Fostering blog – glossary of terms

2 October 2017

When I first became a foster carer, it was via the route of fostering a child I knew and it was called Family and Friends Foster Care. 

When that young person (YP) moved on, we became foster carers (FC) with an independent foster agency (IFA) and I started to learn the language surrounding foster carers, social workers and children placed in care.

I found the terminology confusing at first, and professionals often assumed I knew what they were talking about. I frequently had to interrupt at meetings to ask what they meant. 

It seems I’m not the only one, as one of the most common questions I’m asked by new foster carers is about the acronyms used and what they mean, so I’ve compiled a list of those regularly used in the fostering community.

I’m sure there are many more I haven’t listed so please feel free to add them in comments below. 

Adoption has its own set of regularly used acronyms and the list would be too long to add them here but there is some crossover. I hope you find this useful, even if you have been in the world of fostering for years!




Foster Carer. Either with a local authority or an independent fostering agency.

A foster carer is someone who is approved and vetted to care for a Looked After Child.


Parent & Child (foster carer or placement)


Looked After Child. This is a child who is under the care of the local authority and might be in foster care.


Young Person. This usually refers to a teenager.


Social Worker.  Sometimes you might see FSW which means Fostering Social Worker.


Supervising Social Worker. A social worker who monitors, advises and provides support for a foster carer.


Child’s Social Worker. The social worker who is appointed to the Looked After Child.


Local Authority


Independent Fostering Agency


Independent Reviewing Officer. This is someone who is independent of the social workers and other professionals and will chair the child’s or YP’s reviews.

They will also oversee the care plan for the child.

IRO (for the foster carer)

Independent Reviewing Officer who is independent and will chair the foster carers reviews and be part of the team responsible to consider if they should continue as foster carers and be reapproved.

LAC Review

This is a meeting which is chaired by the Independent Reviewing Officer to consider the child’s care plan. Reviews are usually held every 6 months. However, the first one will be within 28 days of placement and the second one at 3 months. LAC Reviews are usually attended by everyone involved in the child’s care, so could include medical professionals if appropriate.

The child and birth parents may or may not attend


Personal Educational Plan. Normally held at the child’s school and attended by the Head of Year, all social workers, foster carers and by the school’s pastoral team or the person who is responsible for Looked After Children in the school.

The child and birth parents may or may not attend.


Skills to Foster. This is a compulsory 3-day (usually) assessment by the Local Authority or Independent Fostering Agency. Sometimes referred to as S2F.

Foster Panel/Panel

The foster panel is a group of people from various professions including education, health and legal. It will also include an independent foster carer from a different authority or IFA and may include an adult who has been in care in the past.

These people look at the assessments made of the prospective foster carers and decide whether to approve them. An approved foster carer will also go in front of a foster panel for many reasons including reviews, a change of category or circumstances, deregistration or allegations.


Parental Responsibility


British Association for Adoption & Fostering

CP/Care Proceedings

This is name given to the legal proceedings which determine the future care arrangements for the child.


Interim Care Order.  This is made under the Children Act 1989.

Initial Planning Meeting

This meeting is held within the first few days of the child being placed with a foster carer and looks at the practicalities of the placement.

This will include where the child goes to school, their health and how their needs will be met.


Residence Order


Fostering Network 


Foster to Adopt


Special Guardianship Order


The organisation which inspects fostering (LA and IFA) services.

Section 20

S20 of the Children Act 1989 mean a Local Authority social worker has asked the parent to sign a section 20 agreement voluntarily and the child is taken into foster care (either LA or IFA).  The LA does not have parental responsibility.

Section 31

Section 31 of the Children Act 1989 means the LA has sought to remove the child from the parent and now has parental responsibility. The LA makes the decisions for the child as to where they live and where and how often they will see their parents.

Families and Friends (sometimes known as Connected Carers or Kinship carers)

Families and Friends carers are approved to care for a specific child who is usually a family member.

Fostering Regulations 2011

These are the statutory regulations that the LA, all fostering service providers, and foster carers must adhere to.

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