'Don't fail our young people': carers and services unite for urgent change to fostering system at risk


A crumbling and failing system is what children and young people in foster care are faced with, if urgent improvements aren't made, according to the latest report from the UK's leading fostering charity.    

The Fostering Network’s State of the Nation’s Foster Care 2021 report found that there is a crisis in the retention and recruitment of high-quality foster carers who can meet the needs of children in care. This is the biggest challenge facing the fostering sector today, as a lack of foster carers means that children are missing out on vital support.  
The report, which is based on the most comprehensive survey within the fostering community, finds that the need to value and recognise the foster carer role is at the heart of the crisis.

Key findings of the report include: 

  • 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. 
  • Key factors to improve the retention and future recruitment of foster carers are better pay, support and training, having the authority to make decisions for the child they are caring for and better relationships with children’s social workers. 

Foster carers provide 24/7 care for nearly 70,000 children across the UK. The poor terms and conditions for foster carers and their low status in the team around the child has a direct impact on the experience and outcomes for children, as shown by the report: 


  • Over a third of foster carers said that the allowance for the child does not meet the full cost of the child’s care, which means foster carers must dip into their own pocket to provide for the children. 
  • Only half of foster carers surveyed (53 per cent) received sufficient information about a new child/young person coming into their care, making it harder to plan for, and support, their specific needs. 
  • Only 42 per cent of foster carers said that children were able to visit their new home before moving into it, which can negatively impact how they feel about their new home, resulting in children feeling insecure and unstable in their attachments, which in turn can result in poorer outcomes in their education and mental health.  

The report makes a range of strategic and practical recommendations to governments and services at a national, regional and local level, to steer us away from a potential crisis. The recommendations centre on improving the status of foster carers to stop high levels of turnover in the foster carer workforce and deliver better outcomes for children and young people.

Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams, says: ‘Foster carers have told us they choose to foster because they want to make a difference to the lives of children, but find it increasingly difficult to do so without the tools they need or the status that their role requires.

‘We must tackle this in order to recruit and retain foster carers who can meet the needs of the children they care for, providing them with a stable and nurturing environment in which they can thrive. We have been saying this for many years and the situation is now becoming critical, with the gap between the needs of children and the number of foster carers with the skills to meet those needs growing wider than ever.

‘Foster care for too long has been a neglected sector and the time to change this is now. We are calling on all governments to work with us to implement the report’s recommendations in all four countries of the UK so we don’t fail our young people. The vital role of the foster carer needs to be recognised, respected and valued so all children are given the best experience of foster care. 

Read the full report 

This report is the first in a series using data gathered from surveys of 3,352 foster carer respondents and 99 fostering service respondents. The next report, launching in January 2022, will focus on the status of foster carers.