You may be thinking about bring a child into your home to live as part of your family, but not sure about long-term/permanent fostering or adoption. At first long term fostering can seem very similar to adoption, however 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. This is the main difference between them and, if you are trying to decide what is right for you, consideration needs to be given to why you want to care for children in the long-term. Are you looking for a child to legally be part of your family, or to support a child through to independence and beyond as part of your family but happy for them to retain their family name and any positive family connections.
The expression “long-term foster care” is not purely about the length of time, but rather refers to the care plan and the type of care which will be best for the child. Long-term or permanent foster care should mean that the care plan for the child is to remain in a specific fostering placement, usually until reaching adulthood and leaving care, and certainly for the foreseeable future.
Long-term fostering placements usually require, and benefit from, a lower frequency of visits from social workers but regular reviews will still take place. However, thorough support must remain in place for the child and foster carer to ensure that the changing needs of the child are met as they grow and develop into adulthood. Foster carers may well need this support to continue manage the changes in the child’s needs which will emerge over time, to manage changing relationships with the birth family, or to support the young person to prepare for independence, for example.
Sadly, some children remain in the care of a fostering family, sometimes for years, but without any specific planning to include permanent foster care. This sort of poor care planning, where decisions are not being taken, or are not being acted upon so that a foster care placement is allowed to drift with no clear direction, is unacceptable. Children need to have the security of knowing that they will be able to stay with the same family until independence. Fostering Network reminds us however that “This does not mean that the child will necessarily consider the fostering family as a “permanent” family to the exclusion of the birth family. One of the key advantages which long-term foster care can offer is respect for the continuing role of the birth family, and support for the child to maintain a relationship with their birth family unless this is considered detrimental to the child’s interests.” (thefosteringnwetwork.org.uk, 2022)
We hope that you will consider becoming a long term foster carer, as you will be able to provide a positive connection and stability for a child that cannot live with their birth family. Children coming into a long term fostering placement need that 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, so they need a foster family that can commit to them and support them through rest of their childhood.
If you would like more information on becoming a long-term foster carer, please get in touch and we would be happy to discuss further.
https://ukfostering.org.uk/fostering-information-3/long-term-fostering/ – UK Fostering Long-Term Fostering
By Lynsey Dobbs, Senior Recruitment Officer