Adoption and fostering: The DBS check eligibility explained

Adoption and fostering can have a hugely positive impact on children’s lives, and can be incredibly rewarding for adoptive parents and foster carers too.

Naturally, safeguarding is of paramount importance for adoption and fostering roles, with DBS checks playing a vital part in ensuring children are safe. But there’s often confusion around what sort of DBS check these roles are eligible for.

The following guide outlines the different adoption and fostering roles, and their eligibility for DBS checks.

Adoptive parents and members of their household

Adoptive parents, and other members of the household aged 18 or over, will be engaging in regulated activity with children, and therefore must have an enhanced DBS check with a check of the children’s barred list.

As the role is unpaid and is primarily aimed at providing a service to a third party, they are also eligible for a free volunteer check (more about this below).

Foster carers and members of their household

Foster carers, and other members of the household aged 18 or over, are also required to have an enhanced DBS check with a check of the children’s barred list.

However, foster carers usually receive payment for the role, and so are ineligible for a volunteer check. This also applies to other members of the household.

Backup foster carers

Backup foster carers are people identified by the primary foster carer who will care for the child or children in question for periods ranging from a weekend (two overnight stays) to four weeks. This care could take place at the primary foster carer’s home or at the backup carer’s home.

Backup carers must have an enhanced DBS with a children’s barred list check, as they will be engaging in regulated activity. They are ineligible for volunteer status as they’re part of the formal care package for which payment is received.

Regular visitors to the household

Visitors to adoption or fostering households are not eligible for an enhanced DBS check because they aren’t carrying out a formal role, and are therefore not engaging in regulated activity. This is true regardless of how frequently they visit.

They would only be eligible for an enhanced check if they were named as part of the formal care package, for example, as a backup carer, babysitter or respite carer.

If they aren’t taking on a formal role and will only have contact with the child or children when visiting the adoption/fostering household, or when the child visits them, then no eligibility exists.

Instead, a regular visitor could have a basic DBS check, which will reveal whether or not they have any unspent convictions. Anyone can apply for one of these checks.

The DBS definition of a volunteer

The Disclosure and Barring Service doesn’t charge a fee for volunteer DBS checks (if you apply for them via an umbrella company like uCheck there will be a small administration fee), but applicants need to meet a specific set of criteria to qualify for a free check.

The DBS definition of a volunteer is outlined in the Police Act 1997 (criminal records) Regulations 2002 as:

‘Any person engaged in an activity which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit some third party and not a close relative.’

To qualify for a free volunteer DBS check, the applicant must not:

  • Benefit directly from the role for which the DBS application is being submitted
  • Receive any payment (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses)
  • Be on a work placement
  • Be on a course that requires them to do the volunteer role
  • Be in a trainee position that will lead to a full time role or qualification

DBS checks for adoption and fostering roles: In conclusion

The eligibility for DBS checks varies depending on which adoption or fostering role the applicant will be undertaking.

We hope our guide helps you work out which sort of DBS check to apply for. If you’re ready to apply, register with us now or get in touch to find out more.

Our blogs are advisory in nature and reflect M G Care Executive Limited trading as uCheck's current thinking about best and common practice in the subjects discussed.

The information contained in our blogs have been provided for information purposes only. This information does not constitute legal, professional, or commercial advice. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure that the content is up to date, useful and accurate, M G Care Executive Limited trading as uCheck gives no guarantees, undertakings, or warranties in this regard, or, for any loss or damage caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with reliance on the use of such information.