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Frequently asked questions

How old do you have to be to foster?

Foster carers are legally required to be at least 21 years of age.

We welcome applications from anyone older than this and have no upper age limit. Plymouth City Council has foster carers from a wide range of age groups. Some choose to foster before or instead of having children of their own. Some foster at the same time as raising their own children. Others miss parenting once their children have grown up and choose to foster later in life.

Although age is not considered a major factor in itself, you do need the energy to meet the needs of the types of children you wish to foster.

I'm a smoker, would that stop me applying to foster?

Plymouth City Council gives a high priority to the present and future health of children in care. Children need support to be healthy and stay healthy. Foster carers need to provide an environment that encourages improvements in the health and wellbeing of children and young people in their care. Children in foster care may not have had the opportunity of a good start in life and could therefore be even more susceptible to the risks.

Foster carers should visit the Smokefree website for information and advice about the effect of passive smoking on children.

Guidelines for foster carers who smoke

  • as an approved carer you are expected to have smoke detectors fitted

  • do not smoke around children or permit others to do so

  • you must smoke outside and keep your home smoke free. Smoke lingers in the air, so children may be exposed to it even if they are not around whilst you are smoking. Never smoke in a room where a child might sleep

  • never smoke in a car with the windows closed or when a child is present

  • be mindful of safety issues. For example, keep all matches, lighters and cigarettes out of children's reach

I'm having fertility treatment can I still foster?

If you have had fertility treatment very recently (the definition of 'recent' varies for each person), you will need to show us that you have come to terms with your infertility and view fostering as a positive move forward rather than second best.

If you decide to pursue fostering then one of our social workers will need to speak with you about whether you are ready to meet the needs of a foster child.

If you need more time to come to terms with your infertility then we would advise you to wait a while before applying to become a foster carer. You need to resolve your feelings around this loss and think about what childlessness or fostering will really mean to you.

For the child's sake, fostering must be a positive choice rather than a 'safety net' and we believe that you can only develop a successful relationship with a foster child once you have fully moved on.

Many people successfully foster because they cannot have their own children, but we believe that you must resolve the feelings and issues triggered by fertility treatment first.

I have a health problem does that mean I can't foster?

Foster carers must be generally fit and have the energy to care for the types of children they wish to look after.

You will be asked to have a medical examination as part of the process of approving you as a foster carer. Mild conditions won't prevent you from fostering unless they would have a major impact on your ability to care for children.

Being overweight will only be considered a problem if it is likely to limit your life expectancy or ability to effectively parent a child.

Serious or life-threatening conditions wouldn't automatically disqualify you, but we would need to seek medical advice and consider whether or not they would be outweighed by the strengths you can offer to children.

We positively welcome applications from people with disabilities and will balance any difficulty your disability could cause against what you have to offer a child. Although some levels of disability would make it difficult for you to foster, our experience has shown that disabled people can often provide a wonderful home. Some children have specific needs that can effectively be met by disabled foster carers. We will therefore be open-minded and welcome your enquiry even if you have a disability or serious health problem.

Would coming from a minority ethnic, religious or cultural group stop me from fostering in Plymouth?

Absolutely not!

There is a shortage of foster families for children from minority groups including ethnic minorities, mixed-parentage families and particular religions.

We are particularly keen to find families for asylum seeking young people who do not speak English as a first language. We believe that children are better off living with a family that reflects their heritage. This ensures that they don't feel cut off from their roots as well as helping them deal with any prejudice they meet. We will therefore welcome your enquiry regardless of your race, religion or culture.

I'm single, does that mean I can't foster?

Not at all.

The lifestyle and personal qualities you can offer a child are much more important than your marital status.

Children need to be looked after within a secure family environment, but this is possible whether you are married, single, divorced, widowed or living with a partner. Plymouth City Council has a number of single foster carers as well as married and unmarried couples. We will therefore welcome your enquiry whatever your marital status.

I'm in a same sex relationship, can I still foster?

