What is foster care?

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Foster care is providing a secure and safe home for children who can’t live at home.

You can be a foster carer for just a few nights or weeks, or for many years. As a foster carer you can choose whether you would like to provide short, long-term or permanent care. Whatever you choose to do, your commitment will be valued.

Why do children need foster care?

Children need foster care for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s because a parent is sick. Other times it could be because of serious abuse or neglect.

Whatever the reason, these kids all need safe and caring environments for however long it takes to sort out the problems in their families.

Children can come into foster care at all ages. They all need suitable people to care for them. Some children will stay in care for a few weeks; some for years.

Types of care

Not all foster care is the same. There are five main categories of foster care:

emergency or crisis care

Emergency care is needed when there are concerns for a child’s immediate safety. Emergency carers need to be able to provide care at short notice, after-hours and on weekends.

respite care

Sometimes, parents and carers need a break. Respite carers help for short periods of time, such as school holidays, weekends or for short periods during the week. Respite care is usually planned and scheduled well in advance.

short to medium-term care

Short to medium-term care lasts for up to six months and has a strong focus on reuniting the child with their birth parents or extended family.

long-term or permanent care

Long-term or permanent care is needed when the child is not expected to return to their family.

relative or kinship care

Relative or kinship care is when a child or young person lives with a relative or someone they already know.