What is fostering?

Fostering is a way of providing a nurturing and safe environment for somebody else’s child in your own home when they are unable to live with their birth family.

Quality foster care means to nourish, to rear, to promote and to cherish.

When families foster, they need to provide a safe, secure and stable environment so that children and young people can recover from any potential traumas they have experienced. Foster care is about giving children and young people the opportunities to reach their full potential.

Why do children require fostering?

There are a variety of reasons that some children cannot remain with their birth families. Reasons a child might need to be placed into foster care include: if the child has or is experiencing abuse, their parents are substance or alcohol dependent, there is domestic violence within the family, or there has been a family breakdown or relationship difficulties.

A foster family should give children and young people the opportunity to experience a positive and rewarding family life which enables them to rebuild their trust in adults.

Foster placements

The time spent in foster placement varies.

Sometimes they can last for days, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. About 40% of children and young people return home to live with their own families within six months of living away.

However, there are some children and young people that need longer term support. This can be provided through fostering, adoption, kinship placements, special guardianship, residential care or living independently.

Foster Care Through the Eyes of Child in Care

Young people in foster and residential care in Cambridgeshire gathered for an animation summer school. The aim was to make a short film about what it’s like and how it feels to enter the care system.

colaboration image
© 2012 University of Cambridge, Department of Psychiatry/Cambridgeshire Film Consortium All rights reserved.

(a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with a wide range of Cambridgeshire and East Anglian Health and Service Providers).

Types of Fostering

  • Bridging placements are required when a child needs to be prepared for another placement usually a long-term one for example adoption.
  • Emergency placements are where children and young people need somewhere to stay immediately at short notice.
  • Family and friends or kinship fostering provides children and young people with places to live with their family members or connneccted people they already know.
  • Long term fostering is for some children and young people who cannot return to live with their families. They require a permanent home environment to stay in until they are old enough to live independently.
  • Private fostering is where the parents make an arrangement for the child to stay with someone who has no parental responsibilities for more than 27 days. Although this is a private arrangement there are special rules about how the child is looked after. The Local Authority must be told about the arrangements and undertake assessments to ensure the arrangements are safe and meet the child or young person’s needs.
  • Remand fostering – in England and Wales children and young people can be ‘remanded’ by the court to the care of a Local Authority and placed with a specially trained foster carer. Scotland does not use remand fostering as young people tend to attend a children’s hearing rather than go to court.
  • Short break foster care or respite care is where disabled children or children with special needs or behavioural difficulties enjoy a short stay on a pre-planned, regular basis with a new family, and their parents or usual foster carers have a short break for themselves.
  • Short term fostering provides children and young people placements from a few weeks or months’ duration while plans are made for the child or young person’s future.

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