The retention and recruitment of foster carers in England - members' views and research opportunity

Over the last few months, we asked our members to share their views on the final report of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England. They did so through our care review survey, at focus groups and in forum meetings. 

Daisy Elliott, research and evidence manager at The Fostering Network, focuses on one of the biggest challenges currently facing the foster care sector – the retention and recruitment of foster carers. Daisy shares details of research we are doing on this issue and how foster carers and fostering services can get involved.

The final report of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care was published in May and submitted to the Government. The Review recommends that the Department for Education should launch a high-profile national foster carer recruitment programme. This is with the aim to recruit 9,000 additional foster carers over three years.  

The Children’s Minister at the time responded to this recommendation immediately. They announced that working with local authorities to recruit more foster carers was one of their main priorities, recognising the urgency. The Government said that they would launch pathfinder local recruitment campaigns and look at improving the conversion rate of the number of people who express an interest in fostering to becoming approved. We expect to hear more about the Government’s plans when they publish their response, now due in the New Year.  

What foster carers told us 

Pie chart showing half of respondents agreed with the Reveiw's recommendation to recruit more foster carers

We conducted a survey of 594 foster carers about the Review’s recommendations. Half of foster carers who responded agreed that recruiting 9,000 new foster carers over the next three years was a good idea. But, almost all respondents (whether they agreed or disagreed) made the point that retention is equally, if not more, important than recruitment. 

‘I think we need more focus on the retention of existing foster carers and the true reasons behind foster carer resignations and burn out. Recruiting new foster carers is essential but by dealing with the reasons for resignations we can support newly recruited fostering families much better.’ – Foster carer 

‘It is not just about recruiting new carers but retaining existing carers who have great experience and knowledge of the cared for child.’ – Foster carer 

65 per cent of respondents felt that foster carer retention was missing from the Review’s final report. Foster carers suggested that retention could be improved by enhancing support, training, the status of foster carers in the team around the child and pay. 

What fostering services told us  

We consulted with a variety of different staff members (from marketing officers to practice leads) from at least 70 fostering services about the Review’s recommendations. Of these fostering service staff members, many agreed with foster carers that the Government must consider retention when thinking about how to solve current recruitment issues.  

‘As retention is such a key issue, this should be looked at before recruitment because if we attract new people in now, we won’t be able to retain them.’ – Fostering service staff member  

Some staff members expressed that there needs to be a change in the way we support foster carers financially, to both recruit and retain foster carers.  

‘9,000 carers is an aspirational target but we need to pay foster carers well to do the job that they do, otherwise a glossy new campaign will achieve nothing.’ – Fostering service staff member  

This is particularly significant given the cost-of-living crisis we are currently faced with. We are calling on governments across the UK to provide urgent funding to cover the cost of fostering so children and young people do not miss out. Find out more about our Cost of Fostering campaign and how you can get involved here.

What The Fostering Network are doing  

We absolutely agree with our members that the retention of foster carers is just as important as recruitment and have raised this with officials as they work on the Government’s response.  

The Fostering Network have secured funding to complete timely research into the retention and recruitment of foster carers in England. The research will aim to explore what works to retain foster carers so we are able to meet all the needs of children in care, both now and in the future. It will also seek to develop a good evidence base on the recruitment of foster carers in England.  

I am leading on this work for The Fostering Network and am excited to share the findings with you all in Spring next year. By working with key officials and stakeholders across the UK, myself and the rest of the policy and campaigns team will use the findings to influence policy, practice and national data collection to recruit and retain a diverse and stable foster care workforce. 

We will be seeking research participants in the New Year. Find out how you can get involved!  


This blog is part of a series about the Care Review in England. Read our other blogs:  



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