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. The application is subject to a robust assessment prior to any carer being approved as a foster carer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- setting out the Scottish Recommended Allowance for foster and kinship carers, and 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.
- setting out A Good Childhood principles and actions in The Promise Implementation Plan published in March 2022.
Foster care and The Promise
Foster care is a key part of The Promise. The Scottish Government set out its response in March 2023 when it published The Promise Implementation Plan. Within that Plan we set our approach to A Good Childhood which included support for caregivers including foster carers.
Some of the work the Scottish Government is doing to support foster carers in line with The Promise is:
- working with councils to introduce and implement the Scottish Recommended Allowance for foster and kinship carers.
- working with a group of key national and local partners, including the third sector, to explore what action can be taken collectively to recruit and retain foster carers.
- working with stakeholders as part of the National Trauma Training Programme to consider what additional resources may be required to support foster carers to provide trauma-informed care for their children and young people.
- committing investment of £500m in Whole Family Wellbeing funding to improve holistic family support so that families get the right support, in the right way and at the right time
Scottish Recommended Allowance for foster and kinship carers
The Scottish Government committed in its Programme for Government and re-stated in the Promise Implementation Plan to work with COSLA to introduce a Scottish Recommended Allowance for foster and kinship carers.
In August 2023, Scottish Government introduced the Scottish Recommended Allowance for foster and kinship carers. Following agreement with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), this marks the first time a set rate, which all local authorities must pay, has been introduced across Scotland.
The introduction of the payment means every eligible foster carer will receive at least a standard, national allowance which recognises the valuable support they provide, no matter where they live.
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. There is guidance available on how to arrange private fostering.