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Difference Between Short and Long Term Fostering

When people decide to foster, they may choose between short and long term fostering. Learn what the difference is to make the right choice.

April 4 2022 - 8 min read

When you decide to become a foster parent, you take on a lot of responsibility. Saying that, there are many benefits of fostering and so figuring out what type of fostering is right for you and your family is an important part of the process.

Two types you might find yourself deciding between are long term and short term. You might wonder, what’s the difference between long term and short term fostering? How long can you foster a child for? Do I have to choose between them? We are here to answer your questions.

How Long Do You Keep a Foster Child: Short & Long Term Fostering 

Short term foster care is when you foster a child from a single night up until two years. So, how long do you keep a foster child with long term fostering? Long term foster care, sometimes known as permanent fostering, is when children and young people stay in the care of their foster family until they turn eighteen.

Difference Between Long Term and Short Term Fostering 

Another difference is the type of care plan the child is on. Usually, a short term foster carer only cares for a child until a longer term care plan is finalised. This might be whilst court proceedings are taking place, while they’re awaiting adoption, or until they’re able to safely return to their birth home. Short-term fostering is the most common type of placement for a child who has just entered the foster care system, or for teenagers who are approaching independence.

With long term foster care, the care plan has been finalised, and the child requires a stable home and loving family until they reach adulthood.

Permanence Fostering and Interim Fostering 

In Scotland, short term fostering is called interim fostering, whereas long term is permanence fostering.

Should You Choose Short Term or Long Term as a Foster Carer?

Now that you know the difference between short and long term fostering in the UK, you might wonder what type of foster carer you want to be.

Which you choose completely depends on you, your needs and your longer-term plans. If you are new to fostering, you might prefer to start with temporary foster care so you can settle into the role before committing to a child or young person on a long-term basis. Or, you might decide that you’re ready to pursue the long term fostering matching process from the get-go and foster children until they reach adulthood. We always advise you openly discuss the options with your family, so that everyone is on-board and feel involved in the process.

If you aren’t sure which is right for you, you can always talk to our team of experienced fostering advisors and social workers. They will be able to talk you through everything that happens between the matching process and when you finally meet the child for the first time. Here at Fosterplus, we really are all about finding the perfect foster parent for a child and work tirelessly to make sure that we get our matching right first time, every time – and that means getting to know you and your family incredibly well, so that we know your strengths as well as any possible areas for development.

Do I have to choose between long term and short term fostering?

You don’t have to choose between the two types of fostering, however, you would need to choose which ones you want to be approved for during your assessment and going into panel. Generally, we always advise you to agree to both short term and long term fostering wherever your circumstances allow. It doesn’t mean you have to agree to be matched with children looking for short term and long term foster homes, but it does give you flexibility once you’re approved. This is important for a number of reasons..

Firstly, it provides continuity to a child who may be placed with you on a short term care order but after court proceedings, it’s agreed that they will need a long-term foster home. If you, the child and the local authority all agree, the child would be able to remain in your care until their reach eighteen.

It also means that as you gain experience in short term fostering, you can change your mind around the type of fostering you wish to do and gives you greater flexibility without having to go through the fostering panel to change your approval status.

And finally, you may be able to care for children on different care plans – for example, you might have a child who’s been settled with you for some time on a long term placement, as well as a child who needs a short term foster family. In these circumstances, our matching process would also look at how welcoming a new child into your home would affect the stability of any other foster children in your home.

What About Adoption?

So, what’s the difference between fostering and adopting? You might wonder if long term fostering or adoption is the right fit for you. When you adopt a foster child, you acquire all legal rights as a parent. Long term foster care parents rights are not the same. If you adopt, you have the same legal rights as a biological parent. The adoption process, however, can be longer and more complicated.

As a foster parent, you need to decide what type of fostering is right for you and your family. Whichever you choose, you will make a real difference in a vulnerable child’s world. That means everything.

For more information about how to become a foster parent give us a call on 0800 369 8512

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