Caring for a child as part of your family

Children who can’t live with their birth family and are under the care of their local authority are placed with foster carers to live as part of their family. Foster carers are employed by the local authority to look after the children while long-term plans for their future are finalised. There is currently a national shortage of foster carers in the UK and demand for fostering placements is high.

The difference between fostering & adoption

Both fostering and adoption provide safe, secure and nurturing environments for children who are unable to live with their birth families. However, an adoption order ends the child’s legal relationship with their birth family, whereas children living in foster care remain the legal responsibility of the local authority and their birth parents. The fostering application process is similar to the adoption application process (with assessment undertaken in two stages) but the final piece of the puzzle – finding the right match – is likely to happen a lot sooner.

Watch social worker Sally Beaumont explain more about foster care and  adoption here.

Long and short term fostering

While in foster care, children live in the home of their carer and are treated as a member of the family but the length of time they spend in the home can vary from weeks or months to years. Long-term or permanent fostering especially involves a special level of commitment to supporting a child or young person throughout their lives until they reach adulthood and sometimes beyond. Find out more about the different types of fostering here.

Support for foster carers

Due to their early life experiences, many children who need fostering have developed complex coping behaviours; as a result, looking after such children can be a rewarding but challenging job. Foster carers are supported in their role by a supervising social worker and will have access to regular training and development opportunities. Many foster carers choose to foster as a career and receive a competitive weekly fostering allowance made up of a living allowance for the child and a professional fee for the carer. Some foster carers, particularly if they foster as a couple, continue to work outside of the fostering household but the possibility of this will depend on your circumstances and will be discussed with you by the assessing agency. Find out more about becoming a foster carer here.

Could you foster?

Each fostering household is unique and valuable. You can become a foster carer regardless of your relationship status, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality or faith. Other factors, such as being disabled or having a medical condition, will not exclude you from fostering but the assessing agency will talk to you about how these issues might impact your ability to care for a child. To find out more about fostering and to identify a fostering agency local to you, visit The Fostering Network.

Be My Family is grateful for the support of The Hadley Trust.