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Here we provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding the process of fostering, adoption and beyond.

General Questions

Will I get paid?
A Fostering allowance is paid to foster carers to cover the needs of the child. Information on the
current rates can be found on the Allowances and Fees page of this site. Part of the
allowance is a contribution towards extra utility bills that come from having an extra person living in your home, such as gas, water and electricity bills as well as phone calls and wear and tear on appliances. The rest of the allowance is for the child or young person’s food, clothes, trips, pocket money etc.

All mainstream foster carers are paid a weekly fee and can progress on a payment scale when they build up their experience and attend training. The fee recognises the commitment that foster carers make to children in Somerset.

Connected persons foster carers will receive the allowance for the child or children they are caring during their temporary approval and will then receive the Level 1 fee in addition to this upon full approval at Fostering Panel. The fee is an acknowledgement of the expectation placed on foster carers after approval at panel to attend training courses regularly and continue to develop their skills and experience to support them to continue provide a high standard of care for the children they are looking after who often have complex needs.

Adopters sometimes receive an allowance if the child they adopt has particular needs.
Will the children and young people go to school if they are of school age?
Yes, they should be at school. However, they may need to be at home with their foster carer when unwell. There may be cases when children are suspended or excluded from school and an alternative needs to be found but this can take time to organise.
Will you offer me any training when I have been approved as a foster carer?
Yes, all prospective foster carers are supported to complete the National Induction Standards for foster carers during their first year of fostering. These Government standards have been developed by the Children’s Workforce Development Council and contribute towards NVQ level 3.

In addition we have an ongoing training programme, which is set in advance and is available to all foster carers. We encourage all carers to attend training.
Will I get help?
You will have the support and guidance of your own supervising social worker. They will work with you and help you with any issues or difficulties that may arise.
Do the children and young people in foster care and adoption have contact with their birth family?
The majority of foster children will have on-going contact with family and friends. Parents have
a right to know where their children are living and it is likely that you will meet birth parents.
The frequency of contact and level of supervision is different for each child and depends on the
circumstances.

Adopters and birth parents, in most cases, are offered the chance to meet. We expect our
adopters to be open and honest with their adopted children about their background and
parents. We have seen the benefit of adopters meeting with birth parents to understand their
background and the reasons why they haven’t been able to look after their child. Many of our
adopters say that this is a very worthwhile experience.

Most children that are adopted have some form of contact with their birth family. Usually this is
in the form of letters (which are sent through the social work team). Sometimes it can be direct
contact with a birth parent and other family member – such as a grandparent or aunty or uncle.
If it is of benefit to the child, we encourage adopters and support them to have contact with birth family members.
Can I give a child in care affection?
Yes, all children need a hug or cuddle at times. However, foster children will have had different
family experiences and some may not be used to physical affection. There will be lots of
opportunities to talk to a social worker in more detail about this on the training and during your
assessment.
How can coming in to care affect a child?
Children coming into care may not have had the same chances as other children, largely due to
neglect or abuse, and they may be behind their peers in terms of emotional, educational and social development. Some children will have specific learning and physical disabilities or health problems.

A foster carer and adopter should encourage the child to fulfil their potential and nurture them with love and patience. We provide relevant training while you are completing your assessment and an on-going programme of training is available to help foster carers and adopters improve their skills and understanding.
How long will a child stay in care?
The aim is always to return the child to the birth family if it’s safe to do so, and this could take a matter of days, months or years. Those who cannot return home will be considered for adoption or permanent fostering.
Why do children come into care?
Children come in to care for a variety of reasons, it could be because of an illness in the family, a family crisis or because they are at risk of abuse or neglect.
Will the child's parents agree to their child being adopted?
Children can occasionally be placed for adoption with the consent of their parents. Their consent must be witnessed by an officer from the Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service (CAFCASS) to ensure it is properly given and that parents fully understand its implications. When a formal witnessed consent has been given, the Adoption Agency (Somerset County Council) is authorised to place the child for adoption. Parents may consent to the placement with specific adopters or any prospective adopters chosen by the Agency. They may also consent to the making of a future Adoption Order.

Where adoption is the care plan for a child being looked after in foster care by the Local Authority and consent is not forthcoming from each parent or guardian of the child, the Local Authority must apply to the court for a care order and placement order. The placement order gives the Adoption Agency (Somerset County Council) the authority to place the child for adoption.

