There are many types of fostering that cater to the diverse needs and backgrounds of children. While they’re all equally valuable, each presents unique challenges and rewards, and you might be better suited to a specific area.
In this blog, we take a closer look at long-term fostering, sometimes known as permanent fostering. We answer all your crucial questions, including:
- What is long-term fostering?
- What’s the difference between long-term fostering and adoption?
- Is long-term fostering right for me?
- What are the benefits of long-term foster care?
- Can I still foster if I can’t offer permanent placements?
What is long-term fostering?
The ultimate goal of fostering is to heal families and eventually reunite children with their birth parents but, sadly, that’s not possible when there’s a history of irreparable abuse, neglect or trauma.
In these cases, local authorities and private agencies strive to provide children with as much stability as possible through long-term fostering. Thanks to the permanency, young people can become settled enough to make positive behavioural, emotional and educational developments.
Long-term placements usually last until a child reaches adulthood and is able to look after themselves. Thanks to the length of their placement, foster children often become a part of the family and form bonds with caregivers that last a lifetime.
What’s the difference between long-term fostering and adoption?
At first glance, long-term fostering and adoption seem pretty similar – you offer a permanent home to children, build long-lasting relationships and support them well into adulthood. However, there are a few key differences to note.
The local authority has legal rights over children in long-term care until they come of age. With adoption, councils transfer these rights to brand-new parents. By doing this, adoptive parents have the right to anonymity, with many choosing to stop all contact with the birth family.
Adoption is also far more expensive than fostering. While foster carers receive a competitive weekly allowance, adoption is self-funded and usually costs between £4,000 to £9,000 for the application alone.
Is long-term fostering right for me?
Long-term fostering is a life-changing journey, ideally suited to people who want to make a tangible difference in vulnerable children’s lives. If you possess the right qualities, there’s nothing stopping you from applying.
Of course, you should also consider the time commitment, living environment and impact on your own family. To find out if long-term placements are suitable for you, ask yourself the following:
- Do I have enough space for a child/ another child?
- Do I have enough time to give comprehensive support?
- Am I prepared to care for a child into teenagerhood and beyond?
- Am I prepared to boost my skill set through training courses?
- Are my birth children/ partner happy with the arrangement?
- Do I have a support system in place?
What are the benefits of long-term foster care?
There’s a wealth of benefits to all types of fostering, especially long-term care that prioritises safety, stability and security. Not only do children have an environment in which they can thrive, but you’ll also gain a loving addition to the family.
Builds a framework for a child’s emotional and physical development
When there’s daily violence or negligence, children can’t think about seemingly trivial things like homework, regular meals and hygiene. Consequently, many fall behind and need extra help to establish healthy behaviours.
By removing the danger and providing children with a stable home, they have the headspace to work on their physical and emotional development. They don’t need to fear mistakes and harsh consequences, meaning it’s safer to develop meaningful avenues of expression.
Above all else, children now have someone to advocate for them and support their ambitions. This kind of positive encouragement is bound to boost their self-esteem and confidence in relationships.
Allows children to mend the relationships with their birth families
In long-term foster care, children can stay in contact with their birth family, provided it’s safe for everyone concerned. Remember, social workers and therapists are on hand to guide reconciliation where possible.
Children need to know who they are and where they come from, because their personal histories form their identity and self-image. If you’re caring for a child of another ethnicity, religion or culture, you should encourage exploration and lead with sensitivity.
Additionally, contact with birth families establishes familiarity. Moving schools, changing areas and living with strangers is scary, but a thread of consistency serves as an anchor in times of stress.
Promotes self-development for carers
Alongside helping children, fostering facilitates self-development for carers. You’ll tap into bottomless wells of strength and compassion as you journey through the transition. Plus, many foster carers feel they gain a better understanding of broader social issues.
There are also plenty of opportunities to expand your knowledge by taking training courses. Some cover the basics about health and safety, whereas others provide extensive information about caring for children with complex and specialist needs.
Can I still foster if I can’t offer permanent placements?
Thankfully, you can still become a carer outside of full-time placements. Short-term or temporary fostering provides care in the interim before children can return home or find a more permanent solution. It lasts anywhere from an overnight stay (in the case of emergency fostering) to several months.
Alternatively, why not become a short break, respite or shared carer? You’ll look after children between a few hours each week to a couple of weekends per month to give full-time carers some downtime.
Start your fostering journey with Olive Branch Fostering
Long-term fostering is a vital cog in the caring wheel. You offer children the chance to settle in a supportive environment and watch them flourish into confident young adults.
We understand that permanency can feel overwhelming, so we have a team of support workers, groups and more to help you with the transition and beyond.
To begin your fostering journey, contact our friendly team online or call us on 01706 558910 for a chat. We’re always happy to talk through your queries and provide more information, with no obligation to go any further.