Find out more about what happens in foster care and how we can support you

A picture of Katie, who was a young person in care

When you’re told that you are going into care, you might find yourself being worried, or you might find yourself being relieved – but whatever your reaction is, you’re probably going to have a few questions. Here we’ll help you answer some of the most common questions you might have.

When you're taken into care you may go into residential care, respite care, a short-term home or be given an out-of-borough place, but as much as is possible, social services will try to find you a foster family.

What happens in foster care?

If you’re being taken into care, or you’ve been told that this is a possibility, you may be curious as to what foster care is like. It might seem like being in care will be a worrying or unpleasant experience, but most children find being in care to be a pleasant time where they are looked after and supported until their parents are ready to have them back.

When you are put into foster care, you’ll be placed with a foster family who have been specially chosen as people who are capable of providing you with a safe, stable environment. Your foster family will provide you with the chance to live in a secure, loving and caring home environment with your foster carers. You will live with your foster family in their house and they’ll give you a normal family life and look after you from day to day. When you’re living with your foster family, remember that you’ll always have your foster parents to turn to with any problems you have.  

What is foster care like?

Going in to care can be difficult, but the professionals around you and your new carers will make it easier to adjust to. You’ll live with your foster family, have meals with them, and they’ll make sure you have everything you need for school and out of school activities. You might be living with just your foster parents, but they might also have children of their own, or other foster children living with them. This will give you a chance to meet new children and create special bonds with them.

Remember, your foster family aren’t trying to replace your real parents or family – they’re just trying to help until your parents are able to take you back and give you the care and security you need.

How many children are in foster care?

In England there are nearly 52,000 children who are living in foster care, and just over 66,000 young people living in care in total in this country.

What age does foster care end?

There isn’t officially a set age when someone ends foster care, though when you turn 18 you are officially an adult and so can leave foster care if you choose. But if your foster family is happy for you to remain with them, you can stay as long as you’d like.

If you do choose to leave care, your local council must:

  • Provide you with a personal adviser who keeps in touch with you once you’ve left care.
  • Carry out an assessment to find out what advice and support you need - they must also prepare a plan to make this happen, called a ‘pathway plan’.

If you need further information about leaving care, we have a useful booklet that’s been written by young people for young people and adults, to help them understand more of the issues around being put into care.