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As a foster parent, you open your life and your home to the care and support of a vulnerable child or young person. Just like a birth, step or adoptive parent, a foster parent creates a safe and nurturing family home for children to settle, grow and thrive!
Children (under 18-years-old) are placed with foster parents for all sorts of different reasons. Some may only be with you for a short time, while others remain with you in long-term foster care.
Before we explore contact with the birth family by a child in foster care, it is important to clarify what we mean when we use the term ‘long-term' foster care.
In England and Wales, long-term foster care has a formal status within any given foster framework; it refers to the positive expectation that the child stays with that family once placed with suitable foster parents, until they are ready to leave the care system and live independently.
In Scotland, long-term foster care is a term used to describe any period of foster care placement longer than 24 months but not secured by a permanence order.
There are many reasons why a child is placed into long-term foster care, but unless a legal adoption takes place, the birth parents still have parental responsibility for their child and a say in their upbringing.
Long-term foster care allows and indeed, actively encourages, a relationship between the child and their birth family, unless it has been determined that it would have a detrimental effect on them.
Contact with the birth family is usually part of a court directive and agreed to occur at specific periods or frequencies. As with all aspects of a child’s placement with a foster family, it is supported by a wider team of Local Authority representatives and social workers, always with the child's best interests at heart.
Joining a foster family can be a confusing and upsetting experience for a child, regardless of their age; leaving the family home and the familiarity found there can be further upheaval in what might already be an uncertain, chaotic or traumatic time.
First and foremost, long-term foster care is part of a broader care plan for the child. This plan is there to safeguard them and ensure they are supported through childhood and beyond. It engages with everyone involved, the child themselves, the foster parents, the Local Authority and the birth family.
Once the foster family placement has been agreed upon, the process of building permanence and attachment between the family and the person placed into their care can start.
Looked after children and young people have a right to love and be loved; a successful long-term foster care placement provides the stability, security and love they need to develop and grow as adults.
Building trust and confidence in themselves and others, understanding their heritage, discovering a sense of identity and settling into the routine of family life are all aspects of life that most of us took for granted. Still, for vulnerable youngsters, this security is the bedrock that underpins their development and sets them on a path for a bright and fulfilling future.
Being a foster parent isn't always easy, but it is a positive and enriching role.
Family Fostering Partners are a Tier 1 fostering agency in the All Wales Fostering Framework with an extended network covering Mid-West England, making us the experts in matching children and young people to their foster carers and supporting them on that journey.
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