Foster carers provide a safe, stable, nurturing home where a child or young person can live while their own family is unable to look after them.
Children go into foster care for many reasons. It may be because of a family illness, family breakdown and problems at home, or a situation where their welfare is at risk. Many will have experienced neglect and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Although every child’s story will be different, they will all have faced loss and separation from their birth family at some point.
Types of fostering
Fostering can be short term or long term, ranging from a few days, weeks, months or even years. Children may need foster care from the moment they are born, and some children stay in care up to the age of 18 and beyond. Some children may return to their birth families, others may be supported through continued fostering until they are ready to live independently, and some may move onto adoption. When a child goes to live with a foster carer it is referred to as a placement.
Short term foster care
When a child first comes into care, they will usually be placed in short-term foster care. The fostering team will then try to find a permanent home for them in the future – through long term foster care, adoption or by returning home to their parent(s). Depending on the child’s circumstances, a short-term placement can last from a few days to several years, and as a short-term foster carer you can still provide a child with a stable and loving home.
Long term foster care
Some children can’t return to their birth family and may be placed in long term foster care until they are ready to live independently. A family home can provide the security and stability that a child needs to thrive and reach their full potential.
Parent and child
Some new parents – such as very young parents or parents with a disability - have limited support to help them care for their new baby. Parent and child placements provide a home for both the parent and their child. The foster carer provides supervision, advice and support and works with the parent to help them look after their child independently wherever possible. Learn more about parent and child placements from parent and child carer, Allison.
Some children need to be looked after for a short period on a regular basis. This could be for as little as one weekend per month or for a holiday. Respite care can give parents or other foster carers a break or can prevent a breakdown in the family. Some foster carers offer respite care in addition to other short- and long-term placements whilst others prefer to just offer respite care.
Supported lodgings provide young people with the opportunity to develop the skills they need to move on to independence. Supported Lodgings carers are expected to provide emotional support, and to have the time to teach simple skills such as managing money, learning to cook and do housework, attending appointments, building confidence and finding a home. Training, fees and the assessment process differ a little from regular fostering; you can find more information about this on our supported lodgings page.
Sometimes a child will need to be placed immediately with a carer for a few nights and some foster carers will be specially trained for this kind of placement. If an emergency placement is successful, the child may stay with this carer for a longer period.
Fostering Plus is also known as residential to fostering. Sometimes a child or young person needs the type of environment that only residential children’s homes can provide. However, as they receive support and care to address the behaviours that caused them to be placed in the home, they improve to the point that they can be considered ready to live in a family environment and a foster carer is sought.
For those interested in this type of fostering, there are opportunities to meet the child or young person and an introduction would be set at an acceptable pace for the child to adjust. Additional support from the residential unit is provided in the early stages and there would be a carefully put together care plan so that all professionals and support would be in place.
Step down fostering helps children make the transition back into a family unit which we believe is a much better outcome.
Fees and allowances are enhanced due to the complexities of the placements and additional costs that may be incurred.