What is Fostering?

Fostering means looking after children or young people in your own home for either short or long-term placements, or for periods of respite, whilst their families are unable to provide care for them.


Whenever possible, children return to their birth family, but if they are unable to do so other plans are made for them, such as long-term fostering, or adoption.


Many aspects are considered before a child is placed with a Foster Carer or Fostering Family, and every effort is made to ensure that the child and a Foster Carer’s own family are well matched; this includes taking into account cultural and religious considerations.


There are several different types of fostering to cover the needs of the many children that require the care and security of a Foster Carer or family. Below are some of the types of fostering; this list is not exhaustive but outlines the most frequently requested types of foster care.


Types of Fostering


This is to enable Social Services to offer support and assessment to the child’s family in order to make decisions about whether the child should return home or move to a long-term placement. Short-term can be from a few days to several months, according to Local Authority planning and court decisions. A short-term placement may become long term if this is agreed and appropriate.

Long-term (permanency)

Increasingly, long term fostering is being referred to as ‘permanency’. For children or young people whose families are unable to look after them but who remain very much part of their lives, adoption is not an appropriate option. When a child has been settled and happy with his/her carers for over a year, many Foster Carers will make a commitment to the child until they reach the age of eighteen years and beyond if necessary.


Respite might be a period of a few hours, overnight or for several days or weeks. The purpose of respite is: to give families help at times of crisis, such as hospital admissions; to support other Foster Carers who may need a short break; to help if they have a personal situation which means they cannot foster for a brief period of time.

Parent and Child

Sometimes a new teenage parent, or a new parent with special needs, will require support and care while they learn how to look after their baby. Some young parents have never experienced a stable family environment themselves and will need help and guidance in learning essential skills. Foster Carers who specialise in parent and baby fostering attend a certified training course to prepare for the task. The timescale of this type of fostering can be from several weeks to several months, and will largely depend on the progress the parent makes in learning to care responsibly and appropriately for their child.