how OLD do you have to be to foster? (is there an age limit?)

To become a foster carer in the UK, most fostering services will ask you to be over 21, but you are never TOO OLD to foster. There is no upper age limit to become a foster carer in the UK.

what’s the best age to start fostering?

The best age to start fostering is… whenever you are ready.

You need to be in a position to offer space, stability, safety, time and love.

For some families, this means waiting until your own children are grown up, when there’s a spare bedroom available and you’ve got time and energy to give to another youngster.

For some foster carers, it’s about offering what you can, alongside work commitments.

Fostering can grow and change with you. The most important step is the first one.

Watch our “time is right” series of videos with foster carers sharing when they started fostering

what age are most foster carers?

In a 2022 survey of 5 of our local authority fostering services in Wales:

  • Most foster carers (38%) were aged between 45 and 54.
  • A third were aged between 55 and 64.
  • There were also foster carers, although not as many, aged 21-34, 35-44 and 65+.

At Foster Wales, our oldest foster carer is in their eighties and our youngest in their 20’s.

All ages are welcome – we’ll find the right type of fostering to suit you.

am I too old to foster?

But how old is too old to start fostering? Is there really no age limit?

You can start fostering in your sixties like Jenny.

A foster carer in Flintshire North Wales, Jenny began fostering at age 66 after she retired from working in schools as a careers advisor.

Jenny now age 71 has been a foster carer for over 5 years, caring for all ages of children from age 9 to 18.

Jenny’s story

What worried me about fostering at my age was taking on a young child. I wasn’t sure I would be around to see them through to adulthood. That’s a major commitment. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be fit and able.

But having a child around keeps you fit and able. Training keeps your mind active and gives you a routine. It’s easy to get into a routine based around meal times, especially when you are on your own.

6 benefits of being an older foster carer

I feel there are a lot of benefits to being an older foster carer and age can often be an advantage.

1.more experience and different skills as an older foster carer

As an older person you have more experience, you’ve dealt with more people and had a long life to gain a lot of knowledge.

I’ve read a lot of books.

I have baking and sewing skills to teach.

One young girl I fostered, came to visit at weekends, loved to bake cakes with me. Home-made pizzas are a regular treat too.

2. a little more thick-skinned in my sixties

I’m able to deal with a range of children, give them my attention, without taking anything too personally.

Being older makes it easier to understand children not bonding and reciprocating care towards to me quickly.

3. a grandma figure for foster children

You can offer them a parent figure or a grandma.

A lot of the children who come to stay with me, people think I’m their nan. And they quite like that. Because I look like I could be their grandma.

It’s a comfortable relationship to have with a child, and in some ways, easier than seeing you as a parent.

One child was asked by the kids in the street if I was his nan, and he said yes. He felt accepted by the kids in the neighbourhood, it’s normal to visit your nan. He smiled when he told me.

4. been there, done that

At my age, I’m probably more tolerant.

Your life experience can help you deal with the situations that these children have come from and are dealing with themselves. Like loss and grief.

It can be an advantage that you’ve done things and seen things.

5. all the time in the world in my retirement

When you are retired, you can be there when they need you.

I’m there for them during the day.

You can take the time to go to the park on a nice day. I can be there for their school plays.

And if there’s problems in school, you can be there to pick up the pieces.”

6. not trying to replace their parent

Being older, more experienced and used to dealing with people, I found I can also do more with their parents.

One boy who came into my care, within a week he was back home where he belonged, but part of that was me talking to mum and we had a happy outcome.

Other times I find parents who I’m not as comfortable with, but I’m old enough to not let that show. I treat them with courtesy and politeness so it doesn’t cause more problems for their child. I don’t know what’s gone on in their personal life so I don’t make judgements about people I don’t know.”

whatever your age, go for it!

I would recommend anyone thinking about fostering to go for it.

If you are kind, if you are a nice person, you’ll be fine. Foster carers are all nice people, good people. I’ve never met anyone who fosters that I didn’t like.

You need patience and a very good sense of humour. And a willingness to learn, the training you get is so useful when it comes to dealing with every different type of child. It gives you an insight into the issues the children are having to deal with, and useful when coping with them yourself, and understanding why they behave like that.

They are children. They are not different because they are in care. They are just kids at the end of the day and they need a home. A place they can learn and grow from in safety.

your next step in fostering

If Jenny’s story has inspired you to foster, whether you are in your 20s or in your 70s, whether it’s full time or part-time, babies or teens, contact your local authority fostering team.

Story Time

Stories From Our Carers