Many children across the UK live with their foster families for many years, and sometimes for the whole of their childhood and beyond. Until 2015 long-term fostering had no legal status; legislation now strengthens the importance of foster care as a permanent option.
Long-term foster care usually means that the care plan for the child, or children, is to remain in a specific fostering placement, usually until reaching adulthood and leaving care, and certainly for the foreseeable future. Children coming into long-term fostering placements need a stable, solid and loving home environment where they can feel truly settled and at ease. They may have already had the experience of being in several foster families, or they may have been in a children's care home.
What is the difference between long-term fostering and adoption?
Long-term fostering allows a child or young person to maintain contact with their birth family if it is felt to be in their best interest. This may only be limited contact but maintains a link with the child's family, which may be important to them and their development. While adoption gives adoptive parents a legal right, with long-term fostering the local authority remains legally responsible.
Is it for me?
If you could provide a safe and loving home, give children a better future and would like to gain qualifications, fostering could be for you. Foster carers receive a fee for fostering as well as a weekly allowance for the child. Many carers choose to foster long term because they want to invest in young people and see them grow up. Long-term foster care allows children and young people long-term emotional security and a secure base which is essential to them fulfilling their potential.
For many families long-term fostering suits them better because it allows children, their carers and their families to develop strong and enduring relationships and manage struggles along the way as families usually do. The process to be a long-term foster carer is the same as for any other foster carer. Children who need long-term foster care are matched carefully with families and there is a period of settling-in time before formal matching takes place to allow everyone to feel confident that a long-term match is the right thing to do.