What do foster carers do?

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Foster carers are child care experts who work as part of a team of professionals to ensure fostered children receive the highest standards of care. They offer fostered children a safe and caring home and family for as long as they need it.

Nurturing every child's needs Foster carers can, and do, make a real difference to the lives of children and young people who come into their care. 

They do this by working with a range of other professionals in the ‘team around the child’ to provide security, stability, and support at a crucial time in the child’s life. They will often provide children with their first experience of a positive family life.

Foster carers can look after up to three children at once, unless exceptions are made or where there is a bigger group of brothers and sisters. The number and age of their own children will help fostering services to advise on the number and age of fostered children they look after.

There are many different types of foster care. Some foster carers will care for children in an emergency situation until longer-term arrangements can be made. Others will look after children on a short-term basis until the child can return home or move on to a permanent placement. Many foster carers care for children on a long-term basis, often for the duration of their childhood.

Foster carers will also usually specialise in caring for children of a particular age. For example, some will foster babies or very young children before they are adopted or move in with a friend or family member. Other foster carers look after primary-school-aged children or prefer to offer a home to teenagers.

Foster carer skills

Some foster carers develop the skills to look after disabled children or specialise in caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children or young parents and their babies. Others focus on caring for groups of brothers and sisters.

As well as providing day-to-day care for children and young people, foster carers are expected to advocate on behalf of the child, support their educational, health and social wellbeing, manage sometimes challenging behaviour, promote contact with birth family members, keep records, attend meetings and work with the wider team, as well as developing their own skills.

Foster carers commit time and energy to 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. Foster carers 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, granting them the tools and complimenting their skills and experience to help meet the needs of any child in their care. Throughout a foster carer’s career, there will be opportunities and expectations to complete further training, as well as ongoing support.

Could you foster? Find out more about the process of applying to foster.

My foster carers gave me a grasp of a different way of life…I was very lucky to live there.

Fostered young person