World Mental Health Day
October 24, 2018
The Care Industry’s Sleep-In Crisis
November 28, 2018

Happy father and his little son planting a small tree

Having read a news article on the Fostering Network’s website, we decided to ask the following question:

Foster Carer or Foster Parent?

The Fostering Network believes that Foster Carers should be treated as the experts they are and we agree…


Foster Parents to Foster Carers

It has taken a number of years for Foster Parents to be called Foster Carers. At The Fostering Network there is a belief that the name change was a significant and positive step reflecting an increased understanding of the role. The responsibility and complexity of fostering has grown exponentially over recent years. The Fostering Network believe the change of title was an important step in recognising this. Recently, however, there seems to be a move back to the term “foster parents” and The Fostering Network is concerned.


Foster Carers play an essential parenting role in the lives of looked-after children, offering love, support and nurture on a daily basis. They stay awake through the night holding the hand of a poorly child, give a standing ovation when watching a school play, help with homework, bake cakes, read bedtime stories… In short, Foster Carers meet the physical and emotional needs of the children in their care.


Why the term ‘Foster Carer’ is preferred

The term Foster Carer is a job description. It explains what the role is, highlights its complexity and shows its importance. Being called a Foster Carer doesn’t preclude strong personal relationships (indeed they are at the very heart of being a good Foster Carer) or fostered children being given the opportunity to be a full member of a family. Being called a Foster Carer and showing love and compassion are not mutually exclusive. But Foster Carers are so much more than parents. They are also part of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and have to do things that parents usually don’t have to:

  • Deliver highly personalised care within a professional framework
  • Write reports and other paperwork
  • Make assessments
  • Conduct home reviews
  • Attend placement agreement meetings
  • Manage contact with birth family
  • Complete life-story work
  • Receive pre-approval training and continuing professional development to maintain and develop their skills
  • Reflect on their practice
  • Have regular supervision, including an annual review


The term Foster Parent seems to ignore this list. By calling Foster Carers “foster parents”, the danger is that we revert to the old-fashioned view that all children who come into the care system need is a roof over their head and a hug. However, nothing could be further from the truth, as anyone who works with these children will know.


Foster Carers are experts in attachment issues relating to experiences of abuse, neglect and family separation and trauma. They provide expert input into the lives of looked after young people and help them overcome the traumas of their past. Foster Carers undertake a vital role on behalf of our society and they deserve to be given respect for what they do and to be treated as the professionals that they are. We believe that by continuing to call them Foster Carers is a small, but important, way to do that.

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