Reasons for a child to be taken into care


As of March 2023, the number of children in care by local authorities stands at 83,840 across England – which has increased by 2% from 2022. But why are so many young children placed into care? Find out more of the most common reasons for foster care to occur, and what happens when a child is taken into care from our helpful guide.

Reasons for a child to be taken into care

There are many reasons why social services would need to intervene and place a child or children into care, such as:

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


There are many different types of neglect that could lead to a child being taken into foster care. This includes:

  • Emotional neglect – not providing attention, emotional care or affection to children leads to emotional neglect. This is often a symptom of physical or emotional abuse.
  • Medical neglect – children often need medical attention, and not providing this as parents is deemed as medical neglect. This could be due to general carelessness or standing by religious or cultural beliefs.
  • Basic needs – sometimes, children’s basic needs may be neglected – such as providing food, water or a clean and safe living-environment.


Abuse comes in many forms, which could lead to a child being removed by social services. Including:

  • Emotional abuse – similar to emotional neglect, emotional abuse can be hard to prove. However, it refers to shouting, belittling, bullying, and making the child feel unwanted or unsafe.
  • Physical abuse – this is one of the most common reasons for a child to be taken into care. Bruising on a child often identifies this type of abuse, or if there is evidence that a child is being restrained in a violent or dangerous way.
  • Sexual abuse – this refers to persuading children to partake in sexual acts, or often against their own will.


In rare cases, parents can simply abandon their children with no explanation. This could be dropping their child off at a frequently visited destination or to a person they trust, but then never returning. Often, when abandonment occurs, parents will simply leave their child at home for an extended period of time on their own.

Parental or Guardian Incarceration

If parents or guardians of a child are sentenced to jail, and there is no one who can take care of the child in their absence - alternative care will need to be provided. This often comes in the form of short-term fostering or emergency foster placements.


Both physical and mental illness of a parent can lead them to be incapable of caring for a child. This is likely to lead to either temporary or long-term foster care placements, depending on the extent of the illness.


If the parents or guardians are deceased, and there is no other appropriate adult to care for the child – they would then be placed into the care system.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC)

There are some instances where children may be placed in the care system due to asylum, which has unfortunately left them unaccompanied. This is referred to as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC). 

Voluntarily putting a child into care

On some occasions, parents may place their child into foster care voluntarily. The reasons for this could be due to some of the reasons previously mentioned, such as parental illness or a bereavement of one parent. However, voluntarily placing a child into foster care mainly occurs when the parents cannot, or do not want to, care for the child any longer.

It should also be noted that children may need to be put into care due to their own actions, if their parents cannot take care of them or manage their behaviour anymore. This would include:

  • Runaways – if the child is running away frequently, and the parents cannot control this behaviour.
  • Truancy – not attending school is another factor which could lead parents to have to voluntarily place a child into care.
  • Juvenile offender – if the child has had issues with law enforcement, they may be placed into remand fostering.

What happens when a child is taken into care?

When a child is placed into the care system, a local authority assesses the child’s situation – determining the level of care required. This care will be to ensure the child is provided with a substantial home where they can be taken care of in a safe and secure environment.

This may be on a short-term basis if the child is able to return to their birth parents, or it could become a more long-term placement if reunification is not likely.


Find out more about who can foster, as well as the different types of foster care available with Foster Care UK today. Our friendly team of experts are one call away on 0844 800 1941 to help answer any questions you may have or to provide more information and guidance around any fostering query.


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