Children and young people come into care in many different circumstances. For this reason, there are a number of different types of fostering to meet the needs of our children.
Fostering is usually a short-term arrangement while a child’s 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.
Sometimes, however, a long-term or permanent fostering arrangement is the most appropriate option for a child. 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.
Before you apply to foster, think about what might suit your family and the skills you have – you may be able to specialise in one of our specialist schemes.
2 Parent and child fostering
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 things 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.
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.
3 Short breaks
Short break 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 or 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 break from the pressures of full-time caring. Many birth parents describe short break foster care as a lifeline for them, allowing them to recharge their batteries and spend quality time with their other children or 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.
4 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.
5 Supported lodgings
Supported lodgings is an accommodation scheme for young people aged 16-21 (or up to 24 if in higher education), who are not yet ready to live on their own. They may need accommodation as they have left care or they may not be able to live with their own family.
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.
See the Supported lodgings page for more details on how to get involved in this scheme.
6 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 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 place to live while their individual case is considered.
The foster carer will be asked to accompany them to immigration meetings and arrange legal support. As well as this they will need to help the young person to access education, make links with local cultural and faith groups and support them in day-to-day living, including helping them to learn the English language.
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.
7 Specialist schemes
Specialist fostering schemes are used to support younger or older children who have had a very difficult start and who may require more therapeutic support. These require very different skills from other kinds of fostering and foster carers receive a higher level of payment.
These schemes can also be used to support children who come into care in an emergency because of a crisis in the family. One example of this is FESP, outlined below.
Fostering Early Support Programme (FESP)
The 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 3 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 and on weekends and bank holidays through the Family Resource Team.
The focus of FESP is children aged 11-17 years old.