What is Foster Care?

Fostering is a way of providing family care for children who cannot live in their own families for a variety of reasons. These reasons can include poor parental physical and/or mental health, neglect, abuse, relationship break downs, and a range of other complex factors. Foster care is often used to provide temporary care for children: while their parents get the help they need to sort out their problems; to help children or young people through a difficult period in their lives; or to ensure children get the care they need while longer term plans are being made for their future. Often children will return home once the problems that caused them to come into foster care have been resolved and their parents are able to look after them safely again. If children are not able to return home, they may stay in long-term foster care (up to the age of 18 years), be adopted, or move on to live independently.

Fostering or Adoption

Fostering is very different from adoption. When fostered a child’s parents/guardian retain some level of parental responsibility for the child. This is true even if the Local Authority have obtained a Care Order through the courts. Where a Care Order is in place the parental responsibility is shared between the Local Authority and the parent/guardian. However, with a Care Order the Local Authority can override decisions made by the parent/guardian in relation to the child if it is in the child’s best interests to do so.

Adoption is when someone becomes the lawful parent of a child and in doing so, they hold full parental responsibility for that child. In this instance birth parents/guardians no longer have any legal responsibility or rights in relation to that child. Rather the adoptive parent becomes the legal parent.

Types of foster care

Emergency foster care – is where children need somewhere safe immediately, and the placement with foster carers is often made on the day the placement is requested.

Respite foster care – is where foster carers look after the same child on a regular basis, maybe 1 or 2 weekends a month, to support the child to continue to live with their family. Respite care is also used to support other foster families to care for a child that is placed with them.

Short-term foster care – is where carers look after children while plans are made for the child’s future. Although, called short-term this can be for anywhere from a few days up to 2 years while the child’s family situation is assessed, court processes are completed, and decisions made.

Long-term foster care – is where a child lives within the foster family until the age of 18 years. Sometimes, they will stay beyond the age of 18 years into their early adult years and this is called a staying put arrangement.

We recognise that at different periods in their lives people can offer different things in relation to fostering. If you feel you may have the time to offer any of the above types of foster carer, we would like to hear from you. We are always happy to help you consider how fostering may fit into your life.