There are many different types of foster care. But all foster carers offer children and young people a safe, loving and nurturing home when they can't live with their birth families.
What do foster carers do?
Foster carers offer children and young people a safe, loving and nurturing home when they can't live with their birth families. This means they have a unique chance to make a real difference to a child's life.
What does fostering involve?
There are many different types of foster care. Some foster carers will look after children in emergency situations. This usually means a child will stay with them overnight or for a couple of days. Others will look after children on a 'short-term' basis, which might mean a child stays with them for a few weeks or months, until they can return to live with their birth family or move on to a permanent new home. But many foster carers look after children for much longer than this - often for all of their childhood. Foster carers can choose which type of fostering is best for them.
Foster carers will usually focus on caring for children or young people of a particular age. For example, some will look after babies or very young children, while others will look after teenagers.
They can usually choose to look after up to three children at once, although exceptions are made (for example, where there is a bigger group of brothers and sisters). If a foster carer has their own children, a fostering service will consider the number and age of these children before deciding on the number and age of fostered children they can look after.
As well as providing day-to-day care for children and young people, they are expected to advocate on behalf of the child, support their educational, health and social wellbeing, manage sometimes challenging behaviour, keep records, attend meetings and work with the wider team, as well as developing their own skills.
It is often important for children and young people in foster care to keep in touch with their birth family – mum, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or grandparents – through regular meetings. Foster carers play a big part in making these meetings happen.
All foster carers receive a sum of money called an allowance to cover the cost of looking after the children in their care. Some will also be paid a fee to recognise the skills and experience they bring to the role of fostering.
Skills and experience
Children and young people need foster carers from all backgrounds and with a wide range of life, work and care experiences. All foster carers will be given ongoing training and support to help them develop the skills they need to help children thrive.
Foster carers commit time and energy to looking after the children in their care. Being someone for them to trust, talk to and celebrate achievements is important, as is having the patience, resilience, and confidence to deal with situations which do not go to plan. They also need to be observant to recognise when they need to step in or seek assistance to help deal with a particular situation. Foster carers are also encouraged to reflect on their actions to learn from experiences and continuously develop their skills.
All foster carers receive training before being approved to foster, giving them the tools, and complementing their skills and experience, to help meet the needs of any child in their care. Throughout a their career, there will be opportunities and expectations to complete further training, as well as ongoing support.
Many fostering services also provide their foster carers with membership of The Fostering Network. Our membership for foster carers is designed to ensure you are protected, supported and connected in your vital role transforming children and young people’s lives.