Free childcare for foster children

Children in foster care may be entitled to free childcare giving foster families the same support as other working families if the following criteria are met:

  • accessing childcare is consistent with the child’s care plan; and
  • where there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent; or
  • where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent

The working family entitlements are:

  • the 15 hours entitlement for eligible working parents of children from 9 months to 2 years old (new entitlement from 1 September 2024)
  • the 15 hours entitlement for eligible working parents of 2-year-old children (new entitlement from 1 April 2024)
  • the additional 15 hours entitlement for eligible working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds

Key considerations

Foster parents and social workers should consider the following when deciding whether the working family entitlements to free childcare is right for a foster family:

  • There is no expectation or requirement for foster parents to work outside fostering unless they choose to do so and this decision is supported by the fostering service.
  • Foster parents will only be eligible if this is consistent with a child’s care plan.
  • Accessing funded hours will not be appropriate for every child in foster care. This change is to enable those foster parents who are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent to access this support where it is right for the child.
  • The foster parent does not have to take up the full entitlement. There is no requirement on the type of work (which includes self-employment) or number of hours that a foster parent must work to access the entitlement and there is no minimum earnings limit (although they must be engaging in paid work).
  • Children who are 3 and 4 years old and in foster care will continue to qualify for the universal 15 hours regardless of the working status of their foster parents.
  • If circumstances change and a child in foster care ceases to be eligible for the working family entitlements, the child’s needs for early years will be assessed as part of the care plan.

If a foster child is already in a funded place and the foster parent(s) are not eligible for the working family entitlements (or circumstances change and foster parents fall out of eligibility), the child will enter a grace period and will be able to retain their place for a short period. Early Years teams can advise on grace periods.

Completed free childcare for foster children application forms (PDF, 230KB) should be submitted to the foster child’s social worker. Eligible applicants will receive an eligibility code from the local authority to enable foster parents to verify eligibility to the childcare provider.

Foster parents applying for the working family entitlements for their birth children should continue to use the Childcare Service.

Timescales for applications

Foster parents can claim the working family entitlements the term after their foster child reaches the relevant age and can apply up to 16 weeks before their foster child reaches the relevant age.

Eligibility codes must be obtained from the local authority the term before the child starts childcare. A child can not start to claim funded hours in the same term that the eligibility code is issued.


To be considered for the scheme applicants must meet one of the following approval criteria.  

Be approved as foster carers under either

  • Regulation 27, Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 – mainstream foster carers
  • Regulation 24, 25 Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 – temporarily approved foster carers undergoing assessment including where an extension to the assessment has been granted
  • Regulation 25a, Care Planning, Placement and case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 – temporary approval of Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers

A foster parent who is an  EEA or Swiss national will only be eligible for free childcare if they have  EU Settled Status (EUSS) or are in the process of applying for or appealing  EUSS and they meet the other eligibility criteria. Foster parents will need to provide evidence that they have either successfully received confirmation of EUSS , have applied for  EUSS or are appealing a refusal for EUSS. This can be in the form of written or email confirmation from the Home Office.

If foster carers are under any doubt as to their approval status they should speak to their relevant fostering service.

Confirming the child’s needs

Accessing the child care must be consistent with the child’s care plan – this will be determined by the child’s social worker in consultation with their manager and any other relevant professional. This decision will generally be made as part of the care planning process and will always consider the individual needs of each child at the time that the application is made. Once a child is receiving free child care the child’s social worker will review the impact that this is having on the child on a regular basis. If there is evidence that the child care is not meeting the needs of the child, then the local authority will not support this continuing. This will of course be discussed with the foster carer as part of care planning and alternative plans drawn up.

Confirming the foster carer’s eligibility to receive the free child care

The child’s social worker in conjunction with their manager will confirm with the relevant fostering agency that the foster carers are undertaking paid work outside their fostering role and that they have provided evidence of this work to both their fostering agency and the child’s social worker.  This evidence may include a work contract/agreement; payslips; accounts from self-employment.  It would be expected that fostering agencies would have this information readily available as part of the approval and review of the foster carers.  The local authority will be unable to sign off approval for free child care where evidence of working outside of the fostering task is not provided.

It is essential that foster carers who are considering using this child care option raise this at the earliest opportunity with the child’s social worker so that clear plans can be made. 


Foster parents, like all other parents accessing funded hours, are required to reconfirm their eligibility every three months. 

Cheshire East Council should be satisfied that the placement is on-going, that accessing the funded hours is still consistent with the child’s care plan and the foster parents are still engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent. 

Foster parents should complete the free childcare for foster children reconfirmation form (PDF, 150KB) before the end of 3 months from the previous eligibility check and submit the form to the foster child’s social worker. Late forms will be invalid. 

Foster parents should ensure they are familiar with the policy for reconfirmations at the start of the application process to ensure reconfirmations are undertaken at the appropriate time. Failure to reconfirm could mean that a foster child is no longer eligible for funded hours childcare. 

Page last reviewed: 30 May 2024

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