The foster carer's handbook on health

The foster carer's handbook on health

Hannah Smith, Nikki Shepherd


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Health care is important for all children and young people, and for their parents or carers. But fostered children can experience extra health challenges. Children frequently enter the care system with a worse level of health than others, in part due to the impact of early abuse or neglect. Evidence suggests that they often experience common health risks to a higher degree than their peers. They may also have higher rates of disabilities or mental health needs.

As a foster carer, you have a vital role in supporting the health of the children in your care. But how best can you do this? What do you need to know about fostered children’s specific health needs, and how to manage them? How can you help children to understand their own health, and encourage them to live healthier lives, now and in the future? This handbook will support you to navigate through the health service, to ensure that children’s needs are met, and to be a role model for their health choices. It also provides advice on self-care, to help you ensure that you safeguard your own health in this demanding role.

Who is this book for? 

This guide is a must for foster carers seeking to support the health of a child or young person in their care, and in turn help to improve their life chances. It is particularly suited to newly approved foster carers, but experienced carers will also find it useful to confirm or expand their knowledge. 

What you will find in this book

This straightforward guide includes information and advice on: 

  • The particular health needs of looked after children and young people
  • Registering children with a GP, dentist and optician
  • Statutory health assessments
  • Delegated authority and parental responsibility
  • Record-keeping and confidentiality
  • Health needs surrounding issues such as bed wetting, and difficulties with food or sleep
  • Emotional and mental health
  • Sexual health and relationships
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs


Hannah Smith:
Hannah Smith (RN, Specialist Public Health Nursing HV), worked as a Designated Nurse for Looked after Children in Calderdale until her retirement from the NHS in 2018. She was recently appointed by West Yorkshire Police as a Case Conference Officer in a district Safeguarding Unit. She continues to sit on fostering panels as an independent panel member in the independent sector, as well as being a Special Adviser for children’s safeguarding with the Care Quality Commission.

Nikki Shepherd (RN, BMedSci, MA, PG in Healthcare Leadership) has worked as a Designated Nurse for Looked after Children since 2005 in the provider service, and from 2015 in Sheffield CCG and, more recently, Barnsley CCG. Previously, she was a specialist nurse for looked after children in residential homes. She is panel Chair for a local authority fostering panel and also sits as an independent panel member in the independent sector.