Yes of course.

We consider your ability to provide a loving, stable home and emotional stability much more important than your sexual orientation and will welcome your application whether you are male, female, gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.

Different people bring different qualities to parenting and we believe that homosexual foster carers have as much to offer as anyone else. Several same sex couples are already Plymouth foster carers.

I've already got children, would that stop me fostering?


You can foster whether you are childless, already have birth or adopted children living with you, or if you have grown up children.

Although experience of bringing up children will prepare you for working with foster children, the life experience of many childless foster carers also provides the skills to make a success of fostering.

Unfortunately we do not accept applications from people who are pregnant or have very young children (we usually define this as pre-school age). This is because people with pre-school children are limited as to the type of fostering they can provide. We hope you will re-apply when your children are settled in school.

All children are unique, so some will benefit from being the only child in a family while others thrive in a larger family. If you have children living with you, we will take into account the effect of fostering on your whole family to ensure it is in everyone's best interests. This may determine the age or type of foster child that we place with you.

The exception is applicants to Band 4, our highest payment Band. Foster carers on this level will be expected to care for particularly challenging young people who may pose a risk to other children, so we will not normally consider people with children under 16. However, we welcome applications from people with children to all the other payment levels.

I want to foster but my teenager isn't so keen.

Fostering involves the whole family. Although one person may be the 'main carer', if you have a partner and/or children then fostering will be a big part of their lives too.

Before you can apply to foster, it is therefore important that each person in the household is committed to the idea. To help your family understand what fostering is all about, watch our fostering film together. Contact us and we'll send you a free copy.

I don't own my own home, would that stop me applying to foster?


Whether you own or rent your home isn't important - all that matters is that you can provide a secure environment in which to care for children and are not in danger of eviction or in any mortgage or rent arrears.

Similarly, it doesn't matter if your accommodation is small or doesn't have a garden. All that matters is that you have a spare bedroom and enough space to meet the needs of the number and ages of the children you would like to foster. We will therefore welcome your enquiry whether you own or rent your home.

I don't have a spare room, can the foster child share with my own child?


Plymouth City Council will only consider applications from prospective foster carers who have a spare room for foster children to sleep in. If you do not have a spare room at this stage then we hope you will re-apply if you move to larger accommodation in future.

I've got pets, would I still be able to foster?


Having pets will not prevent you from becoming a foster carer, the only exception being if you have one that is likely to threaten the child's safety.

We will consider the safety of your pets as part of the assessment process. Every child is different and pets provide valuable companionship to some children, while others prefer to live without animals. We will therefore welcome your enquiry whether or not you have pets.

I've just lost my mother to cancer and I want to foster to take my mind off the grief is that ok?

If any member of your household has been through a major life-changing experience very recently, or is likely to do so in the near future, then we would recommend that you wait until things have settled down before applying to foster.

The length of time this will take will vary from person to person - please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. You can become a foster carer even if your past isn't straightforward. Experience in having tackled and overcome challenging situations can be a valuable asset when caring for a child who cannot live with their family. We will consider how you have worked through difficult situations and what you have learnt from them to consider how you could help children overcome similar difficulties.

I've got a criminal conviction, would that stop me from fostering?

Having a criminal record will not automatically prevent you from fostering, although the circumstances of any convictions will be fully investigated and a decision on whether to proceed on certain offences remains discretionary to the local authority.

The only offences that would definitely disqualify you are if you have been cautioned or convicted for crimes against children. If you make a formal application to become a foster carer then at the start of the process, we will carry out an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check on you and anyone over the age of 16 who lives in your household.

What public transport runs by or near Ballard House?

Current services:

  • The 34 which runs from the City Centre via Millbay Road and stops outside the Duke of Cornwall. This is half hourly.

  • The 25, a one way seafront service which stops near the junction of Walker Terrace and would be okay for going back to the City Centre but not so good from the City Centre to Ballard as it runs via the Hoe. This is half hourly.