The Fostering Network estimates fostering services need to recruit a further 8,600 foster families in the next 12 months.
Foster carers can foster for a local authority or via an independent fostering agency. Recent years have seen increased professionalisation of the role, alongside the creation of specialist fostering placements for particularly vulnerable children such as refugees, and specific roles such as therapeutic foster care.
Potential foster carers must undertake a pre-approval training course, such as The Skills to Foster, developed by The Fostering Network. Once approved, foster carers in England must meet standards set by the government in their first 12 months - 18 months for family and friends carers - supported by training covering areas like equality, diversity, and safeguarding. Induction training is often combined with training for the Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People's Workforce (Social Care Pathway).
A 2019 report from The Fostering Network found more foster carers had an agreed training plan in place for the next 12 months. Top training gaps identified by carers were therapeutic parenting, behaviour management, mental health, specialised first aid and attachment. The Fostering Network is calling for a learning and development framework for foster carers to be implemented in all four countries of the UK, covering pre- and post-approval training.
Regular reviews allow carers to access ongoing professional development. They may take specific courses to equip them to meet the needs of a particular child or broaden their skills. The Fostering Network runs courses covering issues such as Fostering Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children and Parent and Child Together training for carers who look after parents and their children.
The Fostering Network also delivers courses for those who train and support foster carers, including The Skills to Foster, train the trainer, Supervision and the Supervising Social Worker, and Foster Carer Assessment. King's College London runs a facilitator course for the Fostering Changes programme.
Some organisations offer Keep training, an approach developed in the US focused on reinforcing positive behaviour. Therapeutic training programme Fostering Changes is offered by various organisations around the UK. In Wales, the Confidence in Care consortium is delivering 25 Fostering Changes training courses to 1,500 carers in all 22 councils.