Fostering legislation in Scotland

As a devolved nation within the United Kingdom, Scotland's government is mainly undertaken by the Scottish Parliament and its committees. This includes foster care provision.

There are currently 4,697 children and young people in foster care in Scotland, not including those living with family members and friends. These children are looked after by some 3,300 foster families, all of whom are members of the Fostering Network Scotland.

Foster carers are now Scotland's primary resource for children in the care system. However, strong campaigning from the Fostering Network Scotland has highlighted a growing crisis in recruitment and retention of foster carers.


Children's hearings system

The children's hearings system has been in operation since 1971. (Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968)

The system has key responsibilities for children and young people who may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision.

This includes children and young people who have committed offences, who are beyond parental control or have persistently failed to attend school and children and young people who have been abused or neglected. Such cases of abuse or neglect can involve foster carers either in emergency placements while allegations are investigated, or in more permanent placements involving attendance at hearings.

For more detailed information on the children's hearings system, read the Fostering Network Scotland's briefing sheet.

The Children’s Hearings system has recently undergone change with new legislation, the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 coming into effect in June 2013. This has reformed the system to create a dedicated national body, Children’s Hearings Scotland, which will provide consistency across Scotland in regards to the Children’s Hearings system. Further information is available here or for additional information download the CHS briefing sheet - About Children's Hearings Scotland


Statistics for looked-after children in Scotland

The statistics issued by the Scottish Government for looked-after children in Scotland include children who remain living at home, but subject to a Supervision Requirement (a legal status made by the Children’s Hearing). These children are ‘looked-after’ but not accommodated by the Local Authority. This accounted for 39% (6,193) of looked-after children at 31 July 2010.

The statistics also present the figures for children looked after by family and friends' carers as a separate figure (3,172) as opposed to England, Wales and Northern Ireland where these children are included in the statistics for those in foster care.

In order to be consistent across the four nations, the Fostering Network calculates a number for those children who are looked after away from their home or family and this is given on the statistics on looked after children page. This figure is calculated by subtracting the number of children looked after at home by their parents under a supervision requirement as well as the number placed with family and friends.

If you have any further questions about how we calculate this figure, please contact us at