In both instances the wishes and feelings of the birth parents must be sought about the kind of adoptive family they want their child to have, including how the child’s religious and cultural needs are to be met wherever possible.

The birth parents are offered independent counselling and support from an independent agency, Action for Children. Information for the child to have in the future is gathered at an early stage and is given to adopters when the child is placed with you.
What rights do birth parents have after the adoption?
Once an Adoption Order has been made, the birth parents have no legal rights over the child and cannot claim him or her back.
Will I be told about the child's background?
It is very important that you know as much as possible about the child's past. The law says the adoption agency must give you information about the child, which includes details about his or her background, time in care, school history and any medical needs. This information will help you decide if you could realistically parent and adopt a particular child/ren. This knowledge will also help you understand the child when they come to live with you, help the child understand the circumstances of their adoption and help you to find the best way of supporting them in the future. You will, before a child comes to live with you, meet with Somerset’s medical advisor who will give you all the information held about the child’s health.
Does an adopted child need his or her own bedroom?
We will consider the size, location and layout of your home and we believe that the adopted child should have his or her own bedroom. You will need to show that the child will have adequate physical space to keep his or her own belongings and do their homework and also that the child will have privacy. Although 2 adopted siblings could share a room if they are of the same gender, it is preferable that they each have their own room and for some children this will be a requirement.
Can I adopt if I am undergoing fertility treatment?
Some prospective adopters have not been able to have their own children and may enquire about adoption whilst still trying to conceive a child through assisted conception. We ask you to let us know if this is the case. Experience shows that you will need time to come to terms with your childlessness before you are ready for adoption, understanding that adoption will be different. Pursuing adoption whilst still trying to conceive a child of your own is not in the interests of children who need adoption, as a child could be born to you just before or after another child is placed for adoption. We therefore will not start your preparation if you are still undergoing treatment. We advise you to wait until your treatment is complete and have taken enough time (at least 6 months) to adjust to this so that you are ready to consider adoption.
Can I adopt or foster if I have birth children?
If you have a child or children already, either as a single parent or as a couple from a previous relationship, whether or not they live with you, you will need to consider the impact of adoption or fostering on them.

Adopting or fostering a child when you have a birth child or children will mean parenting in a different way and we offer specialist training to parents of birth children to support and advise you on how to manage the needs of different children.
Can I adopt a child from a different ethnic background?
Wherever possible children are placed with adopters who reflect their family of origin.However we work hard to avoid delay in placing children with adoptive parents. If this was likely to cause a delay, the child will be placed with adopters who were sensitive to the child's needs. The adopters would have to show an ability to help a child develop a positive identity and to challenge racism and discrimination.

About You

Do I have to be a certain age to become a foster carer or adopter?
You need to be over 21 and there is no upper limit on fostering.

We do expect people to be mature enough to be able to work with the complex problems that children and young people who need fostering or adoption are likely to have and to be fit enough to do this task.
What age can children and young people already living in my family home be?
There are no definite guidelines about this although fostering and adoption works best when the foster/adopted child is the youngest in the family. During the assessment we would need to think carefully about the match between your children and the children and young people that you hope to foster or adopt. This match needs to consider issues such as age and gender as well as the specific needs and behaviour of an individual child and how that might impact on the children and young people in your family.
Can I work?
You can work and foster or adopt. However, you will need to consider if you will be able to balance your work commitments with looking after a child or children. Children and young people who are fostered or adopted have often experienced loss, separation and trauma. They need a stable carer to meet their needs and therefore we would be concerned if a young child was going to need a lot of child care. We expect adopters to take 6 to 12 months adoption leave to enable a child to settle in.
What if I am on benefits?
Being on a low income or benefits should not stop you from becoming an adopter or foster carer but you will need to consider how a child or children may impact on your finances. We can give you some advice and support on this. Plus we may be able to offer financial assistance if you decide to adopt or offer long term care to a sibling group of children who have a disability or a special need of some kind.
All foster carers in Somerset now receive a fee for looking after a child and you can work your way up a progression payment scale. Specialist types of foster carer offer a significant fee to carers in recognition of the commitment you need to offer a child. You will need to look into what benefits or Tax Credits you may be entitled to.
Do I have to be able to drive?
No, you do not have to be able to drive. However, links with public transport would be useful certainly for a young person in placement who was able to have a degree of independence.

