The concept of fostering children has existed for as long as human beings have gathered together in groups.
After all, there is a popular saying that has been linked to several African societies that a village is needed to raise a child, emphasising the importance of the community in taking care of its future.
However, the modern foster care agency system in the United Kingdom as we know it can be traced back to a Reverend from Cranage in Sheffield, and his aim to save children from a life spent in unspeakable conditions.
In the Victorian era, people, including orphans, who could not support themselves ended up in workhouses, which were deliberately cruel and degrading to disincentive people relying on the help of the parish, to the point that they were known as prisons for the poor by some.
It was a cruel institution, particularly for children, who over the age of two were separated from their families and suffered particularly harsh conditions.
By 1853, Reverend John Armistead, an influential figure in the area who organised the establishment of the National Schools system, had seen enough, and petitioned the local council to relocate them to families who could take another child into their care and give them a chance at a better life.
Being with a family, rather than in a system almost indistinguishable from prison, helped children to reach their potential, and so the local council took on the legal responsibility of the children, paying foster families the cost of taking care of them in the workhouse.
This process, known as wardship, helped return these children to the community, and as the workhouse system was reformed and later destroyed entirely, children were able to stay in a growing number of family homes or children’s homes designed to feel more familial.
Fostering has had similar intentions ever since, backed by much stronger legal protections for children and the work of millions of wonderful foster carers.