What is foster care?

Foster care is a way of providing a stable family environment for children who, for a variety of reasons, can’t live with their birth parents. Many children in foster care will eventually return to their families. This might take a matter of weeks, or it could take much longer. If return to their birth family isn’t possible, a decision may be made to find a permanent new family for the child, possibly through adoption. Most children in foster care will have regular contact with their birth parents while they are living with their foster carers. The child’s birth parents continue to have responsibilities for the child, throughout the time they are in foster care.

Not just a short-term option

This is a picture of a a group of five children sitting on the grass. Although many foster care placements are short-term, foster care can also offer a long-term option.

Sometimes long-term or permanent foster care is the best choice. Perhaps the child is older and, although living with their birth parents isn’t an option, they don’t want to be adopted. Or maybe the foster parents want to offer the child a permanent home, but feel that they would still like to share the child’s care with the local authority, instead of adopting.

More carers needed

There is a need for many more foster carers, throughout the UK. Research by the Fostering Network in 2004 estimated that a further 10,000 foster carers are needed in the UK. If there were more foster carers available, many more children could experience life in a stable family environment instead of in a residential care home.

What does a foster carer do?

This is a picture of a girl with a walking frame with her father standing behind her.Being a foster carer means far more than looking after a child’s day-to-day needs. It means getting involved in many aspects of caring for a child, and it also means being given the help and support you need. Every child in foster care needs special care and understanding, but the children that Parents for Children specialises in helping are amongst the most troubled and demanding. They may have suffered abuse or neglect and need help to learn how to live in an ordinary family environment. They may have complex health or developmental problems and almost all of them will have experienced multiple moves in and out of care.

Short breaks service

As well as long and short-term foster care, Parents for Children runs a respite care and short breaks service. These breaks are designed to give our long-term carers a much-needed break to recharge their batteries and to offer the children some fun with other experienced carers.

Find out more

Being a Parents for Children foster carer is highly rewarding as well as hard work. Our carers receive an allowance, which is realistic rather than generous, plus plenty of training and support. If you’d like to find out more, there’s lots more information to read on this site. If you’d like to talk to us about caring for children with special needs, for long or short-term placements or as a member of our short breaks carer team, we would love to hear from you. You can register your interest online, email us at [email protected] or call 020 7520 2881/5 to talk to our fostering team.


There is lots more useful information about fostering on the following websites:

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