Children and young people of all ages and from all backgrounds come into care when they are unable to live with their birth parents for a period of time. Foster care can give families a chance to sort out their problems by providing these children with a home and supportive family for as long as they need.
The reasons children come into care vary widely, including a parent’s short-term illness or another temporary problem within the family. Some children may have witnessed domestic violence or a parent’s depression or drug or alcohol misuse. Others may have been abused or neglected. Each child’s circumstances and needs are unique.
When the decision is made to take a child into care, the local authority (in England, Scotland and Wales) or health and social care trust (in Northern Ireland) becomes responsible for his or her welfare. Social workers work with families to make the home a safe place for a child, with the aim that children and parents can be reunited if possible.
Children can be fostered from birth, right up until their 18th birthday. Legislation now exists in each of England, Scotland and Wales that supports young people to stay with their former foster carer up until the age of 21, while young people in education, employment or training can also stay with foster families in Northern Ireland.
There are many different types of fostering and each fostering service will need to recruit foster carers from a variety of backgrounds to meet the needs of local children in care.
Around two-fifths of the children in care are aged 11 to 15 years; finding foster carers for teenagers is a key priority for a number of fostering services in the UK. Other fostering services will need foster carers to care for children with specific learning difficulties and disabilities, young parents and their babies, as well as groups of brothers and sisters and unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The Fostering Network estimate 9,070 new foster carers are needed across the UK this year alone.
Make sure you ask who needs fostering when applying to foster with a fostering service.
What does fostering provide?
Fostering provides a safe, secure and nurturing family environment, either short- or long-term, and allows children to keep in contact with their own families if they wish and it is in their best interests.