What is Foster Care?
Foster care is when a child or young person goes to live with adults other than their parents because they can’t stay at home with their family anymore.
This can happen for a number of reasons, but no matter what the cause, it’s vital that these vulnerable children and young people are able to find safety and care elsewhere, even if only for a short time.
The ultimate goal of foster care is for the looked after child or young person to return to their birth families, but this can take several years in some cases, if at all. The role of a foster parent is to provide care and support until the child or young person can either return home or they reach adulthood and become independent and look after themselves.
Is Fostering Different From Adoption?
Foster care and adoption are two different things, though foster care can sometimes end in adoption.
Unlike adoption, when you take on a foster placement you don’t become the child’s legal guardian. As a foster parent, you won’t ultimately be legally responsible for the young person in your care, that responsibility remains with their birth family or, in some cases, the local authority.
Foster care is far more common a solution for children and young people taken out of their family environment, with 80,000 children and young people in need of care in the UK annually.
Why Do Children and Young People End up in Foster Care?
There’s no one reason why children and young people find themselves in care. Their family unit might have simply broken down or the child may be subject to abuse or neglect. It can also be caused by an illness or death in the family among other things.
On rare occasions, it may be the child or young person’s action that results in the need for foster care. They may be a juvenile offender, be chronically truant from school or may have run away from home.
No matter what the cause however, the central reason for initiating foster care proceedings is always the safety of the individual taken into care. If such a situation is identified, the local council will step in and social services will remove the child or young person from their family home. They will then look to place the child or young person into foster care with a suitable foster family.
What Types of Foster Care Placements Are There?
It’s a common misconception that there’s only one type of foster care. The reality is that foster care is actually an umbrella term for a wide variety of care services, ranging from simple long and short-term placements to more complex sibling group or parent and child care.
Emergency foster care is a type of short term placement that occurs with even shorter notice. Sometimes carers will only have a few hours to prepare before they are expected to take on a new foster child or young person.
These placements most commonly occur when a child is in immediate danger due to an unsafe home environment or parents or carers who are suffering from physical or mental health problems.
Emergency foster care placements are usually extremely short-term and only last until the situation has been resolved or more long-term care alternatives can be organised.
As one of the simpler forms of care, long-term foster care does what it says on the tin; provides children and young people with long-term care. Long-term care is sometimes synonymous with permanent care as the child or young person often only leaves their placement once they have reached the age of 18.
Short-term foster care is where most new foster parents start. This kind of care is provided to children and young people until they either return to their birth families or it is determined that more permanent care is required.
Entering foster care can be a difficult enough experience as it is, without being separated from your siblings as well. To that end, it’s almost always beneficial to place children and young people in care with the same foster family as their brothers and sisters. This can be tricky however, as foster children above a certain age need their own private bedroom by law.
Foster carers with space to home sibling groups are in constant high demand due to this space requirement.
Parent & Child
Parent & child fostering is a highly specialised kind of care where a young parent is placed into care alongside their infant child. In most cases, the new parent is not a confident one and needs support in learning how to cope with parenthood in a safe and structured environment.
Parent & child carers provide support and parenting skills education to help develop the young person’s parenting abilities. The foster carer may also have the responsibility of helping to assess the parenting skills of the young parent in their care to ascertain whether they are able to care for their child in the long term.
Respite foster care is a repeated short-term foster care placement. This is a supportive form of fostering where an individual will care for a looked after child or young person for a brief period on behalf of another foster parent or family member.
Respite care can occur for a couple of reasons depending on the child or young person’s situation. Most commonly a respite carer will support a foster family caring for a child with special care requirements, allowing them some time away and help them to continue to provide high-quality foster care going forward.
Therapeutic foster care services aim to add an extra level of emotional support to children and young people who have had to deal with trauma, abuse or any other kind of severe disruption. These individuals may struggle to form meaningful bonds with other people or may have behaviour or emotional issues that could impact them for the rest of their lives if not properly treated.
Therapeutic foster care provides specialist therapeutic support from an external medical professional along with a caring and supportive foster family environment.
