Types of Placement (including changes e.g. Adoption)

1. Introduction

There are many different types of placements and some fostering agencies may not offer the full range. If you are considering adopting your foster child, please see: What If I want to Adopt my Foster Child or become a Special Guardian below.

2. Types of Fostering

Short-term Fostering:
Short-term carers provide temporary care for a child/young person, who is unable to live with their family. The placement can last from a few days or weeks, months or longer. The placement is temporary while plans are made and carried out. Regular contact with significant people such as birth family is an important part of short-term fostering.

Long-term Fostering:
Long-term carers offer permanent homes where adoption is not suitable for a child/young person. A long term foster child is likely to continue living with foster carers whilst in full time education and they will be expected to support the child with their living arrangements whether they continue to live with the carers or independently.

Short Breaks for Disabled Children:
These carers provide respite care to children with disabilities living with their own families. This gives their parents or usual foster carers a break.

Respite Care:
Respite carers also offer support to other foster carers. Whilst we are aware that children and young people are unlikely to benefit from respite care within their foster placement we are also aware that foster carers do sometimes need this support to ensure placements continue to succeed for all concerned. This is different from supporting other carers informally which is sometimes called respite.

Connected Carers:
These carers provide placements for a child/young person who cannot live with their birth parents but can live within their extended family network, or a friend of the family. These placements help to provide continuity of care, family, school and friendships, networks and keep the child/young person's cultural and individual identity.

Specialist Fostering:
Specialist fostering is for young people who are going through difficulties and have a higher level of need that cannot be met within general fostering.

Parent and Baby/Child Fostering:
For parents and their babies/children who are in need of support and assessment of their parenting skills.

Emergency Care:
Emergency carers provide time-limited placements for a child/young person in emergencies, these placements usually happen out of office hours.

Private Fostering:
Private fostering is when a child/young person under 16 (or if disabled 18) is cared for, for more than 28 days by an adult who is not a close relative and the arrangement has been made between the carer and the parent.

Sibling Groups:
Where brothers and sisters are placed together.

This forms part of a long term placement for a child/young person and can sometimes be for two years in duration. Carers work with the child/young person and their families towards reunification or prepare the child/young person for joining adoptive or long term/permanent fostering families or for moving to semi-independence.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children:
Foster carers who provide placements for a child/young person seeking sanctuary and asylum from their own country of origin.

Staying Put Arrangement:
Staying Put arrangements are arrangements to extend the foster placements into a 'Staying Put' arrangement by agreement between the care leaver and the carer, in order to support the young person until such time that they are fully prepared for adulthood. They young person will no longer be cared for under the fostering regulations as the Staying Put arrangement occurs when the young person turns 18. The arrangement ensures the young adult can experience a transition similar to their peers, avoid social exclusion and be more likely to successfully manage their independence when they do move on. Your Supervising Social Worker will discuss this with you when your foster child reaches the age 16 years as part of their care planning.

3. How Many Children can I Foster?

On approval the fostering service will decide how many children you are approved for, what age, sex and category of approval. There are times, however, when the fostering service may ask you to take a child/young person outside your approval range if it is felt this would be a way to meet the child's needs.

When this happens the fostering service can vary your approval for a short time either to allow for longer term plans to be made or for a review of your approval as a foster carer to be done so that your approval status can be changed in order to accommodate the child for a longer period.

4. Exemptions

The 'usual fostering limit' is three, so nobody may foster more than three children unless:

  • The foster children are all siblings (then there is no upper limit); or
  • The local authority within whose area the foster carer lives, exempts the carer from the usual fostering limit in relation to specific placements.

In considering whether to exempt a person from the usual fostering limit, the local authority must consider:

  • The number of children whom the person proposes to foster;
  • The arrangements which the person proposes for the care and accommodation of the fostered children;
  • The intended and likely relationship between the person and the fostered children;
  • The period of time for which he/she proposes to foster the children; and
  • Whether the welfare of the fostered children (and any other children who are or will be living in the accommodation) will be safeguarded and protected.

5. What If I want to Adopt my Foster Child or become a Special Guardian?

Adopting a child is very different to fostering. This is about making a forever commitment to the child so this needs to be considered carefully. The most important thing is that there is a Permanence Plan for the child to be adopted and if this is the case and you would like to find out more, speak to your Supervising Social Worker.

If the decision is to proceed, an assessment will be done focusing on the potential of you as a prospective adopter and whether this will be in the long-term interests of the child. You will receive the same assessment, preparation and training as other prospective adopters.

Special Guardianship or Long-term fostering may be another option.

Special Guardianship addresses the needs of a significant group of children, who need a sense of stability and security but who do not wish to make the absolute legal break with their birth family that is associated with adoption. It also provides an alternative for achieving permanence in families where adoption, for cultural or religious reasons, is not an option. You can apply for a Special Guardianship Order once the child has lived with you for one year immediately preceding the application.

Special Guardians have Parental Responsibility for the child and although this is shared with the child's parents, the Special Guardian will have the clear responsibility for day to day matters without consultation with others. The parents still have to be consulted and their consent is required to the child's change of name, adoption, placement abroad and any other such fundamental issues. A Special Guardianship Order made in relation to a Looked After Child replaces the Care Order and the Local Authority no longer has Parental Responsibility. In these circumstances, the Care Order is revived if the Special Guardianship Order is revoked.

Special Guardians may be supported financially or otherwise by the local authority and, as with adoptive parents; they have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made.

Special Guardianship has the following advantages as a permanence plan:

  • The carers have Parental Responsibility and clear authority to make decisions on day to day issues about the child's care;
  • There is added legal security to the Order in that leave is required for parents to apply to discharge the Order and will only be granted if a change of circumstances can be established since the Order was made;
  • It maintains legal links to the birth family;
  • There need be no Social Worker involvement, unless this is identified as necessary, in which case an assessment of the need for support must be made by the relevant local authority.

Special Guardianship has the following disadvantages as a permanence plan:

  • The Order only lasts until the child is 18 and does not necessarily bring with it the sense of belonging to the Special Guardian's family as an Adoption Order does;
  • As the child is not a legal member of the family, if difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and seek resolution;
  • Although there are restrictions on applications to discharge the Order, such an application is possible and may be perceived as a threat to the child's stability.

Long term fostering has proved to be useful for older children who retain strong links with their birth families and do not need the formality of adoption and where you may value the continued involvement of the local authority.

Long-term fostering has the following advantages:

  • The local authority retains a role in negotiating between you and the birth family over issues such as contact;
  • There is continuing social work support to the child and your family in a placement that is regularly reviewed to ensure that the child's needs are met;
  • It maintains legal links to the birth family that can still play a part in the decision-making for the child.

Long-term fostering has the following disadvantages:

  • Lack of Parental Responsibility for you;
  • Continuing social work involvement;
  • Regular Looked After Reviews, which may be seen as unhelpful to the placement;
  • Stigma attached to the child due to being in care;
  • The child is not a legal member of the family. If difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and seek resolution;
  • Post care and/or post 18 the carers have no legal responsibility towards the young person.