Most children come into care for a short period of up to a year, while social workers assess who should look after them permanently. If you choose to become a short-term foster carer, you could have a child for anything from just a few days to several months. Short-term placements can be a good option for people who are just starting out in fostering, or do not want to commit intensively or for a long period.
Making a career of fostering
Sylvie decided to change her career, from teacher to full-time foster carer, after she encountered a distressed pupil one Monday morning. “She was pregnant, had a black eye, and had been made homeless,” recalls Sylvie. “As a teacher, I couldn’t even hug her. My heart ached. I had to do more.”
Since then, Sylvie and her husband Franck have opened the home they share with their sons, Matthieu, 14, and Theo, 11, to 10 different foster children. “It is the most demanding and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” she says.
The family have developed strong bonds with the youngsters that come to stay. One former foster child asked Sylvie to be godmother to their first child, while another woke herself up at 6am to bake her a birthday cake.
Sylvie believes that people from all backgrounds can have what it takes to become accomplished foster carers: “It is not a box-ticking exercise. There are no stereotypes. It’s just the generosity of your soul.”
A small percentage of children do not return to their families but need fostering until they grow up. We have many youngsters who are looking for permanent homes, particularly children over eight and sibling groups.
Caring for siblings
“Some people say they’re lucky to have us. I think we’re lucky to have them,” says foster carer Paul, of the two young brothers he and his wife look after.
The couple decided to foster siblings as they felt that brothers and sisters should be kept together. Paul, who left a job in the City to become a foster carer, says the role is hard work but very fulfilling.
“When the boys first came to us they had behavioural problems because they had never had any direction. We’ve overcome that now. They have responded well to what we want them to do and how we want to live as a family,” he says. “These children need as much help as they can get. And when you see that what you are putting in place works, it’s really brilliant.”
Permanent foster carers have a special role, in giving children a sense of security and stability. Making such a long-term commitment to a child needs careful consideration. You would need to think about what help and training you might need, for instance, and whether you could support the child in maintaining contact with their birth family.
To support foster carers that look after children permanently, we share pertinent information with them about the child's personality, education, behaviour, emotional and physical health, and the type of family that would suit them best.
Teenager Josh talks about permanent fostering
“When I came to my foster parents I was quite a small boy; now I’m nearly 18 years old. Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today, they helped me develop as a person.
“I consider my foster parents as my family. I’m never going to lose contact with them because they have done so much for me. I can see myself bringing my own kids round to see them one day.”
Parent and child fostering
This involves having a young parent and their child living in your home. Social workers may choose this type of joint placement if they are unsure whether the parent can care for their child effectively, as it can be easier to assess their abilities when they are living within a foster family.
With parent and child fostering, the carer’s role includes showing the parent how to best care for their child. So this type of foster carer needs childcare skills and the ability to work and communicate with young people. However, as with all the different types of fostering, we would provide training so that you could expand your skills.
Fostering asylum-seeking children
Children who have travelled alone from overseas to seek asylum in the UK may be placed in care while their asylum application is considered. These young people are often traumatised by the things they have experienced and, having left their family and friends behind, are in particular need of patience, reassurance and kindness.
Young asylum seekers may have limited English, so you'll need to speak for them in every aspect of their lives. They'll need support, for example, in registering with a GP, going to the dentist and finding a school.
Helping young asylum-seekers
Essex foster carers Helen and Martin look after two teenage asylum-seekers who travelled to the UK from the Middle East.
"These children come with their problems, like any child in foster care,” says Helen. “No one goes through a fraught physical and emotional journey and are a bundle of happiness. It’s hard work but such fun, too. It’s really special seeing them accomplish something for the first time in the knowledge that they are now safe.”
In tackling the role, Helen and Martin have drawn on ECC resources. “Because we foster through Essex County Council we can access lots of training and support, which helps us communicate effectively with the young people,” says Helen. Such efforts are paying off. Under their care, the two young asylum seekers are excelling. One hopes to study at Cambridge University and the other is set on a career in sport.
In 2019, ECC was highly rated by Ofsted for its support of young asylum seekers. It reported: “Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children benefit from sensitive and highly effective help and care. Careful consideration of children and young people’s needs … are making a positive difference for these children."
Specialist fostering: short breaks for children with disabilities
Children who are cared for during short breaks face unique challenges. Their disabilities range broadly in complexity but include learning disabilities, autism, and physical disabilities. They range in age from small babies to 18 years old.
Short breaks enable youngsters with disabilities to try fresh things, meet new people, learn additional skills and become more independent. While the child takes a break, their families have some respite from the demands and routines of daily life, and spend time with their other children.
There are two ways to provide short breaks:
Foster carers provide short breaks on either a part-time or full time basis. Part-time care covers days, weekends or overnight stays, and is for children with moderate needs.
Full-time support involves three nights a week- or five nights a week, 48 weeks per year, and is for children with more complex needs.
Foster carers who take this path receive special training and support. This includes access to our clinical psychologist and regular contact with a dedicated social worker.
A child under 16 (or 18, if disabled) who lives with someone who is not a close relative for more than 28 days is considered to be privately fostered. The private foster carer may be a friend of the family, the parent of a friend of the child, or someone unknown to the child’s family. If you are privately fostering, you are required by law to notify your local authority.
To tell us about a private fostering arrangement, or to find out more, please complete our online form.
or to talk to our friendly recruitment team call 0800 801 530
“My role not only provides support and care to the child, but also to parents and siblings. From my point of view I truly love my job and the support is great! It is without doubt the best job I have ever had!” Sally, foster carer.