State of the Nation's Foster Care 2021

Every three years we conduct the State of the Nation’s Foster Care survey to produce a reliable insight into fostering in the UK; to identify areas of good practice and understand where improvements are needed. This is the fourth time we have conducted this survey. For the first time, we also surveyed our fostering service members, offering a perspective from those who provide services and enabling us to gain a deeper insight into the challenges within the system and how they impact on the overall service.

We will use the findings of this report to influence the foster care agenda and create change by bringing them to the attention of national and local decision and policy makers.

The survey, which took place in the summer of 2021, covered key practice and workforce issues such as placement stability, training and support for carers, and status and authority of the workforce. In total, 3,352 foster carers and 99 fostering services across the UK took the survey.

We will publish one main report and three thematic reports using the survey findings. The main report was published in December 2021. The first thematic report focusing on foster carer status will be published in February 2022. The second and third thematic reports will be published in the Spring and focus on the unmet needs of children in foster care and allegations.


Thematic report 1: Foster carer status

Foster carers provide children with stability, security, attachment and a positive experience of family life. However, despite three-quarters of children in care living with around 56,000 foster families in the UK, the findings of our State of the Nation survey once again highlight that foster carers are propping up the care system without the resources, support and recognition that their vital role warrants.

Our forthcoming status report focuses on the importance for foster carers to be treated as an equal and valued member in the team around the child, to ensure our children have the best possible outcomes. It sets out key recommendations to improve the status of foster carers in the social care workforce with appropriate support, training and payment for their time and skills. These changes are urgently needed to improve the experience and outcomes of tens of thousands of our society’s most vulnerable children. 

What can you do to help? 

The launch of the report will be accompanied by a campaign action as well as lots of activity on social media to both bring the issue to the attention of our political representatives and raise awareness of the need for change overall. 

If you want to help us make a difference, please keep an eye on your inbox for our emails on how to get involved. Please also follow us on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and like, share and comment on our postings to help us spread the word. 


Main report

This report, published in December 2021, provided further evidence of the recruitment and retention crisis in foster care but highlights how the need to value and recognise the foster carer role is at the heart of the crisis. The pressures within the system, and the lack of availability of foster families, results in poorer outcomes for children with some children experiencing multiple moves, living a long way from family, friends and school or being separated from their siblings. 

Our report calls on governments to focus on and fund this neglected sector. It also makes strategic and practical recommendations at a regional and local level. 

Read the report 

Read the executive summary

Key findings 

Focus on children and young people 

All children and young people in need of foster care should be placed with a foster family who is able to understand what that particular child needs to thrive, build relationships, learn and develop while supporting them to navigate life’s challenges.

  • Only 42 per cent of foster carers reported that children were able to visit before moving in.
  • Over a third of foster carers stated that the last planned move for a child they cared for was not preceded by a care planning review
  • 40 per cent of foster carers felt they were not supported at all to keep in touch with children they have previously fostered, even when it was in the child’s best interest, with the main reason being that they were not allowed or able to.
Focus on the foster carer

Foster carers provide 24/7 care to children every day and hold a unique and valuable skillset. Yet, foster carers are under-paid and under-valued. Respecting foster carers as equal to other professionals involved in the care of looked after children and improving foster carers’ terms and conditions would help to demonstrate the value of their role and ensure the best possible outcomes for the children they care for.

  • Over a third of foster carers said their allowance does not cover the full costs of looking after a child. 
  • 63 per cent of foster carers stated that they receive a fee payment.
  • Just nine per cent of foster carers reported receiving more than the National Living Wage per calendar month.
Focus on the fostering system

Recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of committed, competent foster carers, with the skills, capacity, motivation, resilience and support to provide children with what they need to thrive remains a continual and growing challenge for local authorities, trusts and independent fostering services.

  • All but six of the fostering services surveyed reported having a shortage of foster carers to meet the needs of the children in their local population.
  • The highest areas of need were for teenagers, large sibling groups, children with disabilities and parent and child placements. 
  • Fostering services stated that the most important change needed to retain more foster carers would be improving the support they offer.

If you want to get in touch with our policy team about anything from this page please email

Read our previous reports here