Last updated:
13 May 2015

Different ways you can foster

Find out about the different types of fostering and which one is most suitable for you.

1 Overview

Fostering is usually a short term solution for a child, while their future is planned and agreed. This means that you will look after a child or young person for a few weeks or a few months, while they are unable to live at home.

But children and young people come into care for a number of reasons. For this purpose, there a number of different types of fostering that meet the needs of a specific child. This provides the opportunity for foster carers to use their skills and specialise in a particular type of fostering. Find more information on each type of fostering and what is involved.

2 Short-term

When you look after a child for a few weeks or a few months while the child’s future is planned and agreed.

3 Long-term or permanent

Long-term or permanent fostering is when you foster a child who cannot return to their own family but adoption is not the most appropriate option for them. This might be because the child continues to have regular contact with their relatives. Long-term fostering means they will stay with you until they become adults and are ready to live independently.

This can provide the child with an opportunity to develop secure attachments and consistent relationships through being part of a family. It also enables the birth parent(s) to maintain contact with their child while the foster carer can provide continuous care and feel a sense of achievement as the child progresses.

Additional information

4 Parent and child placements

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

When this happens both the child and parent(s), are placed with a foster carer. The foster carer helps keep the child safe but also supports the parent(s) with developing their skills to look after the child.

Could you be a parent and child foster carer?

There are a number of requirements that you should consider before you offer a parent and child placement - for example, having some practical childcare experience. If you’re flexible, tolerant, patient and a good communicator then this type of fostering could suit your skills. Others 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. These will be used to inform the assessment made by the child’s social worker.
  • An understanding of working in partnership with a range of professionals.

What’s involved?

Parent and child placements are usually for 14 weeks, with an additional two week outreach programme offered in some cases with agreement from the carer. Due to the high level of supervision, observations and guidance, you will need to be available at all times.

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

5 Short breaks foster care

Short breaks foster care involves caring for a child with disabilities. It gives children planned periods of care away from their families or foster carers. This can be for a few hours during the day to overnight stays, such as a weekend every month.

Short breaks help children to spend time away from their birth families and develop their independence. It can help to broaden their horizons and help them integrate with other children, gain confidence and have fun.

This type of fostering also enables the birth family to have a well earned break from the pressures of full time caring, spend quality time with their other children, their partner or 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.

6 Respite foster care

Respite 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.

7 Specialist foster care schemes

Fostering Early Support Programme (FESP)

Fostering Early Support Programme (FESP) is a specialist programme to help families resolve their difficulties and prevent young people remaining in care unnecessarily. The scheme accommodates young people who come into care in an emergency because of a crisis in the family. The FESP carer will work closely with the Family Resource Teams in order to return the young person to their family within three months.

The foster carer must be available for the duration of the placement in order to respond to any need. To reflect this, FESP foster carers receive a Level 3 allowance - the highest available to foster carers - and also have the potential to receive a retainer's allowance. The foster carer will also have access to regular phone support in the evenings, weekends and Bank Holidays through the Family Resource Team.

The focus of FESP is children aged 10 to 16 year olds. 

Treatment foster care (Leapfrog)

Treatment foster care - also known as Leapfrog - is specialist care for children with complex emotional and behavioural difficulties who are aged three to six. These children need structured and highly nurturing families in which to grow and learn.

Our therapeutic team provides foster carers with a high level of training and support, including on-call support.

The Leapfrog programme aims to improve children’s functioning across all areas of development. It places a particular emphasis on supporting the development of emotional and behavioural regulation and empathy - core components for success at school and in relationships.

Additional information

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