Foster a West Sussex child - your journey starts here

Different types of foster care

Find out which type of fostering is right for you.

1 Overview

“Be honest and realistic about what you want, what you can cope with and what will suit your family best.” Anna, foster carer

Children and young people come into care in many different circumstances. For this reason we have different types of fostering opportunities to meet these varying needs:

  • Mainstream/short-term foster care
  • Long-term foster care
  • Short-break foster care
  • Respite foster care
  • Parent and child foster care
  • Foster carers for unaccompanied asylum seeking children
  • Supported lodgings care.

Before you apply to foster, think about what might suit your family, and what skills and child care experience you have – you may be able to be part of one of our specialist schemes. 

2 Short break foster care

Short break foster care involves caring for a child with disabilities, usually as a regular arrangement, such as over a weekend or several days each month.

Short breaks gives the opportunity for a child with disabilities to experience different activities, make new friends and develop their independence. It can help broaden their horizons and integrate with other children, gain confidence and have fun.

This type of fostering also gives birth families a break from the pressures of full-time caring. It can give the birth parents of children with significant needs an opportunity to recharge their batteries and spend quality time with their other children or partner, or to do the things that many people take for granted, however small.

Short break foster carers might care for children:

  • who have an autistic spectrum disorder
  • with physical disabilities that require care in a home with adaptations
  • whose behaviour can challenge
  • with complex medical needs.

If you care for a child who requires medical interventions you will be given support and advice on how to manage this.

3 Respite foster care

Respite fostering is when you care for a child for short periods of time on a planned and regular basis. This allows the child’s parents or usual foster carers to have a break themselves, and supports them in caring for the child longer term.

You could start off offering respite care and then consider moving to another type of fostering further along your fostering career.

4 Parent and child foster care

Sometimes a parent, or parents, cannot look after their child to the satisfaction of the courts or County Council.

When this happens both the parent(s) and child(ren) may be offered the opportunity to stay with a foster carer for a period of time, usually 12 weeks.

The foster carer assesses the care provided by the parent(s), helps to keep the child safe and supports the parent(s) with developing their skills to look after the child.

Could you be a parent and child foster carer?

If you’re flexible, tolerant, patient and a good communicator then this type of fostering could suit your skills. Other useful skills include:

  • experience of handling difficult behaviour
  • good advocacy skills, either on behalf of the parent or their child
  • the ability to keep daily, detailed diary sheets, which will be used to inform the assessment made by the child’s social worker and are likely to  be made available to court
  • an understanding of working in partnership with a range of professionals.

Due to the high level of supervision, observations and guidance, and professional meetings, you will need to be available at all times to offer this type of foster care.

See the Foster care allowances page for details on payments for parent and child foster carers.

5 Fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

When children find themselves alone in the UK they are taken into the care of the local authority. They could be here because they have:

  • been trafficked
  • been separated from their family on arrival due to an immigration issue
  • fled their homeland due to war or fear of persecution.

Foster carers give unaccompanied, asylum-seeking children a safe, welcoming place to live while their individual case to remain in the UK is considered by the Home Office.

The foster carer will be asked to accompany them to immigration meetings and arrange legal support. They will also need to help the young person access education, make links with local cultural and faith groups and support them in day-to-day living. This includes helping them to learn English and considering any emotional wellbeing needs they may have.

There are many challenges involved in this type of fostering. However, our foster carers tell us that it is also one of the most rewarding.

West Sussex does not have enough carers to meet the needs of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This is especially saddening when we know that these children generally achieve the most effective outcomes in family-based care settings.

Children under 16 are supported by the Child Asylum Team, which is a dedicated team of specialist social workers, as well as a specialist worker in WSCC’s Voice and Participation Service. Children over 16 have dedicated personal assistants.

We offer specialist training to all carers regarding the needs of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and dedicated support from an advanced practitioner, as well as your own supervising social worker or support worker.

We work in partnership with voluntary and community-based agencies and can offer advice and guidance and a regular monthly support group where carers can share experiences, learn from one another and have the opportunity to hear from guest speakers.

For more information and to register your interest in supporting an asylum seeking child contact the Fostering Recruitment Team.

6 Supported Lodgings care

Supported Lodgings is an accommodation scheme for young people aged 16 years and over who are not yet ready to live on their own. 

The aim of the scheme is to offer young people the opportunity to live in the home of an approved person who will help them develop the necessary life skills to prepare them for independent living.

Visit our Supported Lodgings page for more details on how to get involved.

8 Holly and Gary’s story

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Last updated:
30 June 2022
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