Recruitment targets foster carers

In the UK, one child comes into care every 15 minutes and could need a foster family.  

Around 70,000 children live with 53,000 foster families across the UK. This is nearly three-quarters of the 100,437 children in care away from home on any one day in the UK.  

Around 38,000 more children come into care over the course of 12 months, with similar numbers leaving the care system to return home, move in with another family member, live with new adoptive families, become subject to a special guardianship or residence order or move on to adult life. 

Foster care provides children with a safe, secure and nurturing family environment.

Currently, there are 100,437 children in care in the UK and three quarters live with foster families. Too often these children – an estimated one in five in England are placed more than 20 miles from home because a foster family cannot be found to look after them nearby. The Fostering Network estimates that fostering services across the UK need to recruit at least a further 6,500 foster families in the next 12 months alone. 

We urgently need more foster families across the UK to ensure that every child gets the care they need, and are well supported, within their community. In particular, foster families are needed who can support sibling groups, to ensure children can be cared for together and don’t lose their connections to their family. 

Numbers of foster families needed across the UK

UK 6,500
England 5,400
Northern Ireland 400
Scotland 400
Wales 300

Regional breakdown in England

North East 370
North West 760
Yorkshire and the Humber 580
East Midlands 380
West Midlands 700
East of England 450
London 780
South East 910
South West 470



In order to calculate the recruitment targets, The Fostering Network uses the best available statistics and sector intelligence and makes a number of assumptions based on our market knowledge.
There are three elements in the calculation:

Replacing those who leave the fostering workforce during the year

Using the Ofsted dataset for England, we take the average percentage of the fostering workforce leaving across the previous three years. We assume it will hold for the forthcoming year and that it is applicable across the UK.

Number of children in care on any one day

The number of children coming into care has been rising in recent years. We look at the rise in the previous year in each nation according to government statistics, and, using sector intelligence about current trends, adjust this to provide an estimate for the rise in the next 12 months.

Increasing the size of the pool of available foster carers

Fostering services continue to report that in some parts of the country there are simply no available foster carers or specific shortages of households willing/able to care for teenagers, sibling groups, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and so on.
We, therefore, include a further element to enable growth of the pool of available foster carers to improve placement choice.

The sum of these three elements gives a percentage rise which we apply to the number of existing foster families in each nation. In England these figures are taken from the Ofsted dataset, elsewhere they are calculated from The Fostering Network’s membership database plus an estimate of the number not in membership.

A slight adjustment is made to these figures to reflect national differences, giving us the recruitment targets in each nation.