There are so many types of foster care that it can be really confusing deciding which best suits you and your lifestyle. Get to grips with your options to make the best choice for you and a foster child
Being a foster carer is a wonderful way to better a child’s life and there are plenty of ways that you can go about it.
You don’t have to look after a child for months on end if you aren’t able to – you can choose to be a foster carer for short spurts of time or even for just a night or two.
If you’re an emergency foster carer, you will be on standby to give a child in need a home at the drop of a hat. ‘This is usually for a short space of time, just a few nights or so,’ says Alan Wood, director of the British Association of Adoption and Fostering.
Perhaps you are away often, or work part time, but are available to care for a child on the occasions that you are home.
Short-term and respite care
This type of fostering means that you look after a child for just a few weeks at a time – ideal if you have a chunk of spare time each year, such as a teacher with a long summer holiday.
‘During this time, plans will be put into place for the child's future,’ explains Alan. ‘So you’ll basically provide the child with a few weeks of stability and safety until a more permanent fixture is arranged.’
A short-break foster carer gives a home to a disabled child, a child with special needs or a child with behavioural difficulties.
Short-break care gives the child’s normal foster carers or parents a break and time for themselves
Or you could be caring for a child in a troubled situation such as one whose parents are divorcing.
‘Short-break care gives the child’s normal foster carers or parents a break and time for themselves,’ Alan says. ‘The child will stay with the short-break foster carer on a pre-planned, regular basis.’ So if you can offer a child a second home every weekend, for example, this could be perfect for you.
Long-term and permanent care
This kind of fostering doesn’t tie you legally to a child long term – as an adoption would – but it means that you are responsible for the child until he is old enough to live on his own.
‘Not all children unable to return to their own families want to be adopted, especially older children or those who continue to have regular contact with relatives,’ says Alan. ‘These children live with long-term foster carers until they reach adulthood and are ready to live independently.’
Often providing this support will create a life-long bond between you and your foster child.
‘Connected persons’, ‘kinship’ fostering or ‘family and friends’
Should you have a young relative that needs a home, you can care for him yourself through this form of fostering.
‘This can be very beneficial for children and is called “connected persons”, “kinship” fostering or “family and friends,’ explains Alan. ‘If they are not looked after by the local authority, children can live with their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters or grandparents without outside involvement.’
This form of fostering is either a private arrangement or legal order, depending on the situation of the child.
Private fostering care
This form of fostering comes about when you’ve formed an agreement with a child’s parents for him to stay with you, even if you aren’t related to the child.
‘Although this is a private arrangement there are special rules about how the child is looked after,’ Alan says. ‘The local authority must be told about the arrangements and visit to check on the child's welfare.’
Whatever type of fostering you can offer will help a child considerably, regardless of the length of time it’s for. For more information on the different options, visit the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.