Reasons for a child to be taken into Care


There are numerous reasons social services would take a child into care.

However, some of the most common reasons for a child to be taken into care include:

  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Parent illness
  • Abandonment

Find out more of the most common reasons for foster care, and what happens when a child is taken into care – whether it’s when social services remove a child, or placing your child into care yourself.

How do children end up in foster care?

A survey from 2020-21 reported that there are approximately 108,157 children in the UK care system. But what are the most common reasons for them entering into the care system?


  • Physical abuse – this is one of the most common reasons for a child to be taken into care. Usually, this is discovered when bruising is evident on the child, or there is evidence to suggest that the child is being restrained in a violent or dangerous way such as being locked in a closet, or generally hurt in a physical way.
  • Emotional abuse – harder to prove, but equally as common, emotional abuse can come in the forms of shouting, calling names, belittling, bullying and making the child feel unwanted and/or unsafe.
  • Sexual abuse – children who are abused sexually are often persuaded to partake in sexual acts, or often against their own will. Find out more information on sexual abuse and sexual violence in foster care.

Another common form of abuse is substance abuse. If the parents or guardians suffer from a drug addiction or alcoholism, they are unfit to take care of a child as they naturally put less reliance on their parental responsibilities. If they cannot seek help and address their addiction in a way that keeps the child safe, social services will likely take this child into care initially on a short term basis, but this will then be assessed.


Neglect can come in many forms – and if a child is proven to be neglected, this can lead to them being placed in the foster care system. Examples of neglect could include:

  • Emotional neglect – although this is difficult to prove, it would often come as a symptom of physical or emotional abuse.
  • Basic needs – this would include neglecting the child of their basic human needs – for example, food and water, or a clean living-environment.
  • Medical neglect – such as not seeking needed medical attention. This could be due to religious beliefs or general carelessness.

Family dysfunction

This is when the parenting capacity of the birth parents, or guardians, has been judged as inadequate, as the child’s needs are consistently not being met. There could be domestic violence in the family home, continuous conflict or parental mental health issues which put the child’s safety at risk.

Asylum seekers

Some children could be placed in foster care due to circumstances of asylum which has left them unaccompanied. In these cases, children aren’t being removed due to abuse or neglect, but instead, to seek refuge and shelter in a safe country.

Family members in acute stress

A child may need to be placed in care on a temporary basis if a family, or family members, are going through a crisis. This could be due to finance issues, homelessness, eviction or many more circumstances. In some cases, this may be a result of criminal conviction or gang-related issues.


If parents or guardians have been sentenced to jail, and there is nobody who can look after them while they finish their sentence, they will likely be placed into care.


Whether this is dropping children off at a babysitter’s and never returning, or leaving the children at home alone for an extended period of time, abandonment from the birth parents will lead to the child entering the care system.


Physical or mental illness of the parents or caregivers can lead to them not being able to look after their child – and either temporary or permanent foster care may be required.


In the case of the parents or guardians dying, and there isn’t an appropriate adult to look after the child, this would then lead to the child being placed into care.

Putting your child into care

On rare occasions, reasons for foster care could be voluntarily putting your child into care. This could be due to a wide range of reasons – potentially including some of the above – but mainly due to the issue that the parents cannot, or do not, want to look after the child any longer.

There’s also a difference between children being put into foster care due to circumstances at home they cannot control, and circumstances which they can. For example, there are some instances where foster children may need to be put into care due to their own actions, if their parents or guardians cannot take care of them or control their behaviour:

  • Truancy – if children are continually skipping school, and the parents are unable to change this behaviour pattern.
  • Runaways – if the child is creating a habit of running away, and creating dangerous situations for themselves on a regular basis.
  • Juvenile offender – if the child has had issues with law enforcement, and has been adjudicated as a juvenile offender.

What happens when a child is taken into care?

When a child is placed into care, a local authority is called in to assess the child’s situation and determine the category of need for foster care. The purpose of this foster care is to ensure the child is provided with a substantial substitute home where they can be taken care of. It’s not uncommon for some foster parents to stay in the lives of their foster children until they have aged out of the system – as their previous home and living with their birth parents may never be suitable for them again.

In England, children can be fostered from birth right up into the age of 18, however, some legislation supports children being in foster care until 21. In Northern Ireland, a young person may remain in foster care as long as they’re in education or training. Learn more about care leavers from our dedicated guide.

What is a Care Order?

A care order is given by a court, and allows for a child to be taken into care. Under the Children Act of 1989, a council is able to apply for a care order if they believe that a child is in risk of harm. Care orders last until a child’s 18th birthday - however, in some cases, a court is able to discharge the order.

The role of the foster parent

A foster parent is needed to build feelings of confidence and trust in order to improve the child’s long-term potential. To become a foster parent, you will need to be over 21 years of age and have the legal right to work in the UK. You will also need to have a spare room in your house. Learn more about the foster care requirements from our detailed guide.

Now you’ve learnt the most common reasons social services would take a child or why children can be placed in foster care, learn more about becoming a foster carer today. Alternatively, for more information or advice, get in touch with any of our experts at Capstone Foster Care today.

Thinking of fostering?

If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
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