If you do drive and need to use your car in relation to a fostered young person there is a petrol allowance paid to carers for the mileage they do for trips over and above those needed for everyday family life. The mileage payment would need to be agreed by the child’s social worker.
Can I foster or adopt if I have a criminal record?
It's worth noting that if you have a criminal record for any offences you should declare these to us at an early stage. We will give consideration to the type of offence, when it was committed, the extent to which it has a bearing on being a parent and whether it was revealed at the time of application and how you have reflected on your past actions.
You cannot apply to become an adopter or foster carer if you or anyone living in your household has a criminal conviction or has been cautioned for specified criminal offences against children and/or some sexual offences against adults.
Checks are taken up through the Disclosure and Barring Service. We will discuss with you any convictions that are recorded against you.
Do I need a spare bedroom?
You do need a spare room to be able to foster or adopt. Fostered and adopted children and young people need their own space and privacy, and a place to do their homework.
I don’t own my own home, can I still foster?
Owning your home is not essential to becoming an adopter or foster carer. If you have the space and security to care for children as they grow up you will be considered.
We will need to know that you have some security of tenure and that your landlord will be supportive of your plan to adopt/foster or if not what your alternative plan will be. During an assessment you will be helped to think about how to ensure your home is safe for any child placed with you.
Can single people foster?
We have been successfully placing children with single adopters and foster carers for many years. It is helpful to think about who would be able to offer you emotional, social and practical support once a child is placed. If you have a partner who is not going to be involved in your application to adopt or foster we will still need to have some information about them and their potential role with your adopted child or foster children, now and in the future.
What will happen if I have had previous contact with Children’s Social Care or Adult Social Care (social services)?
Please tell us about the involvement. We will need to read the files relevant to the contact that you made at the time. We will be open with you about our findings and whether they will impact on your interest in becoming a foster carer or adopter.
What happens if I’ve fostered or adopted before?
Please tell us and we will contact the agency or County Council for whom you fostered or adopted with before. We will need to know about the service that you offered and about your experience of fostering or adopting for that agency. You will need to give us permission to contact the agency in question.
What if I have a medical condition?
Please raise this question early on in the process, as you may need to have a medical check to assess your health and how this may impact on your role as a foster carer. All applicants will need to have a medical check but it might be wise for you to do this earlier if the condition is of concern to you or the social worker.
Can I foster or adopt if I smoke?
Although you will not be automatically excluded from adopting or fostering, we will strongly encourage you to give up because of the known medical risks of passive smoking for young children.
If you hope to adopt or foster a child aged 0–5 years, it is likely that you will be asked to give up smoking at least six months before we start your assessment because of the medically recognised associated health risks to children.
We can discuss this with you and we can give you information and advice to help you give up smoking or you can approach your GP for information about smoking cessation programmes.

The Application Process

What checks will be done?
A number of checks will be done to make sure you can safely look after a child. They are:
- Disclosure and Barring Service (Police check)
- A medical report via your GP
- A SSAFA check (Soldier, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) if you have served in the Armed Forces
- A certificate of good conduct or similar – if you have lived abroad for more than 90 days.
- A household risk assessment
- Employment checks
- Ofsted check if you are or have been a registered childminder
- References from family and friends
- An education reference from your child’s school
- A reference from anyone you have parented with, such as an ex-partner. We are mindful that this is not always comfortable but in practice this rarely presents any difficulties. You can speak to your social
I have birth children. Will a social worker speak to them?
The assessment process involves looking at your background and potential capacity as a parent, including your knowledge and experience of caring for children. Sources for this may come from your own children. We will need to interview your children even if they are adult, about your ability to provide a safe and caring family for a child in the future. It is also important for you and us to know that they support you in your wish to be an adoptive parent or foster carer. The process will help you and your social worker build on your existing knowledge and skills. The assessment will consider the different stages of family life and how you might adapt to possible changes within your family in the future. The process brings up a lot of emotions and strong feelings but we need to be sure that children will be safe.

