Fostering & support – advice for practitioners

Fostering is a way of providing a family life for children who cannot live with their own parents.

It is often used to provide temporary care while parents get help sorting out problems or to help children or young people through a difficult period in their lives.

Often children will return home once the problems that caused them to come into foster care have been resolved and that it is clear that their parents are able to look after them safely.

Others may stay in long-term foster care, some may be adopted, and others will move on to live independently.

This applies to fostering through a local authority or through an independent fostering agency that works with the local authority.

Types of fostering

There are a range of fostering arrangements available to meet the different needs of children and young people who are unable to live with their birth families. They may need care for a short while or for a longer period of time.

Emergency care
Emergency care involves taking children and young people on very short notice for 2 to 3 days until a short term placement can be found. Emergency placements are often needed overnight or over weekends.

Short Term
Short-term fostering is any placement lasting up to two years. Children in short-term fostering placements need support until they return to their families or move to longer-term planned placements, including adoption. Children who need this type of support can be any age – from babies and infants up to teens.

Long Term
Some children are unable to live with their birth families on a permanent basis. Long-term fostering provides placements for children and young people, often for a number of years. Many children are still in contact with their birth families, so a key responsibility for long-term foster carers is supporting this contact for their fostered child or children. Long-term fostering allows a child to grow up in a safe, secure environment, often until they are old enough to leave care.

Fostering with the possibility of adoption
‘Concurrency care’ is for babies and toddlers in care who are likely to need adoption, but still have a chance of being reunited with their birth family. Concurrency carers have the satisfaction of providing stability and security for a baby or toddler at the critical early stage of development – with the possibility that the infant may become their legally adopted child.

Support care
Support carers provide time out for children and young people living with another family, allowing them to continue to live at home. Support care aims to prevent children or young people coming into the care system by offering their families support before difficulties escalate to a point where the family can no longer manage.

Foster carers offer part-time care to provide both the children and their family with a break. Arrangements are made to suit the needs of the family.

Within these categories, foster carers will often focus on a particular age of child – babies and pre-school, or teenagers, for example – gender and ethnicity, and some may have a specialism such as looking after disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children or young parents and their babies. Foster carers can look after up to three children at once, unless exceptions are made or where there is a bigger group of brothers and sisters.

Further examples:

Specialised Therapeutic fostering
Foster care for children and young people with very complex needs and/or challenging behaviour; e.g. CSE.

Asylum seeking children
Foster carer placements where children and young people can feel safe and begin to build a new life for themselves.

Mother and baby
Or parent and child. Usually a mother and her child are placed with foster carers to keep the child and mother safe and often to provide a foster carer assessment of the mother’s parenting skills.

Remand foster carers provide placements for young people who have been remanded to the care of the local authority by the court. These are short term placements working with young people who are subject to criminal proceedings and where the court has decided that it is not appropriate to place the young person back with their family.

Remand Care means these young people can be cared for in a safe placement whilst they wait for decisions to be made by the Court process. These placements can vary in length. For more information visit

Respite / Special needs
Providing support for disabled and complex needs children and young people, and their families; all children should be cared for in ordinary families and should not be placed in a residential setting because of their needs. Care for children with a wide range of additional needs including autism, learning disability, physical impairments and health needs.

Carers may look after babies and young children with uncertain prognosis, or children with health needs such as tube feeding. Others care for active children who need lots of stimulation and activities, or have physical needs.

Some children need short term care, or support to help them return to their birth families. Others need foster carers who can offer them a family through childhood and beyond.

Short breaks carers
Short breaks carers offer a child opportunities to enjoy new experiences, activities and relationships. The child and their family have a break with the parents feeling confident that their child is being well cared for.

Supported Lodgings
Supported Lodgings is shared accommodation where the landlady/landlord (known as Supported Lodgings Provider) provides a young person (lodger) with practical and emotional support with a view to increasing their confidence and readiness to move onto their own home.

From the age of 16 to 21 years old (25 if in further education) some young people decide that they want to be more independent than within a foster home, but they either lack confidence or the skills required for them to move into their own bedsit/hostel accommodation. Supported Lodgings offers them the opportunity to experience elements of independence within a supportive and encouraging environment.

Looked After Children Independent Visitor Scheme
This scheme is for people who want to help children in care but haven’t got the time to foster, or haven’t got a spare room. Individuals are linked to a young person with whom they spend 2-8 hours a month and encourage and support them in their personal development.


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