Foster care in the United Kingdom

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Children from a workhouse in Cheshire - similar to these children at Crumpsall workhouse.(c.1895) - were the first to be placed in foster care in the United Kingdom in 1853.

Foster care in the modern sense was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1853 when Reverend John Armistead removed children from a workhouse in Cheshire, and placed them with foster families. The local council (called unions at the time) was legally responsible for the children, and paid the foster parents a sum equal to the cost of maintaining the child in the workhouse.[1][2]

In the UK, there are nearly 70,000 children living with foster families each day. This is almost three-quarters of the total number of children in care away from home, which is over 98,000.[3] Prospective foster parents must pass an assessment by a social worker to determine suitability to foster.[4]

According to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service – the agency for England and Wales set up to safeguard and promote the welfare of children involved in family court proceedings – the total number of new care applications between April 2011 and March 2012 was up by 10.8 per cent, rising from 9,202 over the same period the previous year, exceeding the 2008-09 tally of 6,488 by 57.2 per cent.[5]

Recent controversies[edit]

Proceedings to place children in foster care have increased since 2007 in Britain. The death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, known as "Baby P", a 17-month-old British boy who died in London after suffering more than 50 injuries over an eight-month period during which he was seen many times by Haringey Children's services and National Health Service health professionals, led to widespread public reaction.[6][7] Care applications surpassed the 10,000 yearly mark in England for the first time in 2012. For the year to 31 March 2015, the number had risen to 12,791, an increase of 15% on the previous year.[8]

In Nottinghamshire a former foster father was convicted in 2010 of raping and sexually abusing vulnerable boys for more than a decade.[9]

For the purposes of the Employment Relations Act 1999, the Employment Tribunal ruled in February 2010 that a foster carer is not a contractual worker. The Employment Appeals Tribunal ("EAT") upheld the ruling, following earlier rulings that there is a statutory scheme which requires a foster carer and their local authority to enter into a fostering agreement, and this means that there cannot be a contract, "freely entered into" between them.[10] The EAT therefore confirmed that a foster carer has no right to trade union representation when a Fostering Panel is reviewing their status as a carer.[11] However, a foster parent does have the right to terminate the placement of a child with them by providing 28 days' notice.[12]


  1. ^ Jeune Guishard-Pine, Suzanne McCall, Lloyd Hamilton: Understanding Looked After Children: An Introduction to Psychology for Foster Care. p.16; Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (Google eBook)
  2. ^ Fundacion Emmanuel: Spreading the wings of Foster Care p.351
  3. ^ "Fostering statistics | The Fostering Network". The Fostering Network. Archived from the original on 24 April 2023. Retrieved 31 May 2023.
  4. ^ "Becoming a foster parent". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2023-05-31.
  5. ^ Cafcass: The Baby Peter effect and the increase in s31 care order applications.[1]
  6. ^ "Baby P man guilty of raping girl". BBC News. 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  7. ^ Campbell, Duncan; Sam Jones; David Brindle (2008-11-12). "50 injuries, 60 visits - failures that led to the death of Baby P". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
  8. ^ Booker, Christopher (4 March 2017). "See how the state is abusing children now". The Telegraph.
  9. ^ BBC, Foster carer Patrick Gallagher jailed for child sex abuse, May 24, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  10. ^ England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division), Rowlands v City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council [1999] EWCA Civ 1116, delivered 26 March 1999, accessed 18 July 2023
  11. ^ Swarbrick, D. L., Bullock v Norfolk County Council: EAT 24 Jan 2011, updated 1 September 2022, accessed 11 June 2023
  12. ^ "Becoming a foster parent in England". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2023-07-18.