Personal qualities of foster carers

Personal qualities that make a great foster carer

Foster carers and a teen in a park

Foster carers come from all walks of life. Many of us don’t realise we have the skills to make a huge difference in caring for a child or young person. So what makes a great foster carer? We talked to social workers, foster carers and the young people they’ve supported. You may be surprised to find you’ve already got what it takes.

People from all sorts of backgrounds make great foster carers. But there are a few personal qualities that most of them share (some names have been changed or removed to protect their identities):


You don’t need to have parenting experience to foster. Every child is different, so it’s important not to hold on to assumptions about what’s worked in the past.

The most successful foster carers are willing to learn and reflect. Continuing to develop and being self-aware puts you in a much better position to help someone else.

Bernadette, social worker

Loving and accepting

You will be opening your home and your heart. That will look different for each child, and you’ll find ways to show love that respect their boundaries. For some children, even a handshake shows they’re placing a huge amount of trust in you.

Be open for physical contact with the young person. Some children may never have had a hug before, so that type of loving interaction can be a life-changer.

Claire, young person

Honest and fair

Difficult subjects and challenging behaviour may come up, so being able to set boundaries and have open discussions will help everyone to cope and feel safe.

There was a lot of legal stuff going on, so L and J would sit us down and explain what was happening, so we knew what to expect. They never tried to be our parents. We talked about rules and boundaries and set them together.

Alfred, young person


Everyone gets frustrated, but being able to regulate your emotions is vital. Because you’ll be supporting someone else to regulate theirs.

Shouting isn’t the answer. Everyone loses their temper but for children who’ve been rejected, neglected or abused in the past this may trigger PTSD or similar.


Patient and understanding

You may be looking after children who’ve had a difficult or traumatic start in life. With training and support, you’ll learn how to work through challenges together.

They would take time to work out why I was arguing or didn’t want to do something. Maybe I’d woken up angry because my bedding was on wrong, or I just couldn’t face going into a certain shop. They understood my behaviour and offered alternatives.



Routines help children to trust and feel safe with you. But things can change quickly, whether that’s a child coming to your home in the middle of the night, or court dates and appointments moving.

Life never stays the same for long. It’s our role to provide that security, but also be flexible and help children learn to cope with changes.

Ross, foster carer

Life skills and experience

There are so many transferrable skills from your life or career than can change a young person’s life. Read about the life experience you could bring to fostering.

Read more about fostering.

Do you have the qualities to foster?

If you think you’ve got the qualities and commitment to begin your fostering journey, we will match them with all the training and support you need.

Tell us you'd like to foster
Foster East logo

We’re part of Foster East, partnering with other councils in the south east to support foster carers and help children thrive.

Learn more about Foster East