This report is a small, in-depth, descriptive study of allegations of maltreatment made against 22 foster carers, based on semi-structured interviews with the foster carers, 18 family placement officers and all principal family placement officers in six local authorities in the North of England. Less than 10% (in fact, 2/22) of the allegations were eventually substantiated (i.e. found to be true on investigation) and roughly a quarter (six) were found to be untrue. The remainder were either pronounced ‘unsubstantiated’ (i.e. ‘unproven’—eight cases) or were not proceeded with (two) or never reached a conclusion (four). Less than a quarter of the children at the centre of the allegations remained in placement by the end of the investigation. Two-thirds of the foster carers continued to foster. Seven (32%) of the carers had previously had allegations made against them. In three cases there was a second allegation of sexual abuse. In one of these the current outcome was ‘founded’, and in a second this probably would have been the outcome had the case not been dropped after the foster father's suicide. In certain respects foster carers seem to be judged more severely than birth parents, and they were almost routinely denied aspects of natural justice accorded birth parents, such as being clearly informed in writing of the allegation made against them and, subsequently, of the outcome of the investigation. Nor were they permitted to put their side of the story at case conferences and other serious incident meetings. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.