Foster Care

Foster Care
Foster Care
Full Overview Of Foster Care

Foster care is a crucial social service provided to children and young people who cannot live with their birth families due to a variety of reasons. It is designed to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing environment where these children can thrive until they can either return to their birth families, be adopted, or live independently. At DLS Solicitors, we understand the intricate legal, emotional, and practical aspects involved in fostering, and this comprehensive overview aims to shed light on the different dimensions of foster care, its processes, legalities, and the significant role it plays in society.

The Importance of Foster Care

Foster care serves as a temporary solution to safeguard children who are at risk of harm or whose parents are unable to provide adequate care. This system not only ensures the immediate safety and well-being of the child but also supports their development and helps in mitigating the effects of trauma. The ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families whenever possible or to find permanent and loving homes through adoption if reunion is not feasible.

Types of Foster Care

Foster care comes in various forms to meet the differing needs of children and families.

  1. Emergency Foster Care: This is a short-term arrangement for children who need immediate placement due to unforeseen circumstances. It ensures the child’s safety and provides time to plan for a more permanent solution.
  2. Short-Term Foster Care: This arrangement lasts from a few days to a few months. It is typically used while decisions are being made regarding the child’s long-term future.
  3. Long-Term Foster Care: When it is not possible for a child to return to their birth family, long-term foster care provides a stable and lasting home until the child reaches adulthood.
  4. Respite Foster Care: This offers temporary relief to regular foster carers or birth families who need a break. It can be planned or done on an emergency basis.
  5. Specialist Foster Care: This type of care is tailored for children with specific needs, such as disabilities or behavioural challenges. Foster carers in this category receive specialised training to support these children.
  6. Kinship Care: Sometimes, children are placed with relatives or family friends. This type of care can be formal or informal, depending on the involvement of social services.

Foster care in the United Kingdom is governed by a robust legal framework designed to protect the rights and welfare of children. The primary legislation includes:

  1. The Children Act 1989: This act provides the foundation for child protection and welfare services, outlining the duties of local authorities in safeguarding children and promoting their welfare.
  2. The Fostering Services Regulations 2011: These regulations set the standards for fostering services, ensuring that foster carers are properly vetted, trained, and supported.
  3. The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010: These regulations focus on the planning and review processes for children in care, ensuring that their placements are appropriate and regularly monitored.
  4. The Children and Families Act 2014: This act introduces changes to the way children’s services operate, emphasising the importance of adoption and providing support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The Role of Foster Carers

Foster carers play an indispensable role in the foster care system. They provide a stable and nurturing environment, helping children recover from trauma and build resilience. The responsibilities of foster carers include:

  • Providing Daily Care: This involves meeting the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, and education, as well as offering emotional support and guidance.
  • Promoting Health and Well-being: Foster carers ensure that children attend medical appointments, receive necessary treatments, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Supporting Education: Foster carers encourage academic achievement and support children with their homework and school-related activities.
  • Facilitating Contact with Birth Families: Where appropriate, foster carers help maintain contact between children and their birth families, promoting a sense of continuity and identity.
  • Attending Training and Meetings: Foster carers are required to participate in ongoing training and attend meetings with social workers and other professionals involved in the child’s care.

The Fostering Process

The process of becoming a foster carer involves several stages, ensuring that only those capable of providing high-quality care are approved:

  1. Initial Inquiry: Prospective foster carers express their interest and receive information about the role and requirements.
  2. Home Visit: A social worker visits the prospective carer’s home to discuss fostering in more detail and assess the suitability of the environment.
  3. Application: The interested party submits a formal application, providing detailed personal information and consent for background checks.
  4. Assessment: A thorough assessment is conducted, including interviews, background checks, medical examinations, and references. This stage is crucial to ensuring that the prospective carer can provide a safe and nurturing environment.
  5. Training: Prospective carers undergo pre-approval training, covering topics such as child development, safeguarding, and managing challenging behaviours.
  6. Approval Panel: The completed assessment is presented to a fostering panel, which makes a recommendation on whether the applicant should be approved as a foster carer.
  7. Approval and Matching: Once approved, the foster carer is matched with a child or children whose needs they can best meet.

Challenges and Rewards

Fostering can be both challenging and immensely rewarding. Some of the challenges include:

  • Emotional Strain: Caring for children who have experienced trauma can be emotionally demanding.
  • Behavioural Issues: Foster carers often need to manage challenging behaviours resulting from the child’s past experiences.
  • Uncertainty: The temporary nature of foster care can create uncertainty and instability, both for the child and the carer.

