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How to transfer into long-term foster care: a step-by-step guide

Overview: A look at long-term foster care and its benefits,  including why fostering and adoption are different, what being ‘on hold’ means as a foster carer and the long-term matching process explained. 

There’s no set route to becoming a long-term foster carer. Sometimes couples and individuals looking for ways to make a difference in a child or young person’s life find long-term foster care straight away. Other times, fostering families who offer different types of foster care, such as emergency foster care or respite fostering, decide to switch. Evolving circumstances can often be a prompt for change. For example, if a child a foster carer has been looking after needs somewhere to stay longer term. Foster carers often decide to increase their fostering commitment when retiring from their previous job. If you’re tentatively exploring long-term foster care or a current foster carer considering a change, this article is for you. The points covered in this post will also be useful for foster carers who may wish to apply for a transfer to Five Rivers

What is the difference between long-term foster care and adoption?

Both long-term foster care and adoption involve long-term care for children and young people in your home. The most significant differences between the two are connected with legal responsibility and the level of permanence. In adoption, a child or young person legally becomes the responsibility of their foster parent(s) permanently as they become legally part of your family. In foster care, the local authority and birth parents usually share legal responsibility. Foster parents assume the day-to-day care for the child or young person but will need to consult with those holding parental responsibility for big decisions such as changing schools. The levels of assistance available for long-term foster care and adoption also differ, with a higher level of support typically available for foster carers. To explore some of the similarities and differences in greater detail, you can read our guide: Is foster care the same as adoption? 

How long is a long-term foster placement?

A long-term foster placement can last for months or years. A young person may stay in your home as part of your family unit until adulthood, which is why long-term foster care is sometimes known as permanent foster care.

What are the benefits of long-term foster care?

We truly believe there are few careers more rewarding than fostering. As a long-term foster carer, you will have the opportunity to watch a child grow and thrive in your care.

By offering a child a safe and loving home, you will:

– help them to experience family life

– model healthy relationships that guide their future interactions

– provide stability and a nurturing environment so they can explore interests, discover passions, and plan and strive for their goals.

Strong, often lifelong bonds are built between foster carers and the young people they welcome into their homes.

How long can a foster carer be on hold for?

Our fostering support team is always on hand to provide assistance and advice during challenging times. Sometimes difficult personal circumstances such as a bereavement, family illness or relationship breakdown may lead a foster carer to ask to put their role ‘on hold’. When a foster carer is ‘on hold’, we will set a review date to assess their availability for further fostering. The maximum time foster carers can be on hold is 12 months, with any regulatory checks and visits carried out during this time. Where a foster carer needs longer than 12 months, or there’s a significant change in circumstances, a foster carer review is carried out and considered by a fostering panel.

About the long-term fostering matching process 

Fostering matching helps us find the right family for each child/young person. It’s something we’re very committed to getting right. A lot of thought and time goes into the process and we involve foster children and young people where possible so they can better understand what their next steps will be. The needs of the child are placed at the centre of the process as we assess the ability of any potential foster carers to meet those needs. We take into account everything we have learnt and come to know about a child to identify a suitable foster family. 

The process is recorded in a foster matching report. The report contains details like age, gender, race, culture and religion of the child. It will also consider any particular social, emotional or physical health needs they may have. Continuity in school and activities is really beneficial for children, so information about these is also included. As part of the match, where relevant, the ability to support contact plans with the child’s birth family or to maintain sibling bonds will be noted. 

The matching process is critical in helping to match children to the right stable long-term care to give them the best possible outcome. We will share information about the match with potential foster carers, and they can then decide if they’d like to proceed. Once the match is agreed by the local authority, there may also be meetings with the child’s social worker and current foster carer (if relevant). The next step is for initial meetings where the foster child and carer get to know each other.

How to get started with long-term foster care

Whether you’re entirely new to fostering or already a foster carer exploring the idea of a transfer, our real-life fostering stories will help you learn what it’s like to be a long-term foster carer with Five Rivers. You can also register your interest by contacting our team, who will be very happy to answer any questions you may have.


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