Bridging care or “fostering to adopt” is a kind of placement where the ultimate aim is, not for the child or young person to return home, but for a more permanent care solution with an adoptive family. The adoptive family will not necessarily be the foster family offering the “foster to adopt” placement.
This type of placement only occurs when all other options have been exhausted and it is determined that the looked-after child will not be able to go back to live with their birth family. It is very rare that this is the first course of action for a newly fostered child or young person.
Remand foster care is a form of short-term placement in which young people are placed into care to await a trial date as an alternative to placing them in custody – something that has potential to cause long-lasting emotional harm and an increased chance of re-offending.
Many potential carers are instantly put off by the idea, but they shouldn’t be. All children and young people placed into remand care are alleged offenders only and have not been found guilty. While it is a challenging type of foster care, no-one who could pose a serious threat would ever be placed into remand foster care.
This type of care helps to turn lives around that have gone astray at a young age. By placing the alleged offender into a caring environment, they are given a chance to rethink their actions and consider alternatives, which decreases the chance of re-offending. The benefits far outweigh the challenges.
Private foster care is where a child or young person is taken into care by a connected person. A connected person is defined as someone with a pre-existing relationship with the child or young person. This could be a professional relationship, such as a teacher, or a familial relationship as a member of the person’s extended family – for example, a cousin or great aunt. It should be noted that a direct relative cannot be counted as a connected person and thus cannot offer private foster care in this fashion.
Private foster care is usually initiated as part of an informal agreement with the child or young person’s birth parents but will need to be legally sanctioned after the fact by a relevant authority.
Who is Put into Foster Care?
55,200 children were living with foster families across England on March 31st 2018. These children come from every part of society and represent a wide range of age groups. There is no one type of child or a specific type of background that increases the chance of a child or young person being placed into care.
There are however, a few statistics to consider:
- 76% of children or young people placed into care are White British
- The majority of children placed into foster care are aged 10 to 15
- Only 5% of children placed into foster care are babies
Who Becomes Foster Parents?
Anyone and everyone! At Capstone we’ve met with carers from all walks of life, all of whom are loving and dedicated to changing the lives of children and young people in need.
The requirements for becoming a foster parent are flexible and the barriers to entry are limited. Most foster agencies, including Capstone, are always looking to build diverse foster carer rosters to best meet the social and cultural needs of those placed into care. These basic requirements are that the individual is in good enough health to care for a child or young person, are over the age of 21 and they have a spare room in their home. This final part is important as the spare room is required to act as the bedroom for the child or young person placed into care.
So to answer the question “who chooses to foster”, they can be male, female, single, married, LGBTQ or not, of any race or religion and of any age over 21. People become foster parents because they have the drive to help and that is the most important thing.
How Can You Help?
The best way to help children and young people in need of loving and caring foster homes is to join a foster agency like Capstone Foster Care. While 55,200 children and young people are already living with foster families in England, studies estimate that a further 6,800 foster families will need to be recruited throughout 2019 to keep up with demand.
How Does Capstone Foster Care Help?
At Capstone Foster Care, we work with local authorities across England to provide high-quality foster care services. When a child or young person is taken into care by a local authority, that authority will initially try and place them with one of their own foster carers.
The rosters of local authorities are often limited however and that is where independent agencies come in; providing suitable, loving and dedicated foster families.
We provide our carers with a competitive weekly salary as well as 24/7 support and full skills training. This means our carers are fully prepared to provide the best possible care to children and young people in need.
Foster care is an essential social service that supports children and young people when they need it most. It allows them to grow and develop into happy and healthy adults despite any setbacks. At Capstone we’ve been providing essential foster carer support to local authorities for ten years.
If you’re interested in learning more about foster care then contact the Capstone Foster Care team today. Our friendly team is on hand to answer any questions you might have about the profession, the application process or anything else related to foster care. We’re also here if you’re interested in starting your foster care journey and changing the lives of children and young people in your local area.
You can reach our office team by filling out our online form, sending us a message on our live chat or by giving us a call on 0800 012 4004. We look forward to hearing from you.
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