What is Foster Care and How Do I Apply?

Thinking about fostering lately and curious to know more? You’re definitely in the right spot! Making the decision to foster can truly change lives, and we’re here to guide you every step of the way. In this article (plus many more like it), you’ll discover how to embark on an enriching journey of supporting children.

So, What Exactly is Foster Care?

Foster care is a cornerstone of the child welfare system that’s often misunderstood. It’s all about providing homes for young people who can’t live with their biological families for various reasons, like abuse, neglect, parental substance misuse, or incarceration. Not all foster homes are temporary. This changes depending on if the placement is long-term. In this case, the young person will remain in the home until they are at least 18 years old.

Ever since 1988, Family Care has been a family-owned social care provider specialising in therapeutic work with children in need. Our mission is to make a real difference to the lives of these youngsters. In this blog post, we’re diving into the world of foster care, how it operates, and why it’s essential for safeguarding at-risk children.

Grasping the Concept of Foster Care

Foster care is a well-organised system designed to offer safe, stable living conditions for around 80,000 children and teenagers in the UK. These are children who, due to various circumstances, can’t stay with their biological parents or guardians. Understanding foster care means recognising its profound impact on young lives and families. This alternative care approach aims to protect young people’s well-being and safety while also giving them opportunities to grow, learn, and heal.

In the UK, nearly 40.5% of foster children eventually reunite with their birth families, highlighting the system’s dedication to family reconnection whenever feasible. Foster care strives to ensure the upcoming generation’s well-being and positive development, backed by a vast network of foster families across the UK. This network showcases the collective effort to make a meaningful change in these children’s lives.

Vital Components of Foster Care

Foster care functions as a dynamic network of interconnected parts, each playing a crucial role in providing stability and care for children in need. From dedicated foster parents who open their homes to governmental agencies overseeing programs, foster care relies on teamwork and dedication. It’s a comprehensive system crafted to ensure children’s well-being during times of uncertainty and transition. Let’s break down these critical components further:

Foster Parents: These are amazing individuals or families who warmly welcome foster children into their homes. They undergo careful screening, background checks, and training to ensure they can meet the children’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.

Child Welfare Agencies: These are government or non-profit organisations that manage foster care programs. They identify young people who need foster care, evaluate potential foster homes, and monitor children’s progress in care.

Biological Parents: Foster care typically aims to reunite young people with their biological parents if it’s safe and in the child’s best interest. Biological parents often collaborate with social workers and attend programs to address the issues that led to their child’s placement.

Social Workers: These superheroes play a pivotal role in foster care. They assess the needs of both children and biological parents, create case plans, support foster families, and offer recommendations to the court about placement.

Courts: Legal processes often come into play in foster care cases. Judges decide where the child should be placed and their well-being, considering input from social workers, lawyers, and other experts.

Unravelling the Foster Care Process

Family Care excels at finding caring foster homes for children and young people. Let’s walk through the intricate stages that make up the foster care process:

Referral and Assessment: This happens when a child is referred to the child welfare agency due to concerns about their safety or well-being. Social workers assess the situation to determine if foster care is necessary.

Placement: If it’s clear that a child can’t safely remain with their biological family, they’re placed in a foster home. The agency strives to find a suitable foster family that can cater to the child’s needs.

Case Planning: A case plan is drawn up for the child and their biological parents. This plan outlines specific goals and tasks for parents, like tackling substance abuse or attending parenting classes.

Monitoring and Support: Social workers regularly visit the foster home to ensure the child is safe and well. They also offer support to both the foster and biological families as they work towards reuniting.

Review and Permanency: The court periodically reviews the case’s progress and decides on the child’s future. While the primary goal is usually reuniting the family, the court might explore alternatives like adoption or guardianship if that’s not possible.

The Importance of Foster Care

Foster care plays a critical role in our society, serving various essential purposes that contribute to improving children’s lives and overall well-being. Here’s why foster care is so significant:

Child Safety:

First and foremost, foster care offers a protective haven for children facing immediate dangers within their biological homes. By swiftly removing them from harmful situations, it acts as a shield against potential harm, ensuring their immediate safety.

Supporting Families:

Foster care isn’t only about young people; it also supports their biological parents. It functions as a mechanism for offering family assistance, providing parents with resources and guidance to tackle the underlying issues that led to their child’s removal. This approach aims to reunite families by addressing challenges and creating opportunities for positive change.


At its core, foster care provides children with the essential gift of stability. Amid the chaos of family difficulties, it gives them a stable and nurturing home where they can thrive emotionally, mentally, and academically. This safe and steady environment marks the beginning of their healing journey.

Permanent Homes:

For young people whose circumstances make returning to their biological families impractical, foster care becomes a guiding light towards lasting comfort. Through adoption or guardianship, foster care can lead them to a new chapter characterised by permanence and unwavering love. This transition to a secure and caring home is the culmination of their journey within the foster care system.

In short, foster care, just like the services provided by Family Care, is a crucial force that ensures children’s safety, supports families, offers stability, and helps children find a forever home when needed.

Reasons why you should become a foster carer


So, How Long Does It Take to Become a Foster Parent?

The journey starts with your application to become a foster parent and concludes with a decision from the fostering service. According to gov.uk, on average, the whole process can take up to 8 months. At Family Care, the fostering assessment process generally spans about 4-5 months for completion. This timeline includes creating the fostering report, conducting essential checks and references, and finishing pre-approval training.

Once you receive approval, the time until you start caring for a young person will be influenced by your specific preferences for matching. In most cases, newly approved foster carers typically wait around 4-8 weeks before welcoming their first child into their home.

Could You Be a Foster Parent?

The shortage of foster carers in the UK greatly affects vulnerable children.

This can result in children being placed far from their loved ones and being separated from their siblings, as well as their school and friends.

Did you know that historically, 70-80% of foster placements have been within 20 miles of the child’s home? While this benefits many children who can maintain their school and friendship groups, it also means that 20-30% of placements are further away.


For children coming to live with our foster families at an average age of 10, a change of school is often inevitable. However, we are dedicated to finding families in local areas with high demand to 

minimise disruptions.

If you live in the Northwest or the Midlands and are interested in exploring becoming a foster carer, we are here to support you every step of the way.

Read about our application process here.

Get in touch with us by completing our short enquiry form online, or call us at 0800 5 677677.  

There is no obligation for anything more than a chat.



Start Your Fostering Journey Today

Foster care is a pivotal part of the child welfare system, offering temporary homes and support to children and teenagers in need. It embodies a commitment to these vulnerable individuals’ safety, well-being, and best interests, with the ultimate goal of reuniting families whenever possible or finding permanent, loving homes through adoption or guardianship when necessary. Understanding foster care is crucial for society, as it plays a significant role in ensuring every child can grow up in a secure and nurturing environment.

Healing Pasts | Building Futures
Since 1988

0800 5 677 677

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109 children come into care every day in the UK...