Fostering legislation in England

Fostering is a devolved issue in the UK. Legislation about care and foster care therefore varies across the UK. In England the main legislative body is the Westminster parliament and primary responsibility for fostering in England is held by the Department for Education.

Please use the drop down list to access details of key primary legislation, regulations, national minimum standards and guidance relating to fostering and foster care in England.

Key legislation impacting on fostering

Children Act 1989 This is the primary legislation governing looked after children and fostering services.

Care Standards Act 2000 This sets the regulatory and inspectoral regime and establishes National Minimum Standards.

Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 This is the primary legislation governing services for care leavers which has now been incorporated into the Children Act 1989.

Children Act 2004 This requires local authorities to promote educational achievement of looked after children, and introduced the children’s commissioner, Local Safeguarding Boards, directors of children’s services, lead member for children’s services and minimum fostering allowances.

Children and Young Persons Act 2008 This amends the Children Act 1989 regarding placement of looked after children, and strengthens visiting requirements and the role of the independent reviewing officer. Section 8 will become new Sec 22D in Children Act 1989 – LAC reviews should be held before a child is moved from a regulated placement (unless the child is at imminent risk of harm). Also relative carers are now entitled to apply for a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order if a child has lived with them for at least one year (they needed leave of court before, while foster carers did not need).

Children and Families Act 2014 This provides a duty on local authorities to consider children’s special educational needs or disabilities, and to keep education and health provision under review.

Children and Social Work Act 2017 This provides clarity in relation to Corporate Parenting principles and local offer for care leavers.  There are also provisions to recognise long term fostering as a permanence option. 

Data Protection Act 2018 This sets clear expectation in relation to how data should be appropriately and legally managed and is applicable in relation to children’s records as well as records relating to prospective, current and previous foster carers. 

Fostering and associated care planning regulations

Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 These regulate all fostering services, replacing the Fostering Services Regulations 2002.

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 These make a new regulation which allows a person who is approved as a prospective adopter to be temporarily approved as a local authority foster carer for a named looked after child (foster to adopt). The regulations amend the child’s placement plan to include identifying any delegation of responsibility to make decisions about the child’s care and upbringing to the local authority and the foster carer. The regulations also introduce a Stage 1 and Stage 2 assessment process with the preliminary stage 1 assessment allowing a fostering service to reject a fostering application if considered unsuitable and applicants do not have the right to make written representations (as they do in Stage 2). The regulations also enable a fostering service and approved foster carer to agree a change in terms of approval without delay.

Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 These specify requirements for care plans and placement plans, placement decisions, monitoring and review of looked after children

Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010 These are designed to ensure that young people leaving care receive the same support that would be expected of any reasonable parent.

Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulation Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2010)

Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers (2010) This is statutory guidance on how to meet the requirements of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, which now incorporates accommodation with former foster carers (‘staying  put’ arrangements).  

Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006 These regulate how local authorities (and some others) deal with representations made under the Children Act 1989, including those concerning the usual fostering limit.

The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015 and explantory memorandum recognises long term fostering as a permanence option; allows amended statutory visiting and looked after review frequencies. Also some amendment to Panels and IRM consideration of Brief Reports

Statutory guidance

Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4: Fostering Services (2011) This contains the requirements set out by Government to support local authorities, working with fostering service providers, in giving the best possible care and support to children in foster care. Replaces the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Family Placements (1991).  

Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4: Fostering Services (July 2013) This provides a central reference point for local authority work with looked after children, which now incorporates delegated authority, long-term foster placement and foster to adopt.

Short Breaks: Statutory Guidance on how to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Disabled Children using Short Breaks (2010) This seeks to improve outcomes for disabled children through short breaks provision.    

Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (2011) Statutory guidance that sets out a framework for the provision of support to family and friends carers, including the assessment and support of family and friends foster carers.

IRO Handbook: Statutory Guidance for Independent Reviewing Officers and Local Authorities on their Functions in Relation to Case Management and Review for Looked After Children (2010) This guides independent reviewing officers in the discharge of their responsibilities towards looked after children, with the aim that they receive the support and services required to meet their full potential.

Sufficiency: Statutory Guidance on Securing Sufficient Accommodation for Looked After Children (2010) This explains the duty of local authorities under section 22G of the 1989 Act to take steps that secure, so far as reasonably practicable, sufficient accommodation for looked after children within the local authority secure sufficient accommodation within their area to meet the needs of looked after children.

Promoting the Education of Looked After Children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (July 2014)

Promoting the Health and Wellbeing of Looked After Children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England (March 2015) Statutory guidance on the planning, commissioning and delivery of health services for looked-after children.

Working Together to Safeguard Children: A Guide to Inter-agency Working to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children (July 2018)

Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away or go Missing from Home or Care (January 2014)  A flowchart showing roles and responsibilities when a child goes missing from care is also available.

Getting the Best from Complaints: Social Care Complaints and Representations for Children, Young People and Others 

Statutory guidance relating to the Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006


National Minimum Standards

Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards (2011)
These replace the standards published in 2002.

The National Minimum Fostering Allowance and Fostering Payment Systems: Good Practice Guidance (2006) This is Government practice guidance, rather than statutory guidance.

OFSTED - inspection frameworks

Social care common inspection framework (SCCIF): independent fostering agencies 

Inspecting Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS)





Last updated: May 2022