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I would like to stay with my foster carer forever until I am old

Katie - Looked after Child

What is foster care?

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What is the definition of fostering?

What is foster care? There are various terms and examples given when people define foster care, but essentially foster care is a system that provides children and young people with support, stability and love in a safe, secure home or institution. Many children are unable to live with their parents for many different reasons and that’s where our amazing foster carers step in.

What is the difference between fostering and adoption?

Although just as important, fostering differs from adoption. So, what is fostering in relation to adoption? The main difference is that the local authority remains responsible for the child throughout fostering. Social workers and foster carers are essentially joint parents, with the local authority maintaining legal responsibility for the child whilst helping to nurture and support them. In the case of adoption, all legal responsibilities are passed on to the adoptive parents. Please see our dedicated page on the differences between fostering and adoption for more information.

Why do children need foster care?

The reality of fostering is that many children and young people haven’t had a stable, supportive upbringing and need to leave their family homes. Many foster children have faced uncertainty in their lives, with some experiencing neglect or abuse. As you can imagine, these experiences affect each child in many different ways, making it difficult to define a ‘typical foster child’. This can make fostering a challenge but one that can also be fun, rewarding and hugely worthwhile for both the child and the foster carer too.

What do foster carers do?

Foster carers have all been through a step by step assessment process before embarking on a career in fostering. Having met the life experience and basic requirements set by the fostering agency, they become a guardian and positive influence in the life of a child who may not have previously had love and care.

Foster carers are there to provide a safe environment, by committing their time and resources to making sure that each child has stability and support throughout all aspects of their life. Foster carers attend meetings as a representative for the child they foster, and document any information they may receive on behalf of the child. Along with fulfilling administration tasks, each carer manages behaviour and encourages the child through education, whilst also promoting contact with the child’s birth families and the foster family.

The many types of foster care

Fostering doesn’t take just one form – there are many ways to define foster care, along with ways to help and support a child on both a short and long-term basis. As a foster carer, you could provide any of the following types of care:

  • Emergency care

Emergency foster care offers support in times of uncertainty and emergency. This type of foster care is normally offered within 24 hours.

  • Weekend or ‘respite’ care

Being a foster carer can be demanding, and respite care is there to give a full time foster carer a much deserved break or additional support for a period of time.

  • Short-term care

Short-term foster care is given to a child for anything from a period of days to months or possibly years. This may be while the child waits for a permanent placement or whilst a plan is made by social workers and local authorities about their future needs.

  • Long-term care

Long-term care gives a child a home throughout their formative years and they often won’t move from this particular placement until aged 18, when they are ready to leave home as an adult.

Whether it’s for a night or an entire childhood, each type of foster carer offers something very special – a happy and secure environment with the child’s best interests at heart.

Foster carers come from all backgrounds with a wealth of different life experiences but one thing always remains the same throughout – you can make a massive impact on a child’s life.

Training & support

We train each of our foster carers to become real experts, capable of looking after complex placements. Thanks to the specialised training on offer, each carer can become a specialist in areas such as sibling care, care for teenagers, remand care and caring for children with disabilities or challenging behaviours.

This skill and dedication means our carers can have an even bigger impact on the lives of our most vulnerable young people, providing support and care to children from all walks of life.

We understand that our wonderful foster carers often need just as much support as the children they care for. As one of Britain’s leading fostering agencies, we are on hand with 24-hour support, expert training, mentoring and generous financial allowances for volunteering your time and energy as a foster carer.

Do you think you’ve got what it takes to become a foster carer? Why not take our quick and easy quiz to see if you could be a good fit for fostering and help change a child’s life?

To see what the next steps might be in the journey to becoming a dedicated foster carer, please see our how to become a foster parent guide.