State of the Nation's Foster Care 2021

Every three years we conduct the State of the Nation’s Foster Care survey to produce a reliable insight into fostering in the UK; to identify areas of good practice and understand where improvements are needed. This is the fourth time we have conducted this survey. For the first time, we also surveyed our fostering service members, offering a perspective from those who provide services and enabling us to gain a deeper insight into the challenges within the system and how they impact on the overall service.

We will use the findings of this report to influence the foster care agenda and create change by bringing them to the attention of national and local decision and policy makers.

About the survey 

The survey, which took place in the summer of 2021, covered key practice and workforce issues such as placement stability, training and support for carers, and status and authority of the workforce. In total, 3,352 foster carers and 99 fostering services took the survey, maitaning it as the largest and most comprehensive survey of fostering in the UK.



Main report 

This report, published in December 2021, provided further evidence of the recruitment and retention crisis in foster care but highlights how the need to value and recognise the foster carer role is at the heart of the crisis. The pressures within the system, and the lack of availability of foster families, results in poorer outcomes for children with some children experiencing multiple moves, living a long way from family, friends and school or being separated from their siblings. 

Our report calls on governments to focus on and fund this neglected sector. It also makes strategic and practical recommendations at a regional and local level. 

Read the report 

Read the executive summary 

Spotlight on Wales

This report highlights the challenges foster care in Wales has to overcome and what more needs to be done to provide our children with the best possible experience of foster care. 

Read the report 

Darllenwch yr adroddiad

Thematic report 1: The status of foster carers

Foster carers provide children with stability, security, attachment and a positive experience of family life. However, despite three-quarters of children in care living with around 56,000 foster families in the UK, the findings of our State of the Nation survey once again highlight that foster carers are propping up the care system without the resources, support and recognition that their vital role warrants.

Read the report 

What can you do to help? 

Foster carers, take our campaign action to speak with your fostering service and ask them to work with foster carers to develop and embed a foster carers' charter. If your service already has a charter, ask how the charter is being used in the fostering service and when it is going to next be reviewed in consultation with foster carers. You can find a conversational guide here. If you require any support please email

Thematic report 2: Allegations

Improving the allegation process in foster care is a huge issue within the fostering sector and beyond. This report presents only the foster carers’ view of being the subject of an allegation in foster care, collected through our State of the Nation’s Foster Care 2021 survey.

The levels of distress experienced by the foster carers as a result of an allegation investigation came through strongly in the survey. We believe this report should represent the starting point of a process of change to tackle head-on the longstanding but under-investigated issue of allegations in foster care, which have a significant impact on children, foster carers, their families and the sector as a whole.

Read the report here

Find out more about the support and information we offer to foster carers facing an allegation investigation here.

Thematic report 3: Children's unmet needs

When children are removed from their family and taken into care, the state (in the form of the child's local authority/trust acting as 'corporate parent') is responsible for making sure their rights are fulfilled and their needs are met. However, the following report shows that children in foster care are not consistently having their health, educational, cultural, language and religious needs met and therefore the state is failing in its duty as corporate parent. 

Read the report here


We are calling on governments to ensure that children in care are able to access all the services they are entitled to, and so desperately need; and that children in care are listened to and their views valued by all agencies working with them. Governments need to invest in awareness raising of care experience, training and therapeutic approaches. This is so practitioners across all public sector organisations that support children have the understanding and skills they need to best support people with care experience.


If you want to get in touch with our policy team about anything from this page please email

Read our previous reports here