The main role of a foster carer is to provide a safe, secure and happy home for a child who needs it.

There are some key responsibilities as well.

As a foster carer you will need to:

  • Make sure the child has a healthy lifestyle, attends school and receives any educational or medical support they need;
  • Establish a routine and set boundaries for behaviour;
  • Enable the child to maintain contact with their family;
  • Help the child build healthy relationships with others;
  • Speak up on the child's behalf to make sure they receive the care and support they are entitled to;
  • Work as part of a team with other care professionals; and
  • Keep written records about the child.

You can  read more in our guide to fostering (pdf / 6 MB).

Fostering case studies

Read how fostering really does change lives...

Katie’s story in her own words:

I’m 19 now, and living with my foster family under the Staying Put scheme. I’ve lived with them since I was six. My foster family have two birth children of their own, plus two other long-term foster placements, so we are quite a big family. The other children here on foster placements arrived after me and they are younger than me - the newest arrival is only four years old - but we all just get on so well!

My foster family - mum, dad, and sisters, and their extended family, have always treated me the same as their birth children - no difference at all - I’ve always been told ‘you are part of our family.’

When I first arrived at my foster placement, everyone came out to say ‘hi’ and introduced themselves. One of my sisters had made a welcome card, which was lovely, and we just sat and talked in the living room for a while. They all made me feel really welcome and included, and nothing felt forced, or intrusive. When I was ready to open up to them emotionally, I did so in my own time.

Evening meals are great family times - we always sit at the table to eat dinner together. My foster mum is a great cook and makes amazing meals, she has taught me some cookery skills too, like how to make chicken pasta and fajitas.

You do feel different when you are in care because there are reviews and social work visits and so on, but my family treating me the same really helped and made me feel better about it… it just feels natural. Though I was an only child in my birth family, I never felt jealous about there being other children in my foster family - we always do stuff together as a family anyway.

From when I was born I had social workers involved in my life, as my mum and dad couldn’t really cope. They tried, but struggled as parents. My dad died when I was a lot younger, having been ill for most of his life. Social services tried to keep me at home but this didn’t prove possible and things were very difficult, as after my dad died, mum re-married and we both suffered abuse from her new partner. 

During this time, I spent time in respite care, part of the week staying with my foster family and the rest of the time with my mum. I found this both confusing and difficult so ended up back home, though mum was still with my stepfather. I did find it hard to understand why she stayed with him over the years. I went in to long term foster care when I was seven - I remember meeting my social worker in a cafe, when she explained this was the plan. It was difficult to take in, and I was upset at first.

Through the years I have kept up contact with my mum, it has been hard at times, but I’ve still maintained it, the contact was supervised until I was 16. I am older now, so I can give her a ring or organise contact myself, and arrange to meet and maybe go for lunch, and of course visits and meet ups are no longer supervised. 

Sometimes, in the past after contact meetings I felt upset - but when I got back home my foster parents were there to support me and talk things through. My foster mum has always said my birth mum loved me to bits and just couldn’t cope - she has never said anything negative about my birth mum and that’s been important.

When I was  in high school and studying for exams, my foster mum really worked hard at making me revise, and helped with spelling and reading and so on, and as a result, all my grades went from D or below, to Bs and Cs and I even got an A*! She gave me so much support it was unreal and this really helped me to get in to college. 

Now I am really happy where I work, I have had extra training and now more responsibilities. I am also learning to drive, hoping to move in to management and then I will probably move out in to independence and have my own place - but will always be going back!

Thinking about my fostering journey, I would want to say to other young people that it isn’t as scary as you think. Yes, it is an environment you don’t know, and don’t feel familiar with, but give it a chance, and above all don’t put barriers up. To foster carers I would say, just don’t make a fostered child feel any different to your birth family - treating them the same is vital. Trust is a big thing, too, and making sure a child knows it isn’t their fault they are in care, will be really important to them. 

I look back and see all the help and support I got; without the support I got from my foster parents, social workers and school, I know I wouldn’t have got to where I am now. I would love to try and benefit a child or children as much as fostering has benefited me and changed my life, when the time is right and I am older. 

Katie’s foster carer adds:

Katie was nervous when she arrived, and the warmth of our welcome, which included a card made by one of our daughters, was obviously much appreciated. I remember learning that Katie had never been read to or tucked up with a story at bed time - and made sure that was quickly changed!

She was a total delight, and we wondered if it was a honeymoon period - but it never ended - she just fitted in, like she had always been here, and we treated her like one of our own daughters.

Our extended family - and friends - have always treated our fostered children the same as our birth children. And I do strongly believe in the importance of creating and maintaining a good relationship wherever possible with a fostered child’s birth parents. This definitely helps with both self-esteem and confidence building for the children, too. 

Over the years Katie has learnt independence skills alongside working hard at her school work, and she now has a full time job in sales with a national company. 

She has turned in to a beautiful, bubbly, positive young adult, she is ambitious and confident now, too. Sometimes now she even cooks the family’s evening meal - she is a good cook - and I look back to the day that shy little girl arrived at our home! My husband and I both feel fostering has added to our experience of family life, and we both hope Katie will always be part of our family.