Parenting children who have not been born to you and who have been fostered is different, whatever your previous experience with children has been. Even if you have a lot of experience of looking after children, you will need to recognise that most children who need permanent or foster families will have had a number of difficult experiences, unlike those of most of the other children you may know. In caring for them throughout their childhood, your expectations both of them and yourself need to be realistic as this will be a crucial factor in achieving long term success. The assessment will enable you, your social worker and ultimately the panel to determine whether your family will be able to care for a child who needs to be fostered or adopted.
Will my ex-partner know I am adopting or fostering a child?
Key information will come from former partners who have jointly parented or cared for a child with a prospective adopter or foster care, such as a former spouse, civil partner or person you have lived with in an enduring family relationship. We will approach your ex partner unless we consider that there are exceptional reasons for not doing so.
Where former partners have not jointly parented or cared for a child with the prospective adopter, they will only be approached if there is a specific reason to do so.
Who decides if I can adopt or foster?
Your assessing social worker will write a detailed report about you to present to the foster or adoption panel. You will see the report and you can attend the panel.
The panel decides whether to recommend your approval and a senior manager considers their recommendation to reach a decision.
Can I attend the foster or adoption panel?
You will be invited together with your assessing Social Worker to attend the Panel Meetings. At the Panel Meeting you will have the opportunity to answer and ask questions.

How are children matched with adopters?

I have been approved to adopt, who will help me decide which child would fit with my family?
Approval is just the beginning. You will be allocated a Social Worker who specialises in fostering and adoption to support you through the next stage and identify children that might match with your family.
Can I adopt a child from outside Somerset?
We believe that matching the child and their new family is crucial to the whole adoption process and so should not be rushed. It is important that you wait for the right child for your family.

You can only be registered as approved adopters with one Adoption Agency but when you have been approved, your details are registered with the National Adoption Register to help you make links with children who are waiting for adoptive parents regionally and nationally. If after three months, you have not been asked to consider a child locally, your details are sent to the Southwest Adoption Consortium, to see if there is a child in the South West region who could be placed with you. You are also able to subscribe to different specialist magazines that send out the details of children in the country who need adoptive families. These will be the details of children who could not be placed at that time with prospective adopters in their own area. This could be for many reasons such as difficulty finding a same ethnic match, or the child may have specific or complex health needs, or needs to be placed a long way from their original home.

If after 12 months of approval you have not been matched with a child, your assessment will be reviewed and can if necessary be updated.
What will I be told about the child I am considering?
The child’s social worker presents information about the child, his or her family and their experiences in a report called the Child’s Permanence Report. This information will be shared with you.
My child has settled well. When can I adopt?
Your child must have lived with you for at least 10 weeks before you can apply for an adoption order. Sometimes, it will take much longer than this if your child is still settling in.

During this period, you will have regular visits from your own social worker and the social worker for your child, to support and advise you. There will be a series of reviews and a decision about the right time to apply for adoption must be made at a review meeting in agreement with your social workers.

Adoption Contact Register

What is the Adoption Contact Register?
The purpose of the Adoption Contact Register is to put adopted people and their birth parents or other relatives in touch with each other where this is what they both want.

The adoption contact register is in two parts, part 1 is a list of adopted people and part 2 is a list of birth parents and other relatives of an adopted person.
How does the Adoption Contact Register work?
The adoption contact register provides a safe and confidential way for birth parents and other relatives to assure an adopted person that contact would be welcome and to give a current address.

The Registrar General will send to an adopted person on the Register the name of any relatives who have also registered, together with the address supplied by the relative, and tell the relative that this has been done. No information about the adopted person can be given to a birth parent or other relative.
Is there a Cost?
A registration fee is payable for entry in the Adoption Contact Register.
What is the Eligibility?
You must be an adopted person or the relative (relative includes birth parents of adopted person and anyone related to the adopted person by blood, half blood or marriage - this does not include relatives as a result of adoption) of an adopted person to have your name put on the register.
What is the Process for Adopted People?
1. Contact the Registrar General's office for an application form.
2. Complete application form and return to Registrar General's office.
3. Once you have been added to the register, if a relative has already registered, the Registrar General's office will send you details.
4. You must let the Registrar General know if you change address.
What is the process for Relatives?
1. Contact the Registrar General's office for an application form.
2. Complete application form and return to Registrar General's office. You will be required to provide certain documents to prove your relationship to the adopted adult.
3. The Registrar General will acknowledge your registration when he has established your relationship to the adopted person and has been able to locate the birth record from the information you have supplied.
What documents are required for Birth Parents and Other Relatives?
A birth mother will need to provide a copy of her birth certificate and her child's birth certificate, and if she was married after the birth of the child a copy of the marriage certificate. Other relatives may have to provide other certificates. If certificates are not available, and the birth or marriage occurred in England or Wales, it will be sufficient to provide full details with the application.

In circumstances where a relative is now using a different name from that in use at the date of birth of the adopted person, other than as a result of marriage, the Registrar General will need to examine evidence of this change of name.