What is Long Term Foster Care?

Here, our Long-Term Family Finder and Social Worker, Lisa, tells us why children need fostering families to consider long term placements.

Many children who cannot live with their birth family will have a care plan of long term fostering.  Long term foster care should mean that the child is to remain with specific foster carers throughout childhood, until the young person leaves care, with an aspiration that the relationships between the child and the foster family endure into adulthood and throughout their life.  

This does not mean that the foster family will replace the child’s birth family, rather, one of the key advantages of long term foster care, is to respect the continuing role of the birth family. The foster family provides support for the child to maintain a relationship with their birth family as this is primarily part of a child’s identity (unless this is considered detrimental to their interests).

We know and understand from research that the overriding concern for children with a plan of long term foster care is “placement stability”.  Everyone needs somewhere to call home; having the chance to settle with a foster family over a period of time gives children a sense of safety and security. Stability can only be achieved, however, by making sure the child is with the right carers; those who are able to commit to caring for a child, provide them with a family home life and be with them through the challenging times as well as the positives. Being settled in one place also allows that child to make friends, develop a sense of community and form positive relationships. large_happy child.jpeg

Family connectedness and identity are important: 

The extent to which welcoming a child into a fostering family or helping the child to feel part of the family depends heavily on the outward, and often, public acceptance of that child. The way in which a family presents themselves to the community and the world outside will “ legitimise” the family for the child – where there is a sense of distance, exclusion or the forcing of a family identity before the child is ready, can cause difficulties.

Voices of Children in Care:

The overwhelming majority of children in care want to feel safe, loved and part of a family. Many recognise the importance of identity and belonging in shaping their own happiness and wellbeing. The majority of children said the best things about being in care was their foster parents and feeling like, “part of the family”.  

We endeavour to ensure that all long term foster carers are well-matched with children giving them that "safe and permanent home” they so desperately want. When matching a foster carer with a child, your skills, experience, preference, family composition and support network will all be taken into account. We also put in place a support package which will vary, depending on the needs of the child and foster family. 

As well as the benefits for a child, the long term advantages for foster carers include, but are not limited to:

  • The ability to develop a strong relationship with their foster child and provide them with a happy and safe home
  • The chance to make significant progress with a child’s behavioural, social and emotional wellbeing and education
  • More authority to make day-to-day decisions as the child’s primary carer

Although long term fostering can seem very similar to adoption, it is important to remember that they are different. A child placed in long term foster care will still remain the legal responsibility of the local authority. Whereas, when a child is adopted, legal responsibilities are transferred to the adoptive parents. Foster carers receive an allowance for caring for the child and a fee as the carer. When you adopt a child, you are legally that child’s parents and will not receive payments for their care. When fostering, contact with a child's birth family is usually maintained if feasible. When adopting, there tends to be less or no contact involved with birth parents.

If you'd like to find out more about fostering, particularly long term, contact us today. There are children waiting for you.