Criteria for Foster Carers


This chapter was reviewed and updated in March 2023.

1. Individual and Joint

Applications will be considered from married couples, civil partners, unmarried couples or single people.

2. Religion

Applications will be considered from people of any or no religious persuasion.

3. Ethnicity

Applications will be considered from people of any race ethnicity or culture.

4. Age

The minimum age for foster carers is generally 21 years. In exceptional circumstances, e.g. with some Family and Friends Carers, the minimum age may be reduced to 18. There is no specific upper age limit.

5. Gender

Applications will be considered from people of any gender identity.

6. Sexual Orientation

Applications will be considered from people of any sexual orientation.

7. Income and Work Commitment

Applicants may be in work or not.

8. Health

Applicants will be required to have a full medical and undergo any further tests/checks that may be required. Any medical advice given must be taken seriously by the applicants and will be addressed during the assessment process.

Applicants are expected to positively promote a healthy life-style which will enable a child to reach his or her full potential. This would encompass attention to nutrition, exercise, routine and hygiene.

It is expected that foster carers will comply with nationally recommended alcohol consumption levels and that children's needs and safety will be met at all times.

It is expected that if applicants have a history of smoking they will have ceased smoking for at least 6 months if they wish to be considered as foster carers of children under the age of 5 years of age. Additionally applicants who are smokers must be prepared to abide by Hertfordshire policy on smoking.

9. Criminal Convictions

A person who is seeking approval as a foster carer will not be considered if s/he or any adult member of the household is within the category of Disqualified Persons (Foster Carer) unless the application is to foster a child who is already living with the applicant(s) and at least one of the applicants is a relative of the child, in which case the caution/conviction will not automatically preclude the application but will be taken into account when assessing the suitability of the applicant - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.

Other convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. Each applicant with any convictions on their DBS, will need to have a DBS risk assessment completed by a Fostering Manager and needs to be signed off by the Operations director. All such cases will be referred to the Fostering Service Manager who may also consult the Agency Decision Maker.

10. Accommodation

Applicants may own their own home or live in rented accommodation.

They will need living and sleeping accommodation appropriate to the number and ages of the children they are seeking to foster.

Only children under the age of 18 months can share a bedroom with their foster carers. Children aged 18 months and over will need to have their own bedroom, unless it has been agreed they are sharing with a sibling. Only in exceptional circumstances would sharing bedrooms be allowed and this would never be with the sons or daughters of the foster carer.

It is important that the home environment is child-friendly, welcoming to children, safe and meets reasonable levels of hygiene.

All applicants will have a health and safety check on their home undertaken by a member of the Fostering service. This will include the outdoor space, animals and the holding of any firearms. A separate pet assessment will be completed for any pets in the household. See Foster Carers Accommodation Policy CS0331, and Policy on Pets in Foster Carers Homes CS0333.

11. Transport

The main carer is expected to be a vehicle driver and have access to a vehicle during the day wherever possible. This is particularly important for those children under 10 years of age, who may have frequent contact with birth family (where deemed appropriate), and require transport to school, nursery and activities. HCC's Specialist and Safeguarding Services does not endorse the use of taxis for this purpose. In certain circumstances, applications may be considered from people who do not hold a driving license or drive a car.

12. Child Care Experience

It is important that the applicant who is going to be the main carer can evidence  relevant childcare experience of children of the age group in which the applicants are interested to foster.

13. Family Contact

All applicants must be prepared to facilitate contact between any foster child and his or her parents and significant family members.

14. Provision of Care in line with HCC Procedures, including Safe Behaviour Management

All applicants must be prepared to support children in line with HCC Fostering policies and procedures, which includes:

  • No form of corporal punishment is used on any child placed with a foster carer;
  • No child placed with foster carer is subject to any measure of control, restraint or discipline which is excessive or unreasonable; and
  • Physical restraint is used on a child only where it is necessary to prevent likely injury to the child or persons or likely serious damage to property;
  • Meet the emotional needs of a foster child.