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Fostering with us

Information about fostering with us and the different types of fostering you can do.

Thank you for your interest in fostering for Lewisham Council.

We're always looking for new foster carers to look after children and young people in the borough.

Fostering is about providing a safe and caring home for children and young people, who, for various reasons, can not live with their own families.

There's no such thing as a typical foster carer, but fostering is demanding and there are certain qualities you'll need such as patience, understanding and flexibility.

We're looking for people who have a spare bedroom in their home to foster children and young people over 5 years old. If you want to foster babies, you don't need a spare bedroom.

We welcome applications from all sections of the community, regardless of:

  • ethnicity
  • faith
  • age
  • sexuality
  • disability
  • background
  • marital status
  • employment status
  • income
  • experience
What is fostering?

Fostering means caring for children and young people who cannot live with their own families.

The child or young person will live in your home for a period of time, which can range from a few days to several months, or in some cases several years.

Some children will return to their birth families, others may be supported through long-term fostering until they are ready to live independently, and some will be adopted.

When a child is placed in your home, you will form part of the team around the child, working with the social workers and other professionals to make a positive difference to the child’s life.

Types of fostering

We will discuss with you the type of fostering that will best suit you and your family. Many of our carers choose one type of fostering over another.

Emergency fostering

If you do emergency fostering, you will:

  • take a child into your home at any time of the night or day
  • have the child stay for up to seven days

This type of fostering is unplanned and usually short notice, for example if a single parent is taken into hospital and there is no one to care for their child. We would decide if longer-term care plans need to be arranged.

Short-term fostering

As a short-term foster carer, you would take children into your home on either a planned or an emergency basis. This can range from an overnight stay to several months.

After that, the child will:

  • return to their family
  • move to a permanent foster placement
  • be adopted

Long-term or permanent fostering

Some children and young people need a long-term foster carer.

You would offer planned placements for children and young people for a number of years until they reach 18 or beyond.

Long-term placements mean children know they have a safe and supported family environment to grow up in, while staying in contact with their birth family.

Caring for teenagers and larger family groups

We particularly need:

  • two-adult foster carer households to care for teenagers.
  • people with large houses to care for sibling groups of 2–6 children, if necessary with small ones sharing bedrooms
  • people who can care for teenage parents and their children

Parent and baby fostering

The placements are for a new parent, most often the mother, and their baby. The parent may:

  • be young
  • not have an easy family life or support around them at home

Specialist fostering

Sometimes we need skilled foster carers to offer support to children in special circumstances including:

  • children with complex emotional and behavioural problems
  • asylum seeking children and young people

Lewisham Fostering Statement of Purpose 2023-2024

Who needs to be fostered?

Fostering is for children and young people aged up to 18 years, who cannot live with their family. Children need to be looked after for a variety of reasons:

  • Some children may need a period of time in care while a crisis at home is being assessed and support is being put in place.
  • The parent may need extra support to help them parent successfully, and the children will need to be cared for in a foster placement while that is taking place.
  • The parent may be unwell and have no family or friends to care for their children while they receive treatment.
  • A parent’s dependence on drugs or alcohol may mean that they cannot put their children’s needs first.
  • A parent is absent.

Children and young people who need to be fostered may: 

  • be on their own  
  • have disabilities 
  • have siblings 
  • be teenagers 
  • be unaccompanied asylum seekers
  • have complex needs

At times, social workers and other professionals are so concerned about a a child’s safety they need to be removed from their home by the police or the courts. The child will receive an emergency fostering placement, provided by our team of foster carers.

There are many children and young people who need looking after, so it is important that lots of different people work as foster carers. Many of the children come from diverse backgrounds and cultures, so we are looking for foster carers to reflect all sections of our community.

We are urgently looking for more foster carers who can care for children with complex and developmental needs (CWCDN).

Children with complex and development needs have an illness, disability or sensory impairments that means they need significant daily support. In caring for these children, you will be offering specialist care to support their medical needs. Welcoming these children in your home will give them a chance to grow up in a home environment with the medical care they need.

  • Caring for these children can feel challenging, but the rewards are immense and can lead to significant positive health outcomes for the child. 
Who can foster?

If you want to be a foster carer, there are certain things you need to consider:


You need to have experience of caring for children, either your own or others, this can be a personal or professional setting.

Residents with a healthcare background are well-placed to become specialist carers. 

Nurses and healthcare assistants nearing retirement may consider using their skillset to give a local child a safe home. 

However, a healthcare background is not a requirement to become a mainstream foster carer as Lewisham Council offers a robust training and support package that is tailored specifically for the needs of each child. Please see our skills development and training section for more information. 


  • you can foster if you are 21 or older
  • there is no upper age limit
  • You need to be fit and healthy enough to cope with the responsibilities and demands of fostering


  • you can be in a couple or single
  • can be from any culture or background
  • can be any sexual orientation

Your home

You don’t need to own your home, but you do need to:

  • offer a safe and secure environment
  • have a spare bedroom in your property for each young person you foster, (only if you are fostering children and young people, you do not need a spare room if you are fostering babies)

Having a full-time job

It is possible to foster if you work full-time, so long as your working hours are flexible enough to meet the demands of fostering and you are looking after school age children, including:

  • taking children to and from school
  • going to meetings at short notice
  • supervising contact with the child’s birth family

We would not recommend anyone as a foster carer for babies or young children under school age who works full-time as the children will require full-time care and supervision. 


