Fostering offers the chance to make an important difference to a child’s life at a time when they most need it. All types of families from all kinds of backgrounds can foster a child or group of children. 

Why not read our advice note on fostering?

What is fostering?

Sometimes, a child’s birth family is unable to look after them, either for a short period of time or long term, for all sorts of reasons. If the child cannot live with another family member or someone else they know, the local authority may then decide that the best option is to place the child in foster care. 

Fostering is often a temporary solution to provide children with a safe home while other arrangements are being made, although some young people are fostered until adulthood. Foster carers look after the child on behalf of the local authority who work closely with the child's birth parents wherever possible.

What are the different types of fostering?

Think about what suits you – whether it’s respite fostering, short-term or long-term. Make sure you have a good support network around you… Overall fostering is so rewarding and such a privilege, it is hard to put it into words. With the social work team it is like being part of a big extended family… I love what I do and that’s simply it. If you are looking to have family, there are lots of children out there who need a loving home.

Stephanie, foster carer, Proud parents

The different types of foster care include:

  • short-term: where carers look after children while plans are made for their future. This can also include emergency care, when children or young people need somewhere safe to stay immediately for a few nights.
  • long-term: where childrenwho cannot return to their birth families live with long-term foster carers until they reach adulthood and are ready to live independently. In England and Scotland (Staying Put) and Wales (‘When I’m Ready’) this may mean that young people stay with their foster carers after they have reached 18 years of age if this is what everyone wants.
  • short breaks or respite care: where disabled children or children with special needs or behavioural difficulties stay with another family to give own family or usual foster carers a short break.
  • specialist fostering: where carers look after children and young people for a particular purpose. This includes remand fostering, when young people are “remanded” by a court into the care of specially trained foster carers as an alternative to custody; and treatment fostering where experienced carers look after children with complex needs and behavioural problems who are also receiving intensive support from other professionals.
  • parent and child: where a parent moves into a foster home with their child or children.
  • kinship fostering: where children are cared for by other relatives, like grandparents, uncles or siblings, or by other adults who have a connection to the child, such as neighbours or a close friend of the family. 
  • private fostering: where a child is cared for by someone who is not their birth parent or a “close relative”. 

We went to an open evening and found out more about it but until you actually foster, you don’t realise the amount of time it takes and the impact it has on your life. We thought long-term fostering would offer a young person stability. We wanted them to live with us on a permanent basis and to fit into our family unit. We thought we could offer consistency and build up a rapport, see the person leave.

Mark and Kieran, foster carers, Proud parents

You can find out more about fostering in our practical handbook Thinking about fostering?

You can also find more information about the different types of fostering on the Fostering Network's website.

Who can foster?

People from all sorts of background and with different experiences, skills and qualities can foster.

All you need is:

  • to have some experience of caring for and/or working with children
  • to have the time and willingness to care for a child or young person, often on a full-time basis.
  • to have a level of stability and security in your life
  • to have the health and stamina to be able to care for young children
  • to have a good network of friends and/or family who you can call on for help and emotional support if needed
  • to not have been convicted of or cautioned for specified criminal offences against children, or some sexual offences against adults – your agency will carry out police checks

To find out more why not read our definitive guide to fostering in the UK Thinking about fostering? 

You can also find more information about what it takes to foster on the Fostering Network's website .

Who are the children who need fostering?

There can be a number of reasons why a child or young person needs fostering. Their parents may be suffering with illness or mental health problems; they may have a drug or alcohol-related problem, they may be the victims of domestic violence and abuse; they may be facing debt or experiencing housing problems; or someone living in the family home may have seriously neglected or abused the child.

Children of all ages – from babies through to adolescents - and backgrounds may need to live with foster carers for anything from a single night to several months or years. Specific types of children who need fostering include:

Groups of brothers and sisters

Sibling groups can really benefit from being placed in foster care together , especially when other aspects of their family life seem to be falling apart.

We just love having children around. We’ve got a grown-up daughter and two teenagers at home and we also foster. We like having groups of brothers and sisters and we’ve got three at the moment. They’re aged two, four and five and their social worker has just found adopters for them which is great, although we’ll miss them.

Foster carer, Adopting a child

Asylum-seeking children

On arrival in the UK children and young people seeking asylum may need to be fostered and their carers will often need to overcome significant cultural and language barriers.

Children who are disabled or have complex needs

Disabled children may need fostering because their parents are finding it hard to cope with the child’s physical or learning disabilities. 


Find out how to take the first steps if you are interested in fostering .