The unmet needs of children in foster care: charity warns of multiple shortcomings to support children’s health, education and cultural needs

Media release


Across the UK, the health, educational and cultural needs of children in foster care are not being met, the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, warns in their latest report released today.  

The report is based on the organisation’s State of the Nation’s Foster Care 2021 survey, the most comprehensive insight into fostering in the UK, and indicates that the state is failing to meet its legal responsibility as a parent to these children. 

Key findings are:  

  • A quarter of foster carers were looking after at least one child who they felt needed mental health support but was not getting it.    

  • 54 per cent of foster carers were looking after at least one child who receives additional support to assist their learning. Of these foster carers, a quarter felt that the additional support was not sufficient.   

  • 13 per cent of foster carers reported having looked after a child with suspected FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).   

  • Nine per cent of foster carers reported having looked after a child with a diagnosis of FASD, however, only a third received follow-up support post-diagnosis.  

  • 55 per cent of foster carers had not received any support or advice around supporting a child’s cultural and/or religious needs.    

Foster care provides children with stability and security and offers what for some children will be their first positive experience of family life. It can help to improve children's mental wellbeing and educational outcomes. However, not all of children’s needs can be met, if the support they need from other services isn’t readily available to them.  

Kevin Williams, chief executive of the Fostering Network, says: ‘Foster carers are dedicated to transforming children’s lives. They help our young people recover from trauma and achieve the best they can – but children also need to be supported by other services provided by the state. 

‘The UN Convention on the rights of the child states that all children have a right to the best possible health and education, their own identity, and to have their views listened to and taken seriously. When children can’t live with their birth family and are taken into care, the state is responsible for making sure these rights are fulfilled.’  

‘We are calling on all governments across the UK to ensure that children in care are able to access all the services they are entitled to, and so desperately need; and that children in care are listened to by all agencies working with them.  

‘Governments need to invest in awareness raising, training and therapeutic approaches. This is so practitioners across all public sector organisations that support children have the understanding and skills they need to best support children with care experience. 

‘Furthermore, we want to see a learning and development framework for foster carers introduced, such as that already in place in Wales, so foster carers can access the learning and development they feel they need to ensure the children in their care can thrive.  

Matthew, from London, became a foster carer in 2021. Last year he contacted his fostering service for extra support in meeting the mental health needs of a child he was caring for, which he felt had not been fully disclosed by his local authority.  

‘My fostering service put me in touch with a child’s psychologist who helped give me the confidence to understand and deal with the young person’s behaviours. They gave me tips on how to do this, confirmed what I was already doing well and helped make sense of why they were acting in a certain way – this was largely due to trauma. 

‘We were lucky we had access to this support, as it not only helped me, but the child I was caring for too – who opened up to me about how they were feeling and was able to better cope with their emotions.  

‘While I didn’t know the severity of my young person’s mental health needs, I was able to get the support we needed. This is not the case for everyone and there are huge pressures on the system. It is essential that our children's needs are both assessed and met.' 


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