If you smoke, you can’t foster babies and children under five. If you foster children over five, you should smoke outside so children and young people living with you don’t breathe in passive smoke.

Disabilities and health problems

If you have a disability or health problem, we need to discuss your circumstances when you apply.
Anyone who applies to be a foster carer will have a medical exam. We will give you advice about the effects your health problem or disability could have on a child.We need to consider if your condition would put you or a child at risk.


If you receive benefits you can apply to foster and still retain your benefits. Please see the section on finance for further information.

Steps to becoming a foster carer with us

It takes up to eight months to be approved as a foster carer, below are the steps that you will have to go through in order to be approved.

  1. Contact us - You can do this by calling, emailing or applying online or attending an information session. We will give you information and establish if fostering might be right for you and your family.
  2. Home visit- We will arrange to visit you at home, where we will talk to you in more detail about fostering and whether it is appropriate for you.
  3. Eligibility checks- If we agree to continue, we will ask your permission to carry out all the checks needed for you to work with the children. This includes police, health and other checks with the council. You will also be invited to preparation training called ‘Skills to Foster’.
  4. Assessment by a social worker - A social worker will meet you several times to explore your motivation for fostering in detail, and how your experiences will help you look after a child or young person.
  5. Fostering panel decision - When the assessment is complete, a report will be written by your social worker and shared with you. The report is then presented to Lewisham Fostering Panel. The panel is an independent group of people who decide whether to recommend that you become a foster carer. The recommendation will be presented to the decision-maker for consideration and approval.
  6. Approval as a foster carer- As soon as you are approved as a Lewisham foster carer, you will be allocated a fostering social worker who will offer you continuous support, advice training and supervision. From this stage, we will ask you to care for a child or young person.

If you want to be a foster carer, you need to:

  • go through an assessment process
  • go to a three-day training course
Private fostering

Find out what your responsibilities are if your child is being cared for by another adult, or if you are caring for someone else’s child.
A private fostering arrangement is when a child or young person under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled) is being cared for and living with an adult who is not a close relative for more than 28 days.

What counts as private fostering?

The fostering arrangement is made privately between the parent and the person looking after the child. Lots of different situations count as private fostering, including children or young people who:

  • are sent from overseas to the UK for education or health care by their birth parents
  • parents work or study long or antisocial hours
  • are living with a friend’s family because of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home
  • are living with their partner’s family

Close relatives include:

  • aunts and uncles
  • step-parents
  • grandparents
  • siblings

Family friends, cousins, great aunts and uncles do not count as close relatives.

Your rights and responsibilities as a parent

You are responsible for making sure your child is in a suitable and safe private fostering arrangement that provides for their various needs in terms of:

  • culture
  • religious
  • language
  • psychological and emotional

A private fostering arrangement does not mean that you are giving up your rights to your child. This is a temporary arrangement, and you still have parental responsibility and will continue to be involved in all decisions about your child’s life. It is very important that you stay in contact with your child as much as possible. That way you will know of any changes in the circumstances of the carer (for example if they go on holiday or move house).

What information you need to give to the carer

You should come to a formal agreement with the private foster carer so that all parties are clear on expectations about their roles and responsibilities.

You should give important information about your child and provide as much detail as possible. This should include:

  • what they like to eat
  • what they like to do in their spare time
  • information about their school
  • their medical history
  • their religious and cultural background

Who needs to tell us about a private fostering arrangement?

If a child is being privately fostered in the Lewisham borough, you need to tell us if you are:

  • their parent
  • their private foster carer
  • anyone else involved in making the private fostering arrangement

When to tell us if your child is being privately fostered

If you think your child will be in this placement for 28 days or longer, you have a legal duty to tell us at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to start.

If the arrangement is due to start within six weeks, or has already started, you must tell us immediately.

Let us know if you are privately fostering a child

If you are involved in private fostering, or are likely to be, you should contact us through the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). You should also contact us if you’re not sure if you’re in a private fostering arrangement.

What to do if you already privately foster and you didn’t know you had to tell us

You should contact us and explain the situation. We will:

  • take your details
  • explain the first stage of the assessment process

It is illegal not to inform us you are involved in a private fostering arrangement. If you don’t let us know, you could get a fine.

Why we need to be involved

We have a legal duty to make sure that:

  • your child is being looked after safely
  • the arrangement is suitable for your child.

We will visit to your child and their private foster carer regularly, and can give help and advice.

You should contact us as soon as possible if:

  • the private foster carer is not giving you enough information
  • you are unhappy about the standard of care your child is getting
  • together we will do our best to make sure that your child is safe and well looked after

Private Fostering Statement of Purpose 2023

Are you looking after someone else's child?

Is someone else looking after your child?

