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Foster care

When a child cannot be cared for by their birth parents, or by kinship carers (extended family or close friends), they can be cared for by an approved foster family.

Any adult can apply to become a foster carer by sending an application to their local authority or to a voluntary or independent provider registered with the Care Inspectorate.

Foster care can be a temporary arrangement that can end when a child returns to their birth parents, or is adopted. Other placements can be long term if this is in the best interests of the child.

An arrangement where a child is cared for by an adult who is not a close relative or an approved foster carer is called private fostering.

Supporting foster carers

We recognise the important role played by foster carers in providing secure, stable and nurturing homes for children who cannot be cared for by birth parents or kinship carers.

We are supporting foster carers by:

  • funding The Fostering Network to help recruit new foster carers and provide support for existing foster carers, including a confidential support service 'Fosterline Scotland' (who can be contacted on 0141 204 1400 or at fosterlinescotland@fostering.net
  • setting out parameters in the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 for fostering allowances that local authorities provide to cover the needs of children living with foster families
  • implementing the improvements to foster care recommended by the foster care review

Foster care review

A national review of foster care was completed in 2013, with a final report and six recommendations for improvements.

In January 2014 we issued our response to the findings by the foster care review in which we agreed to implement each of the recommendations. Since then we have:

  1. Set up a short-life working group who agreed on five national placement descriptions that the Care Inspectorate and local authorities are now incorporating
  2. Set up a short-life working group who analysed and published a report on alternative strategies for a foster carer database
  3. Added an amendment to the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations that set a maximum foster care placement limit of three unrelated children, with exemptions for sibling groups and emergency placements
  4. Commissioned the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to develop a national learning and development framework for foster carers, now known as the Standard for Foster Care. The SSSC consulted on the Standard in 2016 and published a summary of responses and the final Standard on its website.
  5. Published a research report on the methodologies used for calculating foster care allowances. This followed a legal challenge in 2015 to Scottish local authorities by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, concerning the need for parity between children living in kinship and foster care. In 2017 we will bring together a group of experts from the sector to carry out a National Review of care allowances, that meets the needs of children living with both kinship and foster families.
  6. Passed on the recommendation related to foster care fees to Scottish local authorities for them to take forward.

In 2017 we will be working with stakeholders to plan how the new learning and development Standard for foster care can be implemented, and reviewing care allowances.

This work will be carried out in alignment with the independent care review.

Private fostering

Private fostering describes any arrangement where a child is cared for by an adult who is not a close relative or an approved foster carer for a period of more than 28 days.

Anyone planning a private fostering arrangement must inform their local authority two weeks before it begins. Read guidance on how to arrange private fostering.

In 2013 we published Private Fostering in Scotland – practice guidance for local authority children's services.