Living in care

Living in care is when you live away from your parents. It could be with foster parents, other family members, in a care home, a residential school or secure accommodation. Find out what it's like to live in care and how we can support you.

why people go into care

Living in care can be a big change. And things don't always go smoothly. But lots of young people find living in care gives them the safety and security they need.

There are lots of reasons why someone might go into care, for example:

  • their parents are unable to look after them due to illness or family problems, which could include abuse or neglect
  • the courts or Children's Panel (if they live in Scotland) feel that their home is not a safe place for them to live
  • they might be placing themselves or others in significant danger.


3 things to bear in mind:

  • you might feel stressed or anxious about going into care
  • so it's really important you talk to someone about how you feel
  • but living in care can be a positive experience for lots of young people.

And remember, we're here to help. You're not alone.

types of care

You might not stay in one place all the time you are in care. Some young people move several times. Get support with moving schools and getting used to new homes by talking to a counsellor.

Staying with family

Sometimes you can go and live with someone else in your family like an aunt, uncle or grandparent. Find out more about family relationships.

Foster homes

If staying with family isn't possible, then you might be placed in a foster home. These are private homes where you live as part of a family.

Care homes

These are often houses in the community with residential workers who support you to live there. The number of children living there can vary.

going into care

Going into care is a huge step, and social services will only offer this if there's no other way to make sure you're safe and properly looked after at home.

The way social services and courts work in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland can be different:

How social services help

Social services will always look at what other support and living arrangements are available before considering care as an option for you. 

Your wishes must be taken into account. But social services make the final decision.

If you don't feel safe at home, the best thing to do is talk to an adult you trust like a teacher, nurse or a doctor.

You can find out more about process of going into care at Become (formerly Who Cares trust).

Dealing with changes

Everyone's experience of living in care can be different. Some young people prefer to be living in care than in their family home. But others can find living in care more difficult.

You're allowed to take some personal items with you. These might help you to feel more comfortable in your new living environment. You can speak to your social worker about what things you would like to take with you.

coping with your feelings

When you move into a care placement, you can feel a mixture of emotions. These can include:

  • feeling scared, anxious or stressed because you don't know the people who you'll be staying with
  • lonely or isolated if you have to move to a different area
  • feeling a loss of control
  • feeling sad or unsettled about moving out of your family home. Especially if you and your siblings have had to move to different placements
  • feeling like it's changed who they are
  • settling into your new living environment well and prefer living with your new carers
  • feel more secure, safe and supported, especially if you have moved away from abusive families or carers.

No matter how you feel, you're not alone. You can talk to a counsellor at any time about how you're feeling.

You could also try out the Coping Kit for fun activities to help you manage how you're feeling and connect with others.

Problems in Care

If you're experiencing problems in care then you're not alone, there are always people you can turn to.

You may want to see your family more, or be unhappy with how your foster parent or carer or care homes staff are treating you. Maybe you want to leave care.

You could feel worried about upsetting your carer but you have the right to be happy.

However you’re feeling there are people who can help you.

  • Your social worker – If you have any issues in care then you can always tell your social worker. You can ask to speak to them in private. It’s their role to make sure that you’re looked after properly.
  • Your Independent Reviewing Officer – If you aren’t happy with your social worker or have reported something to them and aren’t happy with the outcome, then you can report to your independent reviewing officer. They can review what’s happened and decide on the best way forward. Your social worker should be able to tell you how to contact them.
  • An Advocate – These are independent organisations who support young people in care. They can give advice and help you if you have a problem or reported a concern and aren’t happy with the outcome. They are independent which means they are much more able to challenge things like policy decisions.

what happens after you leave care?

Most people leave care when they turn 18. This is when the law sees you as an adult.

Making decisions
You'll be offered advice and support when it's time to leave care and help with making decisions. You need to decide: 

  • where you're going to live. Whether it's supported accommodation, rented accommodation or somewhere else
  • if you're going to work or stay in education
  • what support you'll need from social services.

Your local authority
The local authority will continue to give you support after you leave care, so you won't be left on your own. They can help you with:

  • living independently
  • learning about what financial support you can claim, for example benefits
  • what support is available to you.