Fostering is one of a number of care options that offers children a home when they are unable to live with their birth family. In the UK around 80 per cent of looked after children live with foster families, who offer them stability, security and often their first experience of a positive family life.
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.
Fostering offers these 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.
It is often important for fostered children to maintain links with their birth family – mum, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or grandparents – through regular 'contact' meetings. Foster carers play a big part in making these happen.
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.
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.
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 the children who need it.