Private Fostering Annual Report 2023

Contact us 

Lewisham Multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) Team
Email: mashagency@lewisham.gov.uk
Telephone: 020 8314 6660

Why foster for us?

Fostering for Lewisham Council means that: 

  • you are our first choice when we are finding placements – we always look within our own team of foster carers before going elsewhere 
  • you are much more likely to get regular local placements with us, than through an external agency
  • the investments we make in fostering stay in the borough, which benefits local children, birth and fostering families. 

If you are already a foster carer, speak to us about transferring to our team.

Financial support

Foster carers for Lewisham Council receive a weekly tax-free allowance for each child. The amount received will vary dependent on the age of the child or young person and the experience of the foster carer. A typical payment per placement, per week is usually between £350-£500 and up to £650 if you are looking after a child with complex needs.

You will not be paid any fees or allowances for any period that you are not fostering. As part of the application and assessment process, we will discuss your financial circumstances and how you will cope during periods when you are not fostering. 

As a foster carer, you are classed as self-employed and will have to complete a tax return each year.

When completing a tax return, you’ll be able to claim:

  • a tax exemption of up to £18,140 per household, but will still pay tax on money you earn from a job or investment. This means you do not have to pay tax on some of your earnings over £18,140* 
  • tax relief for every week you foster a child

This is known as qualifying care relief.

You may be entitled to National Insurance credits, which count towards your State Pension. If you currently receive benefits, these may still be paid alongside your fostering payments. 

You can find the latest information on taxable income and eligibility on GOV.UK.

There are additional sources of funding to support the child including from education and Disability Living Allowance (if the child has a disability or complex needs). When you become a Lewisham foster carer you are placed with one of our support social workers who can help you apply for these extra allowances.

*figures correct for tax year April 2023/2024

Referral Scheme

Lewisham provide a referral scheme for members of the public who recommend a friend or family member to be a foster carer, who go on to become an approved active foster carer for Lewisham.

You will receive £500 on the approval of the foster carer and £500 once a child is placed with the approved carer.

Respite allowance

You will also receive up to two weeks’ break, known as respite allowance, when you care for a child continuously for 12 months.

Skills development and training

We offer a wide range of support to our carers to help them foster. We understand that fostering a child can be demanding and we want to make sure that carers feel valued and supported in their role.

After you apply, you must attend a three-day fostering preparation course as part of the assessment process. The course is designed to:

  • introduce you to what fostering involves
  • help you decide if fostering is right for you and your family

When you’ve been approved as a foster carer, you will need to go to regular training. We offer our carers a robust training package based on therapeutic parenting and trauma-informed practice. Each carer has a Personalised Development Plan, that is tailored to their learning needs and is developed with them.

Social work support and supervision

If you are approved as a foster carer, you will get a supervising social worker from the fostering team. They will regularly meet you to discuss the child or children and any issues that may be of concern.

The child will also have a social worker. These social workers are available to help and support you through any problems and to make sure you are giving the best care to the child.

Our children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) can also offer you support.

Support packages

The support package for each child is based on their needs. There may be funding support to aid the child in a new home, like wheel-chair accessibility. There are many professionals at Lewisham to support foster carers including healthcare workers, social care staff, and other foster carers. Foster carers can also receive respite support. 

Support groups

We have a range of support groups that meet regularly and are a good way to meet other foster carers. These include support groups for:

  • Mainstream/ General Support Group
  • Support for New Foster Carers
  • Male Foster Carer Support Group
  • Support Group for Carers of Teenagers and Staying Put Carers
  • Support Group for Connected Carers and Temporary Approved Carers (reg 24) 

Support from other foster carers

Lewisham foster carers benefit from receiving support from their fellow foster carers. There is Lewisham Carers Supporting Carers and a mentoring scheme, where new carers are matched with experienced ones. Foster carers also make up the Fostering Advisory Board (FAB), where foster carers are representatives in meetings with the Lewisham Fostering Team.

Membership of fostering network

After you have been approved, we will pay for your membership of the national association, the Fostering Network, which offers regular newsletters and independent advice and support to foster carers across the country.

Contact with the child’s family

Many of the children in foster care will continue to have regular contact with their own families, who remain an essential part of their lives. We offer our foster carers support and guidance to support this.

Contact us 

Foster carer enquiries only (no marketing or sales calls please, they will not be dealt with)
Please use our online form and someone will be in touch with you within the same day. 

Phone line opening times:
Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm

Phone: 0800 015 0129
Email: fosteringrecruitment@lewisham.gov.uk

Fostering out-of-hours support line service only

This out-of-hours advice line is covered by a fostering supervising social worker who can provide advice over the phone.
Opening times:
Monday to Friday, 5.30pm–11pm
Weekends and Bank Holidays, 10am–10pm

Phone: 020 8314 6655 (Ext 46655)
Email Fostering-Duty@lewisham.gov.uk 

If you have an emergency that outside of these hours, contact our emergency duty social worker for support. 

Want to know more about fostering?

Request an information pack, find out more about our events or speak to a member of the team.

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