Traveller and Romani Advice and Information Network
What is fostering?
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. Types of foster care include:
- Emergency - where children need somewhere safe to stay for a few nights.
- Short-term - where carers look after children for a few weeks or months, while plans are made for the child's future.
- Short-breaks - 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.
- Remand fostering - where young people in England or Wales are "remanded" by the court to the care of 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. However, the children's hearing might send a young person to a secure unit and there are now some schemes in Scotland looking at developing fostering as an alternative to secure accommodation.
- Long-term and permanent - not all children who cannot return to their own families want to be adopted, especially older children or those who continue to have regular contact with relatives. These children live with long-term foster carers until they reach adulthood and are ready to live independently.
- "Connected persons" or "kinship" fostering or "family and friends"- where children who are looked after by a local authority are cared for by people they already know. This can be very beneficial for children, and is called "connected persons", or "kinship" fostering or "family and friends". If they are not looked after by the local authority, children can live with their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters or grandparents without outside involvement.
- Private fostering - where the parents make an arrangement for the child to stay with someone else who is not a close relative and has no parental responsibilities, and the child stays with that person (the private foster carer) 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 visit to check on the child's welfare
What about adoption?
Fostering is different from adoption because when a child is in foster care, the child's parents or the local authority still have legal responsibility for them. But when a child is adopted, all legal responsibility for the child passes to the new family, as though the child had been born into that family, and the local authority and the birth parents no longer have formal responsibility for the child.
When there is no possibility for a child to return home to their parents, attempts will be made to see if anyone else in the family can care for them. If this is not possible, a family must be found who can provide "permanence" for the child, to allow them to feel as secure as possible. This either happens through long term fostering or adoption.