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Why do children need foster care? – 9 common reasons why children need to be fostered

Every child is different and each child and young person in foster care has their own unique story. There are several reasons why children need foster care and no family circumstances are exactly the same.

Fostering is a rewarding career but it also comes with its challenges, many of which can stem from the reasons why the child needed foster care in the first place. If you are considering becoming a foster carer, it would be beneficial to know and have an understanding of some of the most common reasons children enter the care system. A child’s presentation and the way they respond to life in a foster family can often be influenced by their past experiences of family life.

As a foster carer you will be providing a child with safety, stability, support, comfort and nurture. If you are considering becoming a foster carer, this blog post outlines some of the main reasons why children come in to foster care. We hope this information helps you to prepare for life as a foster carer and gain a greater understanding of why children and young people may need foster care here in the UK.

9 common reasons why children need foster care.

1. Neglect – There are various forms of neglect: physical, educational, emotional or medical. A child needing foster care may have experienced just one form of neglect, a combination of the different forms of neglect or even neglect across all areas of their life.

Neglect can have an impact on the developing brain and children who have been neglected may present as younger than their chronological age. It has also been discovered that children who have experienced neglect can be behind their peers in key developmental milestones – reading, speaking, socialising and self-care skills, for example.

When caring for children who have been neglected, foster carers are dedicated to helping the child reach their milestones and to help them develop and thrive in a safe and consistent environment.

2. Parental ill health – If a parent or a child’s primary caregiver becomes unwell and unable to care for their child, in the absence of a support network, foster care may be needed.

A physical or mental health condition may prevent a parent from looking after their child and meeting all of their needs. Foster care can give parents time to get better and for strategies to put in place to help them better care for their child when the time is right for them to return home.

Foster carers will need to meet all of a child’s needs and be able to support a child whose parents are unwell.

foster family baby feet

3. Domestic abuse – Children may be taken into foster care if they have witnessed domestic abuse at home. Domestic abuse within the family home can have a negative impact on a child’s mental health and emotional development as well as putting them at risk of physical harm. Foster carers will need to be patient while children learn to trust their home environment is safe and free from hostility and conflict.

4. Physical and emotional abuse – Like neglect, abuse comes in many forms. Children may need to be placed in a foster home because they have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Children who are considered to be at risk of any form abuse may also be placed in a foster family to protect their welfare and provide them with a safe home while issues within their birth family are resolved. Foster carers may be asked to look after these children on an basis and will likely need to provide the child with a lot of on-going reassurance and emotional support.

5. Family breakdown – Every family is different and faces unique situations and difficult circumstances. Occasionally a relationship breakdown, sibling conflict, unemployment or financial problems can cause a child to become at risk and in need of foster care. Foster carers will need to offer the child support during this difficult time and also help them to maintain contact with their birth families. Foster care can give birth families time to repair and heal while the child is being safely looked after by their foster carer.

7. Drug or alcohol abuse – There could be many risks to a child’s safety and well-being if they are growing up in a home where a parent(s) is dependent on alcohol or drugs. A child may need to live with a foster family to help to keep them safe and prioritise their needs. Foster carers provide children with a safe environment and in conjunction with other professionals, also offer children support and guidance while they are away from home.

8. Family crisis – There are many reasons why a family can fall into crisis. Sudden job loss, eviction, a death in the family, homelessness, a police arrest and even gang related threats can see a family quickly plunged into a crisis. In these circumstances, foster care might be needed to give a child a stable place to live and a supportive care giver while the crisis within their birth family is resolved.

9. Death of a parent – Sometimes children need foster care following the death of a parent or guardian. In these circumstances, foster carers will need to provide emotional support, reassurance and be a listening ear while the child grieves and starts to come to terms with their loss. In these circumstances foster carers also play an important role in helping the child to maintain contact with the rest of their birth family.

While their stories will all differ and each family situation is unique, every child in foster care will have faced loss and separation from their birth family. Foster carers will be required to provide emotional support, care and nurture on a consistent basis as well as opening their home as a safe space to children in need.

If after reading this blog post you want to find out more about becoming a foster carer, phone us today or send an email to admin@focusfostercare.com . We are currently recruiting foster carers in the West Midlands and welcome your enquiry.


To find out more about fostering and how to become a foster carer with our independent fostering agency, please read the following pages on our website:
Types of foster care.
Who can foster?
How to become a foster carer with Focus Foster Care.
Fostering – frequently asked questions.
The benefits of fostering with Focus Foster Care.