Have your say! 2024 State of the Nations’ Foster Care survey is now open


Established in 2014, The Fostering Network’s State of the Nations’ Foster Care survey is the largest and most comprehensive study of the UK's fostering sector, representing the voices, thoughts and opinions of foster carers across the four nations. 

The survey helps us understand the reality of foster care across the UK. It provides us with evidence of what foster carers need to provide the best possible care for the growing numbers of children and young people in care.  The findings enable us to amplify the concerns of foster carers and push for urgent reform to laws, policies and practice in the fostering system.  

Our last survey in 2021 had responses from 3,300 foster carers and almost 100 fostering services, making it the most far-reaching and in-depth independent survey of the fostering community across the whole of the UK. 

We conduct this vital piece of research every three years to better understand the rewards and challenges experienced by foster carers across the UK, gathering evidence and tracking changes in trends in fostering at national, regional and local levels. 

We use the information to share the voices of foster carers and services with decision makers within government, offering them an authentic and relevant picture of the realities of fostering today that will inform our campaigns for change and raise the profile of fostering in general. 

As well as driving our campaigning work, the survey is highly respected among the academic community and government officials in all four nations. Our findings are used in academic research and by research organisations such as the Centre for Evidence and Impact and CoramBAAF’s Adoption and Fostering Journal. 

Our 2024 State of the Nations survey has now launched and is open for six weeks until Sunday 16 June 2024.  

This is a key opportunity for the fostering community to share the highs and lows of fostering in 2024 and a chance to drive real change for foster carers and the young people they care for. As such we urge all foster carers and services to take part and make sure their voices are heard. 

Take the foster carers’ survey 

Take the former foster carers’ survey  

Take the fostering service managers’ survey  


What impact has the survey had? 

Since 2016, our State of the Nations survey has provided us with crucial evidence to make the case for change in the fostering sector.  

Below are some examples of how the 2021 survey findings have contributed to changes to the law, policy and practice for children in foster care, foster carers, and fostering services. 

1. £36 million investment into fostering in England  

We used the evidence on shortages and how to best retain foster carers to lobby the UK Government to make their biggest ever investment in fostering as part of the Independent Care Review in 2022. They announced £27 million in February 2023 and a further £8.5 million in December to help tackle the major shortage of foster carers in England. Ten recruitment and retention clusters to increase both areas will be launching soon. 

2. Investment in Fostering Wellbeing to improve the status of foster carers in Wales 

We heard from many foster carers that they felt they had to ‘shout’ or ‘fight’ to be heard for the good of the children in their care, rather than being considered part of the care process. We used these findings to influence the Welsh Government to extend funding for the Fostering Wellbeing programme to include every local authority area and every child looked after in Wales.  

Fostering Wellbeing brings together all the professionals involved in supporting children who are looked after and promotes equal status for everyone involved in the team around the child. An independent evaluation of the programme found it a valued and effective model which helped foster carers feel empowered to become stronger advocates for the children in their care. 

3. Introduction of delegated authority by default in England 

One third of foster carers said they were not always clear about what decisions they have the authority to make about the children in their care, and the same proportion said children’s social workers rarely or never respond in a timely manner to requests for decisions. We submitted this evidence to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England and made the case for more child-focused policy and practice, giving foster carers the maximum appropriate powers to make decisions so that the children in their care have the same opportunities as their peers.  

The Department for Education committed to introduce delegated authority by default in their ‘Stable Homes Built on Love’ strategy and are currently in the process of exploring how this can be achieved, with a consultation on this expected later in the year. 

4. Historic changes to national minimum allowances in England and Scotland 

Over a third of foster carers said their allowances do not meet the full cost of looking after a child. Responses from the State of the Nation survey drove the development of our Cost of Fostering campaign which led to the UK Government announcing a historic 12.43 per cent increase in the national minimum allowance for 2023/24 and a subsequent 6.88 per cent for 2024/25. We also used this evidence to lobby the Scottish Government who finally introduced their Scottish Recommended Allowance in August 2023, the last nation of the UK to do so. 

5. Review of Children’s Social Services in Northern Ireland  

We used evidence to show that foster carers are still not being treated as an equal member of the team around the child to feed into Professor Ray Jones’ Review of Children’s Social Services in Northern Ireland in 2022-2023. We were really pleased to see the recommendation in the final report that foster carers should be recognised and positioned as valued members of the children's social care team.  

This recommendation has been identified as one of the guiding principles to inform the implementation of the review which has led to a new reform programme and workstream by the Northern Irish Government dedicated to improving the recruitment and retention of foster carers.