Why and When Do Children Require Foster Care?

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In Northern Ireland, there are well over 3,000 children living in foster care every day on an average. That’s not a small number, especially in proportion to Northern Ireland’s total child population. On top of that, the foster care system is constantly in need of new foster homes.

What all that confirms is the fact that there is a big need and a constant demand for foster carers in Northern Ireland. As we take a brief but informative look at three of the most common reasons why and when children need the foster care system, the factors contributing to the growing need for new foster homes should become evident.

Parental Abandonment

Abandonment is one of the worst situations for a young child to ever be in, and yet it happens often enough. It’s a situation where children are left alone by their parents at home, school, a care home, or any other place. There are three primary kinds of abandonment, which would be:

  1. Wilful abandonment are situations where the parent/parents have no plans to return to their children any time soon or ever.
  2. Extended abandonment includes situations where the parent/parents are deemed neglectful for frequently leaving a child unsupervised for far longer than they should.
  3. Overextended supervised abandonment are neglectful situations where the children are frequently left under adult supervision (school, care home, etc.), but for far longer than they should.

If the child is wilfully abandoned with or without adult supervision, they will be taken in and cared for within the foster care system. In cases where the parents are deemed neglectful, the foster care system will be there to take the children into their protected custody for at least a short while. If you live in Northern Ireland and you are interested in opening your home to a child in care, visit thefca.co.uk to find answers to all your questions about fostering.

Death of One or Both Parents

When children are left with no surviving parents to take care of them after the death of one or both of their parents, they will be sheltered, cared for, and provided for by the foster care system. In situations where there is one surviving parent who is incapable of, or unavailable to take care of the child, the foster care system will temporarily take responsibility for the child’s care and wellbeing.

The child will temporarily live in foster homes until a suitable and willing family member can be found to take over the child’s responsibilities. If no such family members can be found, the child will be protected and taken care of in foster homes till he/she reaches adulthood.


Unfortunately, abuse is also one of the three most common reasons why children are taken into protective custody by the foster care system. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse can leave a child traumatised, especially when any of it comes from the very people who were supposed to protect them against abuse. Note that medical and general neglect are also cited as abuse. If there is any evidence to suggest that a child of any age has been abused in any way by someone in the family, the child will be taken into immediate and indefinite protective custody.

As mentioned previously, the need for loving foster carers is a constant one and now you know three main reasons why. Other common reasons that make the foster care system a necessity for children’s wellbeing include, but are not limited to parental illness, imprisonment, and neglect.

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About the Author: Brian Novak