Foster Care Definition: What is Fostering?

You may have heard of foster care, but what does it really mean?

Currently there are over 83,000 children in the UK living away from home, nearly 80% of these young people are living with foster families.

Foster care meaning

Fostering is a way of providing a safe and nurturing environment for children and young people when they are unable to live with their birth family. There are many reasons that a young person may not be able to live with their parents. For example, they may suffer abuse or neglect, be involved in a family breakdown or a parents are unable to care for them because they are ill.

Our amazing foster families step up to support young people in their time of need. Providing them solace in a loving home, supporting each child in their education, personal life and any other needs they may have.

Some fostering placements are only for a temporary period of time while the problems that placed the children in foster care have been resolved. However, they may stay living with their foster family for many years if it’s the best thing for them.

Fostering impacts on the whole family and will affect your children if you have them, but we’ve found that this can often be a hugely positive experience for birth children.

Young people in foster care are sometimes referred to as “looked after children”. At Compass we strive to use the correct language when referring to the children and young people in our care.

Define foster care

Are there different types of fostering?

When trying to define foster care, it’s important to remember that there are many different types of foster care that our carers provide, depending on each young person’s needs. Every child’s backgrounds and upbringings will be unique to them and often children will display different behaviours depending upon their own experiences.

We always have the best interest of our young people in mind and will always strive to find the perfect families for them to live with. We consider their needs, appropriate location, ideal living situation, and educational opportunities when making matches with foster families.

Fostering or adoption: what’s the difference?

Often when people talk about fostering, they can get confused with adoption. There are a number of differences between fostering and adoption, mostly these are legality ones.

Simply, fostering offers a more temporary basis of care for a young person. Looked after children’s birth families and/or local authority are still responsible legally for the them, whereas adoption is a permanent arrangement, and the adoptive parents have full parental rights.

Foster parents receive support in the way of a fostering allowance to help financially, whereas adoptive parents do not get this for adoption.

Sometimes it is also possible to adopt a child you foster.

Who can become a foster parent?

Many people would love to become foster carers but believe wrongly that they wouldn’t be accepted. In reality, the main requirements we ask for at application stage are that you are over the age of 21 and have a spare bedroom. We dispel common myths about who can foster here.

Becoming a foster parent

Making the decision to become a foster parent is a big one for many people, but we are here to support you every step of the way. Read our guide on the 5 steps to becoming a foster parent which is a great place to get started.

Fostering Information Events

Learn more about foster care and whether it’s right for you with out live, digital fostering information events.
Upcoming Events

Fostering Information Live Q&A

Fostering Information Live Q&A

Compass Fostering are running a Live Zoom Q&A session for you to learn more about Fostering and have all your Fostering questions answered.Read More »
Fostering Information Live Q&A

Fostering Information Live Q&A

Compass Fostering are running a Live Zoom Q&A session for you to learn more about Fostering and have all your Fostering questions answered.Read More »

More questions?

Head over to our FAQs page to find answers to our most commonly asked questions.

How to start foster care

We want to ensure every looked after child is safe, their needs are being met and they are living in a caring and secure environment. If you think you could provide this for a foster child, or would like to find out more about foster care you can get in touch with us.


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