that I am a pensioner and free from responsibility, but for me there couldn’t be a better moment. I have so much time and patience to offer since I’ve retired and that is what some children really need right now.’

I thought renting would count against me

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Sarah, 27 from Bromley, is typical of many young people in the UK. She works for a good firm but is stuck renting as she can’t raise the deposit she needs for a mortgage. While she is resigned to waiting to buy her own place, from a young age she has always wanted to look after children and didn’t want to put that dream on the back burner.

Sarah said: ‘I heard about fostering when I was at school and as I got older it began to feel like something I would be really good at. My life now is really stable – I have a great job, secure income and a lovely home – except it isn’t mine.’

The UK’s National Minimum Standards for Fostering asks for a foster child to have their own room, with few exceptions, and accommodation to be of a reasonable standard but makes no other stipulation about housing type. So as long as you have the space required and your landlord has given you approval to foster children in your home, your rental arrangements won’t prevent you from fostering. GLF can advise you on how best to broach the subject with your landlord if you’re worried that they might say no because they don’t properly understand what fostering entails.

It is important to remember though that while you will receive financial support from the government towards the cost of fostering children, fostering does not make you eligible for extra housing benefit. The good news though is that after a rethink the government will no longer apply the bedroom tax (officially known as the under occupancy penalty) to foster carers. This means that if you are in social housing and in receipt of housing benefit you will not have this payment reduced if you use one of the bedrooms for a foster child.

Sarah has now been approved to foster and looking forward to welcoming her first child into her home. ‘I might never be able to afford my own home but I’m so glad that hasn’t stopped me from pursuing fostering. I can’t wait to be a foster Mum.’