New research reveals that around 11 million people in the UK would consider fostering

Published: Wednesday 16th May 2018

New research undertaken by YouGov for Coram has revealed that most people (89%) in the UK recognise that children are most likely to come into care due to abuse or neglect, and that around 11 million adults (22%) would consider becoming a foster carer.

The survey, which explored public attitudes to children in care2, is published to coincide with Foster Care Fortnight which takes place 14 to 27 May.  It also revealed that while the public has little idea of the size of the care population (only 26% chose correctly) or the number of children who come into care (only 21% chose correctly), they are aware that most children in care live with foster carers (71%). And, when asked to choose one thing to do more of to help children who have experienced neglect or abuse, 23% chose increasing the numbers of foster carers.

Carol Homden, CBE, CEO of Coram said: “In the context when the number of children in care has increased3 and the need for greater numbers of foster carer is pressing, these findings are very encouraging. That people have a genuine desire to help vulnerable children during times when they cannot be with their birth parents was evidenced by our charity which pioneered foster care in the eighteenth century.  The challenge now is how to build on the compassionate impetus of the public in order to meet the needs of those tens of thousands of children who need the love and support of a foster carer during difficult times in their lives.

Foster carers make a massive difference to the lives of the children they look after.  In the recent Bright Spots survey of young people in care undertaken by Coram Voice and the University of Bristol, 83% said that they thought that their lives were improving4.  Coram supports all calls for a national campaign to attract greater numbers of people to come forward to foster.”

Other findings from the research:

  • When asked to write which three words first come to their mind in relation to “Children in care” The most common words that come to mind are: abused/abuse, lonely/loneliness, neglect/neglected.
  • 71% of the public understands that, when first taken into care, children are most likely to live in a foster carer’s home in the local community.
  • 74% of the public correctly recognises that in 2016 fewer than half of the children in care in England attained five or more GCSEs at 16, but think that rather more attain this than is in fact the case.
  • When asked to choose one option for what more they thought could be done to help children who have experienced abuse or neglect, the public’s two main responses were ‘increasing provision of local authorities’ (40%) and ‘people becoming foster carers’ (23%).
  • When asked about whether they would ever consider being a foster carer themselves in the future, over one in five respondents (22%) said that they would consider it and 17% said they did not know.
  • When those who would consider being a foster carer were asked why they would, most stressed the value to and rights of the child, and their own ability to provide a home, as key reasons. (Specifics included to help deprived children; to give children a safe home; to change lives/give them a better start; I would make a good parent; every child deserves to be cared for.)
  • Those who would not consider being a foster carer in the future (59%) said it was because they felt too old, felt it was too great a challenge or already had children and did not want any more.

Useful links

Read the full research findings

1) 1This figure represents 22% of the UK adult population of 50m (adults aged 20 plus is 50,192,200 in the 2016 Office of National Statistics mid-year estimate).

2) 2Public attitudes to children in care.  Results from a national survey. Coram Impact & Evaluation Team. May 2018 can be found here.

3) 3https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/looked-after-children-statist....

4) 4Bright Spots: Our Lives Our Care: Looked after children’s views on their well-being. Coram Voice. Professor Julie Selwyn, Levana Magnus and Dr Bobby Stuijfzand February 2018. http://www.coramvoice.org.uk/sites/default/files/1053-CV-Our-Lives-Our-Care-report5.pdf