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Foster care is a looked after child placed by children’s services with another adult. This person will have responsibility for the daily care of the child. They will welcome the child as a part of their household.
The foster carer must have been assessed and approved by children’s services (or an independent fostering agency) as suitable to provide foster care. This may be as a temporary foster carer or a fully approved foster carer.
Approval as a foster carer may relate to a specific child. For example with kinship foster carers. Or the foster carer may be approved to looked after children generally. Foster care might be provided for a short time. For example, they might care for a child until they are able to return to their birth family or until an appropriate permanent placement is identified. Foster care can also be a long-term arrangement.
Foster carers are expected to treat the child as a member of their own family. Foster carers are paid a fostering allowance.
There are different types of foster care, and foster carers can be approved for more than one child or for sibling groups. Some foster carers are trained as specialists in one (or more) of these areas, and some have specialist skills in therapeutic interventions.
The different types of foster care include:
- Emergency foster care – when a child is placed somewhere safe for a few nights and at very short notice
- Long-term foster care – when a child who cannot return to their birth family is placed with a foster carer until they leave care
- Respite care – when a child (often a disabled child) goes to stay with foster carers so that their family (or permanent carers) can have a break
- Family and friends care (also known as kinship care) – when a relative or family friend becomes a foster carer for a child who cannot live with their parents.