Difference between short-term and long-term fostering


Understanding the difference between short-term and long-term fostering is important before making the decision to become a foster carer. Find out the difference between the two, and which type of foster care is right for you.

What is short term fostering?

Short term fostering placements include anything from a single night of care from an emergency foster placement, to a multiple year placement. The duration of care in a short-term fostering placement is dependent on a number of factors – including whether it’s safe for the child to return to their birth family; whether long-term care is being sought for the child and if legal proceedings are being finalised.

During the short-term foster placement, long term plans for the foster child will be confirmed – with reunification with their birth family typically the most common goal, or moving a more permanent fostering solution. Most children are likely to begin their time in the foster care system on a short-term plan, also known as temporary fostering.

What is long term fostering?

Long-term foster care refers to the type of care plan the young person is on, rather than the duration of the placement. Long term fostering means the child should remain in a specific fostering placement until reaching adulthood, or leaving the foster care system.

Also known as permanent fostering, this type of care provides more consistency to young people in cases where they are unlikely to return to their birth family. This type of placement is likely to last years rather than months, but it also depends on the compatibility and external factors around the situation.

Which type of foster care is right for me?

Regardless of whether you choose temporary or permanent foster care, you will undoubtedly have a huge impact on children and young people’s lives. However, it’s important to acknowledge the effect both short-term and long-term fostering options may have on your family life.

Short-term fostering can often lead to a disruption to the family – as this type of fostering may provide a lack of consistency, as you’re likely to experience a number of different placements. However, this type of fostering is often preferred by foster carers as it leaves them without the commitment to long term foster care.

Long term fostering creates a permanent home for foster children, which, often, they will be in for years. This type of foster care provides not only consistency for the foster child, but for the whole family, too. We are actually searching for long term foster carers due to a national shortage, so we urge long term foster carers to come forward to help change a young person’s future.

Find out more about the fostering process, or get in touch with a member of our specialist team now for more information on the difference between short-term and long-term fostering. Read more about the different types of fostering in our helpful blog.

Long term fostering or adoption

Long-term fostering and adoption have a few similarities - both intend to provide a stable and safe environment for the children and young people in care. Unlike short-term fostering, choosing to foster in the long-term may mean that reunification is not a goal with the young person’s birth family. Long-term foster placements can last years - which then can mean you might foster a young person until they reach adulthood.

Adoption is when you take a child in care out of the fostering system – by adopting, you choose to raise the child independently, without the help of a fostering agency, and become the legal parents responsible for taking care of the child. The process of adopting is different to fostering, as there are extra requirements - you will need to finance the adoption yourself, which can cost in excess of £4000. Whilst fostering comes with a team of experts to offer you support, when adopting it is solely your responsibility to raise this child as if they were a part of your own birth family. Both options are highly rewarding and depend on your own priorities - you can read more about fostering versus adoption in our helpful blog.

Find out more about the fostering process, or get in touch with a member of our specialist team now for more information on the difference between short-term and long-term fostering. 

Thinking of fostering?

If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
An experienced fostering advisor from your local area will then be in touch.

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