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You are here:home > Living > Children's social care > Fostering


We urgently need more foster carers from Southampton and the surrounding Hampshire areas.

Fostering a young person can be a very rewarding experience. You are able to work with them through what can be a very difficult time in their lives.

Our Fostering Service was rated 'Outstanding' at our last Ofsted inspection in December 2011. A copy of the inspection report can be downloaded from the Ofsted website.

Our foster carers offer a warm, caring and firm foundation, helping children and young people to move into the future with confidence. To find out more about being a foster carer, you may like to read our carers' stories.

Young people in care come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Ranging from newborn babies to teenagers, they all have different reasons for being in care. Depending on your interests, skills and experience, you could look after someone with a disability or someone who has an ethnic background different to your own.

As well as 'standard' foster placements, there are also specialist aspects to fostering such as:

16 plus carers (aimed at helping young people who are 16 plus to move toward independent living)

Parent and Child Placements (where a parent and their child will live with you in your home in order to gain parenting skills)

Fostering matching service

Our careful matching service means that we will consult you before we make a placement and we never encourage you to look after a young person if it does not meet your circumstances.

We use the word 'carer' because fostering involves more than being a substitute parent. The main difference is that most fostered young people will return to live with their own parents.

As a foster carer, you will also work as part of a professional team. This team includes social workers, doctors, teachers and therapists, as well as the birth family.

Fully funded and supported

All fostering placements are fully funded, carers should never end up out of pocket, please see the 'Fostering Finance document' below. There is also a skills based payment scheme available to carers who have gained experience and have undertaken relevant qualifications (which are funded by Southampton City Council). It's up to you how far you want to go, you can develop a genuine career in care by fostering.

We will allocate a supervising social worker to you. Their job is to support you and make sure you have everything you need to give the young person a positive experience. We will help you with regular meetings, advice and support with all aspects of fostering. You will have 24 hour back up, and can access our 'Out of Hours' team in case there are any emergencies. Once approved as a carer, you will also become a member of Fostertalk (please see below for link to website), an independent, not-for-profit organisation providing high quality professional support to foster carers.

Further information

For more information on whether you would be suitable to foster please read our frequently asked questions listed below. Our video above, or our Facebook page, will also give you further details.

If you feel you are ready to meet one of our team, please complete and submit the 'Enquire about fostering' form by clicking the link at the top of this page. Once we receive this we will call you to arrange a visit for an informal chat in your own home.

Ofsted - Outstanding 2011-12If you would like this page or any of its attached forms in a different format (e.g. Braille, tape or disc) or in a different language then please contact us using the details below.

Happy endings start with foster carers

Fostering - Some frequently asked questions

1. Do I need to be a home owner?

No. You can own your own home or be renting or live in Council-provided accommodation.

2. Can I be a foster carer and be single?

Yes. You can be a single male or female. You can be in a same sex relationship. You can be married, separated or divorced - it really doesn't matter, as long as you can provide a stable and caring home.

3. Can I be in full time employment?

Yes, although this would limit you with the type of care you'd be able to offer. You can also be working part-time, or not working at all.

4. What are the different types of foster care?

  • Respite, which can be as short as one night through to 3 weeks

  • Short term, up to two years

  • Long term, two years and upwards

You can choose one, two or all three areas.

5. Can I choose the age range of the children I want to look after?

You are normally approved for an age range of children that fits with your own expectations and circumstances and also the skills that you can offer.

6. Do I need to have a spare room?

Yes you do, however it is possible for a baby to be in a cot in your bedroom, and then move on into either their own room or to share a room with your own children, if this is a suitable option.

7. Is there a minimum or maximum age for foster carers?

The minimum age is 25. There is no maximum age, you are simply assessed on an ongoing basis, as long as you're able to offer a good standard of care.

8. Do I get paid for fostering?

Yes. Foster carers should never end up out of pocket. There's a weekly allowance that's paid that covers the cost of any child that's placed with you.

There are also skills-based payments that are available for those who have gained a little experience and have undertaken relevant qualifications (funded by the City Council). Please refer to the Fostering Finance document on this webpage for full payment details.

9. What if I'm a smoker?

You can still foster, but it won't be possible to foster 0-5 year olds.

10. Would my partner need to be assessed?

Yes. If you live together (you will need to have been living together for at least a year), or are planning to live together, and even if you're planning on being the primary carer, there is an expectation that your partner will have background checks done and will come on the training courses and be assessed alongside you.

11. Will being a foster carer affect any benefits I may be on?

You would need to make your benefits advisor aware that you are fostering. It is also advisable to register as being self employed.

The fostering allowances that are paid are to cover the cost of having children living with you in your home. Income Support would not be affected while you have a child in placement. Our Fostering and Benefits guide provides further information. There are generous income thresholds relating to fostering income and Working Tax credit, which you are unlikely to exceed.

Find out more about Fostering relief.

Once approved as a foster carer for Southampton City Council you automatically become a member of FosterTalk who can provide a discounted tax return service and also have a helpline to provide advice if needed.

12. How long does it take to be assessed?

Following on from an initial home visit, should we be happy for you to progress, we will send you the full application form. Once we've had the completed form back, it then takes a maximum of 8 months to complete the assessment. The assessment will involve background checks that are run by independent bodies and the time it takes for the checks to come back to us is variable.

As part of the assessment there's also a training course that will help inform you of some of the challenges you may face and provide you with the skills you'll need for fostering placements.

13. Can I still foster if I have a criminal record?

The disclosure of a criminal record will not necessarily stop you from fostering. During your assessment your supervising social worker would look at the nature of the offence, how long ago it was committed and the age you were when it was committed and will then decide if the conviction renders you unsuitable to become a foster carer. 

You will be asked to declare any conviction or cautions which you may have. Any offences, which you may have committed, will be exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Any information you give will be treated in confidence and will only be used in relation to your fostering application. Information received from the Disclosure and Barring Service will be kept in strict confidence and will be destroyed when your fostering application is complete.

Failure to declare a conviction may adversely affect your application to become a foster carer.

14. Can I offer respite care for 0 - 2 year olds?

It is very infrequent that we have the need for respite placements for 0 - 2 year olds, and when these occasional placements are needed, we will use our current in-house foster carers to cover them.

We are happy to consider enquiries from people who are looking to potentially offer respite placements for 0 - 5 year olds (or older). This wider age range means that it is possible for us to make a far higher number of placements with any carer who would be offering these placements for this age range.

15. I have a one bedroom property. Can I foster a baby and have them sleep in a cot in my bedroom?

Unfortunately you need a secondary bedroom for any baby to be able to move in to, should they get to a size / age that they're no longer able to be in a cot in your bedroom.

With most pre-adoptive, short term fostering placements, we endeavour to get any child placed with an adoptive family as soon as possible. In most cases this is while a child is still young enough to be in a cot in a carer's bedroom. However, in some instances the adoption proceedings can take longer so we need carers to have a secondary bedroom for a baby or toddler to be able to move in to when needed.

Downloadable documents

Icon Name of file Size Download time
PDF document Fostering Finance Document 206 KB 0secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document Fostering and Benefits information sheet 2260 KB 9secs @ 2Mbps
Link to download Adobe Acrobat if required

Contact information