How does foster care work? 

Teenage girl in foster care smiling at friend

Going into foster care can seem like a very daunting experience, especially if you have never done it before. If you’re being taken into foster care, or have been told that this is a possibility, you may be curious as to what foster care is like. While the experience of foster care differs from child to child and foster family to foster family, in general most children find foster care to be a pleasant experience where they are looked after and supported until their parents are ready to have them back.

One of the main things young people being taken into care want to know is how foster care works. You might be worried that the process is going to take a long time or be complicated, but actually the process of being put in foster care is pretty simple. 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 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 a foster family?

When they’re being put into care, lots of young people want to know what exactly a foster family is – the short answer is that a foster family could be a single person or a couple that want to help you. Often these adults may have children of their own, or other foster children living with them, so often living with a foster family gives you a great chance to meet new people 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.

‘People think we are in care because we’re naughty!’

There are lots of reasons why children are taken into care – it could be for your own safety or it could be because your parents need some time to sort out their problems. Whatever the reason you’re taken into care, it’s important to remember that it’s never your fault. 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. 

Life in foster care

Foster care is usually only a temporary situation – often children will return home once their parents are able to look after them again. If they want to, children living in foster care often still keep in touch with their family during their time in care. Social services are responsible for making sure that if you want to and it's safe to, you can maintain a relationship with your family and also your friends. However, some children may end up staying in foster care for a long time - they may even end up being adopted by their foster family, or go on to live independently.   

Whatever you feel about foster care, try to remember that if someone is putting you into foster care, they’re doing it to try and make your life better. You will get used to the new family life and you don't need to worry about anything.