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What is short term foster care – The ultimate guide to temporary fostering

Overview: An introduction to short-term foster care, providing information about temporary fostering. A comparison of long-term vs short-term foster care. Plus, answering questions such as: how long is a short-term foster care placement, do you get paid for short-term fostering and what is respite care?

In the UK, most referrals for children coming into foster care are on a short-term basis. We call this type of fostering short-term foster care or temporary fostering. It’s needed when children and young people are unable to safely stay in their home for a variety of reasons. For example, their parent(s) may need treatment in hospital or be struggling to overcome addiction issues. Short-term foster carers provide a stable and nurturing environment for children facing uncertainty. As a short-term foster carer, you can support children at what is often the most challenging time in their lives. It’s a fulfilling role, and whether a child stays with you for a few short days or longer, you can make a positive impact that will last a lifetime. 

What is long-term vs short-term foster care?

When people talk about fostering, they often think of permanent fostering. Let’s explore some similarities and differences between long-term and short-term foster care.

Long-term foster care

Short-term foster care

  • Provides a long-term or permanent home for a child or young person when it is unsafe for them to live with their parents. Foster carers look after the child on a full-time basis.
  • Children may maintain some contact with their birth family, with foster carers facilitating this. Although it is less likely that the child/young person will return to their parents, this could happen.
  • In permanent or long-term foster care, the child or young person stays with you as part of your family. Depending on their circumstances, they may live with you until they’re at least 18.
  • It can make a big difference in a child’s life by giving them a safe and loving home and providing positive life experiences.
  • Provides a short-term temporary home for a child or young person when it is unsafe for them to live with parents. Foster carers look after the child on a full-time basis.
  • Sometimes parents’/carers’ abilities to care for their children need to be assessed. Short-term foster carers are more likely to have a role in helping children to maintain contact while this happens.
  • The aim is always to return children to their families where it is safe and in their best interests. When this is not possible, the child will stay with you while a longer-term plan for their care is put in place.
  • You may be asked to consider long-term foster care or need to prepare a child to move into permanent fostering. Sometimes a child becomes adopted. In these cases, you will facilitate meetings between them and their adoptive parents so they can get to know one another.
  • You can make a big difference in a child’s life by giving them a safe and loving home and providing positive life experiences.

How long is a short-term foster placement?

As a short-term foster carer, you might welcome a child into your home for just a few nights, a few months or more. There is no set time for short-term foster care as each young person and family’s needs and circumstances differ. But even for the shortest of stays, as a short-term foster carer, you can make a positive difference and have a long-lasting impact. 

What is respite foster care?

Respite is another type of  foster care, which is sometimes called short-break foster care. As a respite foster carer, you might be asked to look after a child for a week, a weekend or perhaps just for an overnight stay or daytime. Short break care usually lasts 14 days or less when foster carers step in when parents, primary carers or long-term foster parents need to take a short break. By taking over the care of a child temporarily, respite foster carers help to maintain stability in care arrangements. Without their help, many foster carers would not be able to take a break or holiday when needed. We value short break foster carers immensely within our fostering family. 

As a respite foster carer, you’ll usually work with the same children and families, providing extra reassurance and helping the child to feel safe in more familiar surroundings. You’re also able to choose your availability, so that you can fully dedicate time to caring for a child when you are free to do so.

This type of foster care is often an option for people who are unable to become full-time foster carers due to family and work commitments. Respite carers can access the same generous support and benefits package as our other foster carers and receive full training. 

Do you get paid for short-term foster care?

It’s important to us that the support we offer our foster carers allows them to feel financially secure and prepared for the important job they do. If you become a short-term foster carer with us, you’ll receive a generous fostering allowance to provide peace of mind. As a short-term or respite foster carer, you can expect to receive upwards of £440 per week. If you have more than one child staying with you this will increase. For more information, you can read pay and allowances or contact our enquiries team who can provide more details. 

You can explore what short-term foster care and respite foster care is like on our website by reading fostering stories. When you’re ready to take the first step in your fostering journey, you can register your interest with our carer enquiries team.

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