Every 20 minutes another child comes into care needing a foster family in the UK. And every day there are about 70,000 children living with 56,000 foster families.
Children come into care for many different reasons. Sometimes it is because of a parent’s short-term illness or a temporary problem within the family that requires the children to have alternative care. Some have experienced domestic violence or witnessed drug and alcohol misuse, others have been abused or neglected. For many children and young people fostering is often their first positive experience of family life.
There are many different types of fostering depending on the needs of the child. Sometimes children only stay with a foster family for a few days, while others will live with their foster family for their entire childhood and beyond.
Fostering offers children a safe and caring family, usually geographically close to their home, while they are unable to live with their own, and provides an opportunity for other professionals to work with the birth family to help resolve their issues.
Local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, and health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland, have the ultimate responsibility to look after children and young people in care as their corporate parent. They will directly recruit foster carers to care for children and young people and independent fostering providers will also recruit foster carers to provide fostering placements to these public authorities.
Foster carers in the UK are trained, assessed and approved to look after fostered children by a fostering service. They are child care experts working as part of a team of professionals providing children with the highest standard of care. Alongside this professionalism, they offer these children love, warmth and a positive experience of family life.
Some foster carers are approved specifically to look after members of their own family, like grandchildren or nieces and nephews. These foster carers are known as family and friends foster carers or kinship foster carers.
Whether it's overnight or for a number of years, foster carers can provide the support, stability, and care in a safe, loving environment every child needs. Being a foster carer is not easy, but fostering can make a huge difference to the lives of children.
Not all children who come into care can return to live with their parents. In these cases, the courts will decide the best option to make sure they are safe, stable and can grow throughout their childhood in a ‘permanent’ home. There are a number of options for permanence including adoption and long term fostering. You can read more about them here.