What is long-term foster care?
Most children who come into care go into emergency foster care or short-term fostering while the courts decide what should happen next. In some cases, the child will return home but, if this is not possible, an alternative long-term solution will need to be found. Some children, normally those who are younger, will be placed for adoption but this is not always possible or appropriate. In these cases, long-term fostering in a stable, permanent home offers an opportunity for the child to grow up in a supportive, loving environment. Long-term fostering provides one of the best opportunities to make a lasting impact on a child’s life and help them to thrive in a way that they could not have done without you.
“Three years ago he asked if he could call me ‘mum’ so he wouldn’t have to keep explaining to the other children why he called me Elaine. It made me cry”
– Elaine, long-term foster carer.
Why do we need long-term foster care?
We need long-term foster carers to support vulnerable children and young people who, through no fault of their own, have had a difficult start in life. By providing long-term foster care, you can help such children to experience growing up in a stable, supportive, loving family home. They will become part of your family and it is common for the close relationships that develops to extend beyond the age of 18. Many of our long-term foster carers talk about the huge rewards that come from being able to make a lasting difference in a child or young person’s life and embrace them as part of their family.
What does it take to be a long-term foster carer?
As with any type of fostering, you need compassion, commitment, patience, love, resilience and humour to become a long-term foster carer. Foster carers are motivated by the desire to make a difference in the lives of young people and, as a long-term foster carer, you will be the child’s primary care giver and role-model in life and relationships. It is important that foster children and fostering families are well-matched to provide the best chance of building a successful long-term relationship. For this reason, our fostering agency takes great care to match children and foster carers. We also ensure that our foster carers are well-supported by their Supervising Social Workers and peer support groups.
What training and support do long-term foster carers receive?
Our foster carers receive a generous package of pay and allowances, plus perks and benefits to help the household budget go further.
We offer free specialist training to give everyone the skills and confidence they need to support vulnerable young people. This begins with our foundation Skills to Foster programme and includes a whole range of specialist training courses, some of which are mandatory and some of which foster carers can opt to undertake.
All foster carers have regular contact with their supervising social worker and the support of their wider local team, including therapeutic care professionals, psychologists and more. Carer support groups add to the feeling that you’ve got a strong, supportive family at your back.
How long will it take to be approved as a long-term foster carer?
It normally takes around four months to become approved as a foster carer because the process is very detailed and thorough. However, with more than 8,000 children nationally waiting for foster carers, National Fostering Group has pioneered a way of getting certain carers approved faster. This fast-track fostering process can take as little as two months in some cases. It isn’t about cutting corners, but using online and virtual platforms, prompt checks and more intensive meeting schedules to achieve faster approvals.
Read about Elaine’s experience
Elaine was taken into care herself at the age of 10, moving from a residential care home into foster care at the age of 16. She always knew that she wanted to become a foster carer but it wasn’t until her early 30s, after working in the ambulance service and as a children’s nanny and in nursing homes, that she began the application process with National Fostering Agency. She’s been fostering a boy for the last seven and a half years, since he was seven. She says
“The biggest reward for me is that I’m giving him a better life than he had before and I love watching him make progress”
Read more about Elaine’s fostering journey.
Want to become a parent and child foster carer?
Being a long term foster carer is rewarding and varied. If you’re interested in finding out more contact your local team for an informal chat.