New research into the foster carer retention and recruitment crisis released today

Media release

Today the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, have released new research which addresses vital knowledge gaps into the retention and recruitment of foster carers in England – one of the biggest challenges currently facing the foster care sector.

At an event this afternoon attended by Claire Coutinho MP, the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, the charity will present their findings. This research comes at a crucial point as the Government begins to implement their strategy for children’s social care. 

The research, supported by KPMG Foundation and conducted by the Centre for Evidence and Implementation, explored how to achieve a more diverse and stable foster care workforce.

It found retaining and appropriately supporting foster carers throughout their journey is as important as improving the recruitment of new carers to ensure all children in care have stable homes where they can thrive. 

But the research reveals that despite the very positive motivations for wanting to foster a child (89 percent of respondents’ top motivation was to make a difference to the lives of children), many people interested in the role face barriers to becoming a foster carer and current foster carers are prematurely leaving the workforce. 

Negative experiences when applying to become a foster carer, such as poor communication, delays or insufficient information from fostering services were common and put applicants off this vital role, with 71 percent of completed foster carer applications withdrawn by the applicants. 

A key determining factor as to whether foster carers stop or continue fostering was sufficient remuneration. Of foster carers who feel they are not fully financially supported, only 44 percent would recommend fostering.  

Receiving sufficient, consistent support from their fostering service was another challenge faced by foster carers. High turnover of social workers and workloads, combined with a lack of understanding of what fostering entails and poor communication and coordination between social care teams all contributed to foster carers feeling unsupported. 

Foster carers also reported a lack of respect for the unique role they play, both in navigating and advocating for the child within the care system and providing twenty four-seven care to children within their own homes.

Foster care is a profession and as such, foster carers should be considered equal members in the team around the child and provided with practical, financial and emotional support.

The research also found that the experiences of foster carers varied depending on their ethnicity, age or gender. More needs to be done to ensure under-represented groups are supported to start and continue fostering to achieve a more diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of children in care. 

Speaking about the research, Sarah Thomas, chief executive at The Fostering Network says: ‘At a time when we need more foster carers to join our community and to retain the brilliant foster carers we already have, long-term improvements are required to ensure we address the issues uncovered by this research. 

‘As an organisation we will take the lead in translating these findings into practice, creating guidance for services, providing training and the support required to implement sustained change.  

‘The retention of foster carers is just as important as recruiting new ones, and everyone in the team around a child must be supported to form a stable, diverse, and knowledgeable workforce. 

‘This research will provide Government with an evidence base to ensure their investment in fostering achieves the best results for children and young people and that their needs are met, always.’

Judith McNeill CEO at KPMG Foundation who supported the research says: ‘There have been long-standing retention and recruitment challenges in the fostering sector and by supporting this important research, we now have a solid evidence base on which to quickly identify and implement solutions.

‘We want the very best support for a diverse group of foster carers, as they are central in helping improve the lives of the children and young people they look after. This research has built momentum to create real and sustainable change in fostering in England and across the UK.’

Read the full report and findings here.