Despite these challenges, fostering also offers numerous rewards:

  • Making a Difference: Foster carers have the opportunity to make a profound impact on a child’s life, providing them with love, stability, and hope for the future.
  • Personal Growth: The experience of fostering can lead to significant personal growth as carers develop new skills and insights.
  • Building Relationships: Foster carers often form deep and lasting bonds with the children they care for, as well as with other carers and professionals in the fostering community.

Support for Foster Carers

Recognising the challenges of fostering, various support systems are in place to assist foster carers.

  • Financial Support: Foster carers receive allowances to cover the costs of caring for a child, as well as additional payments for specific needs or skills.
  • Training and Development: Ongoing training opportunities help carers develop their skills and stay informed about best practices in fostering.
  • Respite Care: Respite care provides foster carers with regular breaks, helping them recharge and continue providing high-quality care.
  • Support Groups: Foster carers can join support groups to share experiences, receive emotional support, and build a sense of community.
  • Professional Support: Social workers and other professionals provide guidance and assistance, helping foster carers navigate the complexities of the fostering process.

The Future of Foster Care

The landscape of foster care is continually evolving, with ongoing efforts to improve the system and better meet the needs of children and carers. Key areas of focus include:

  • Improving Stability: Reducing the number of placement moves and ensuring that children can stay in stable, supportive environments for longer periods.
  • Enhancing Support: Providing more comprehensive support services for foster carers, including mental health resources and specialised training.
  • Promoting Inclusivity: Encouraging a diverse range of individuals to become foster carers, ensuring that children can be matched with carers who reflect their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Strengthening Partnerships: Fostering closer collaboration between fostering agencies, social services, and other stakeholders to improve outcomes for children.


Foster care is a vital service that provides vulnerable children with the support and stability they need to thrive. At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to supporting foster carers and advocating for the rights and well-being of children in care. By understanding the complexities of the fostering process and the legal framework that underpins it, we can work together to create a nurturing environment where every child has the opportunity to flourish.

Foster care requires a collective effort, with foster carers, social workers, legal professionals, and the community all playing crucial roles. By continuing to improve and adapt the foster care system, we can ensure that it remains a beacon of hope and support for children in need.

Foster Care FAQ'S

Foster care is a system in which a child who cannot live with their birth family is placed in the care of a foster family. The foster family provides a temporary, safe, and nurturing environment until the child can return home, be adopted, or move to another permanent arrangement.

To become a foster carer, individuals must be at least 21 years old, pass background checks, and complete a thorough assessment process that includes home visits, interviews, and training. Foster carers can be single, married, or in a partnership, and they can come from any background or lifestyle.

The length of stay in foster care varies widely. Some children may stay for a few days or weeks, while others may remain in foster care for several years. The duration depends on the child’s needs and circumstances, and whether they can be reunited with their birth family, adopted, or moved to another permanent placement.

Foster carers receive a range of support, including financial allowances to cover the costs of caring for the child, training and development opportunities, access to support groups, and assistance from social workers and fostering agencies. This support helps foster carers meet the child’s needs and manage any challenges.

Foster carers are responsible for providing a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for the child. This includes meeting the child’s daily needs, supporting their education and health, maintaining contact with the birth family where appropriate, and working with social workers and other professionals involved in the child’s care.

Yes, foster carers can adopt the child in their care if it is determined to be in the best interests of the child. This process involves a formal assessment and legal proceedings to ensure that the adoption is suitable for both the child and the foster carers.

If a foster carer can no longer care for a child, they must inform their fostering agency or social worker as soon as possible. The agency will make arrangements for the child to be moved to another foster home or suitable placement to ensure continuity of care and stability for the child.

Children are matched with foster carers based on several factors, including the child’s needs, the carers’ skills and experience, and the ability to provide a suitable and supportive environment. Social workers and fostering agencies carefully consider these factors to ensure a good match that promotes the child’s well-being.

Yes, foster children can maintain contact with their birth family if it is in their best interests. Contact arrangements are typically outlined in the child’s care plan and can include visits, phone calls, or other forms of communication, depending on the circumstances and the child’s needs.

Foster carers have the legal right to participate in decisions about the child’s care, access support and training, receive financial allowances, and be treated with respect and consideration by social workers and fostering agencies. However, they do not have parental responsibility for the child, which remains with the local authority or the child’s birth parents.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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