More children to end up in unsuitable homes if more foster carers aren’t urgently recruited


More children will end up in unsuitable homes if thousands more foster families aren’t urgently recruited, according to new figures released by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network.

Across the UK there’s currently a shortage of 6,500 foster families – a figure which comes during Foster Care Fortnight (13 – 26 May), the charity’s annual awareness raising campaign. The numbers lay bare the recruitment crisis currently facing the fostering community as the number of children in care in the UK exceeds 100,000 (100,437) – the highest on record. 

Urgent action needs to be taken to recruit more foster carers while ensuring existing carers feel sufficiently supported to continue to foster. Since 2021 we’ve seen more foster carers leaving than joining across the UK, as the number of fostering households decreased by 2,154, while the number of children increased by 2,855.
The situation is particularly stark in England. Since 2019 the number of fostering households decreased by 1,045 while the number of children in care has increased by 5,690. A lack of support, feeling undervalued and not respected by social work teams and inadequate financial support are some of the key reasons why foster carers tell us have decided to stop fostering. 

The tide needs to turn, otherwise more children will end up in homes that do not meet their needs, putting their wellbeing at risk.  There are too many children living in residential care, despite requiring foster care. They are also being moved miles away from home and being separated from siblings as there aren’t enough local foster carers. 

Every child should benefit from a loving, stable, nurturing home with a local foster family when they need one. When children are placed far away and separated from family and friends, it negatively impacts on their attachment, sense of security and relationships – which often results in further unplanned moves. It also disrupts their education and negatively impacts their mental health.

Children’s homes can be the right place for a child or young person, however sometimes they are placed there as a last resort because there isn’t a foster carer available to look after them. It's universally recognised that children thrive in a family environment – allowing them to have home comforts and stable relationships – residential care can offer some of this, but not all.  

Over the past year, all governments across the UK have acknowledged the crisis facing foster care and have increased investment in retention and recruitment of foster carers, however it’s still not enough. The focus needs to be turned towards ensuring existing foster carers feel supported, respected and sufficiently renumerated to continue fostering.

Nicky has been fostering with her husband since April 2015 and they have fostered 43 young people during that time, providing a mix of emergency and longer-term care.

Nicky said: “Me and my husband are proud to be foster carers. We have loved supporting young people and seeing them grow into amazing young adults. However, it’s clear that more foster carers are needed to ensure all children and young people receive the right home for their needs.  

“We’re all too aware that children end up in homes outside of their local area or temporary accommodation, with a rota of different foster carers, if an emergency foster home isn’t available when needed. We’ve seen first-hand the transformational impact a stable, loving,  home can have on children and young people and it’s vital all children in need of foster care experience this.”

Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Sarah Thomas, said: “Foster Care Fortnight is an opportunity to celebrate the fostering community and to highlight what needs to change in the future.
“Recruitment is just one part of the solution. We need more highly skilled, locally based foster carers, to prevent children from living in environments that don’t meet their needs. But we also need to ensure we keep the amazing foster carers we do have. Children need stable, loving homes, close to their local community to ensure they can maintain relationships with their families and communities, which will help them thrive.

“We’re calling on all governments to produce a comprehensive and fully funded recruitment and retention strategy to address the crisis in foster care so all children can have their needs met."

Anyone can learn about fostering and decide whether it’s suitable for them – there’s no typical foster carer and people from all walks of life can foster, no matter your age, gender, relationship status or sexual orientation. 

If you are considering fostering or would simply like to learn more about what it involves, then this Foster Care Fortnight we encourage you to contact your local fostering service or Fosterline to find out more.

If you would like to find out more about fostering, then our Fosterline advisors in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can support you on your fostering journey.

You can find out more about Foster Care Fortnight and how to get involved here - Foster Care Fortnight 2024 | The Fostering Network.

Notes to editors 

For more information and interview requests, please email or call 020 7620 6450.

Interviews are available with foster carers, care experienced young people and representatives of The Fostering Network. For local case studies, please contact your local fostering services.

Statistics on children in care in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are based on datasets from the Department of Education (UK), the Department of Health (NI), Scottish Government, and Stats Wales.