Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Child and Family Research

Rapid response studies to support policy development

The demographic characteristics of foster carers in the UK: Motivations, barriers and messages for recruitment and retention

Funded by the Department for Education (CWRC)

The latest figures suggest that there are approximately 65,520 children looked after in England, and three quarters of those children are placed with foster carers (Department for Education, 2011). The number of children looked after has risen by approximately 9% since 2007 (ibid). The rise in the number of children being looked after has increased demand for foster carers (Centre for Social Justice, 2008). There is evidence to suggest however, that both local authority fostering services and Independent Fostering Providers are struggling to maintain sufficient numbers of foster carers to meet demand and the Fostering Network estimates that there is a shortage of at least 10,000 foster carers in the UK (Clarke, 2009; Tearse, 2010).

This study examines existing knowledge regarding the demographic characteristics of foster carers in the UK. It explores existing research on what motivates individuals and families to become foster carers and the barriers they identify. It also explores how this information can be used to inform recruitment and retention strategies, whilst also identifying examples of good practice, and gaps in existing knowledge.


April 2012

Research team

Lisa Holmes (CCFR) [hyperlink to email address], Derek Kirton (University of Kent), Samantha McDermid (CCFR) [hyperlink to email address] and Paola Signoretta (CRSP)

Research report



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