Types of Foster Care

Once you become an approved foster carer, there are various types of fostering placements available for you to consider. Each type of fostering placement has their own challenges and rewards, so it is important to explore these with the fostering service you join to discuss which is best suited to you and your family.

Following your approval, your fostering service will work closely with you to understand your preferences and household dynamic to ensure you are offered placements which fit your lifestyle, your skills and experience.

Fostering providers

Local authorities across the UK send daily fostering referrals to an established trusted number of independent fostering agencies by region. The fostering agencies utilised are mostly ‘contracted’ to supply fostering placements to the local authorities and have demonstrated (through contract tendering) their experience, quality, and more importantly the foster carer and child centred support they provide. All registered fostering agencies are inspected (and approved) to supply by Ofsted. On occasion local authorities will utilise ‘off contract’ independent agencies if they are unable to source a foster placement through the ‘contracted’ providers.

Fostering opportunity

You should try to be as flexible as possible when considering the placements offered to you. The selected placements will have been carefully matched and will reflect your skills, lifestyle and family composition. Therefore, you should try not to restrict yourself in terms of age range or types of fostering placement as this will ensure that you gain more experience and subsequently have greater opportunity in the future. The more experience you have, the more placement opportunities will be available to you long term. Core training for foster carers is mandatory, however most fostering services offer specialist training which will enable you to consider enhanced needs referrals, such as parent & child, children with disabilities or other specialist placements should you wish to.

What is Short-Term Fostering?

Short-term fostering is a type of fostering placement in which a foster carer provides a safe and loving home for a child for anywhere from between a few days, up until 2 years.

By taking on a short-term foster placement, you may be helping to prepare the child or young person for their return home or move to a new family if long-term fostering is required.

Other reasons for a short-term foster placement, include the child waiting to move onto an assessment placement, a bridging placement, or a placement where they are being prepared for potential adoption, all which requires specific and different care plan objectives.

Short-term fostering placements are especially important and, in most cases, will require the foster carer to work towards specific goals for the child or young person’s future.

A short-term foster placement can also on occasion become a long-term placement, where the child will stay until independence if this is agreeable by all parties.

What is Long-Term Fostering?

A long-term fostering placement refers to when a child or young person is placed with a foster carer for a longer term, often 2 years or more. In some cases, a short-term placement may progress to a long-term placement, this will depend on several factors including the child’s care plan. Long term placements usually last until the young person reaches adulthood and sometimes beyond through a staying put arrangement.

A child or young person is often placed in long-term fostering if they are unable to return to their birth family and adoption is not appropriate to their situation. Long-term fostering is exceptionally rewarding for a fostering family and the young person, as you can establish long term goals and aspirations for their future and work with them to achieve these. You will also be providing a loving stable foundation for the young person to build on as they grow towards adulthood.

What is Emergency Fostering?

Emergency foster carers are prepared to care for a child or young person at short notice at any time of the day or night, or during weekends. One reason emergency placements are vital is when a parent is taken to hospital and there is no one else available to care for their child or children. Another could be that the young person’s current environment is so potentially harmful that they need to be moved into care as soon as possible.

In these situations, you may be asked to care for the young person for a night, a week or even longer while the issues with their parents or environment are considered.

Fostering Babies

Babies often enter the foster care system due to being in an environment of neglect or emotional, physical or substance abuse behaviour by one or both of their parents. If the parents are unable to provide a stable and safe environment for their child, they may give the baby up for care or the child could be removed from them by the local authority.

Babies can be placed via emergency foster care if they are in danger or not being looked after appropriately by their biological parents. Placements involving babies are often short-term while they are found a long-term adoptive home, or until the biological parents are fit to care for the child again.

Babies requiring fostering make up a small percentage of the children requiring care. According to Government statistics in 2022, only 5% of children looked after) were under 1 years old. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that fostering babies is an uncommon occurrence, particular within an independent fostering agency. If you wish to foster babies (or toddlers), then it is recommended that you should apply to your nearest local authority to become a foster carer as most babies and toddlers requiring a foster care placement are placed with LA foster carers.

It is worth remembering however that the fees paid by local authorities can be significantly less than that of independent fostering agencies and the support provided by the LA’s are not as comprehensive.

What is Parent and Child Fostering?

Previously known as mother and baby fostering placements, parent and child fostering is a specialist placement, whereby the foster carer offers guidance and support to parents with parenting skills, whilst they are placed in foster care.

The name was changed from mother and baby to parent and child, as the child is not always a baby, and the parent could be a father or both parents.

While this type of placement can be challenging due to caring for two (or on occasion) three people at the same time, specialist training will be provided, and you will play a vital role in helping a family stay together. Sharing your skills and experience with vulnerable parents and supporting their child’s early days is an extremely rewarding role.

As the parent/s may have very little parenting knowledge themselves, encouraging and guiding them to build their own parental skills is a key part of this type of placement. Basic parenting tasks like changing nappies, feeding, bathing etc, will need to be monitored and supported to help build the confidence of the parents.

Often parent and child placements last around 12 weeks, depending on how much support and guidance the parent needs to feel confident caring for their child. As the placement progresses, it is important you monitor the parent and assess their development.  Comprehensive recording is required for this type of placement.

Fostering Children with Additional Needs and Complex Health Needs

Children and young people requiring this level of fostering placement may have a high degree of developmental trauma which is impacting on their ability to connect to others in a family setting.

Children and young people’s past abuse and trauma may have caused various different types of mental health conditions such as depression, psychosis, separation anxiety and/or self-harming.  The predominant focus for this type of fostering placement is to reduce such behaviour so that children and young people experience a fulfilling and positive childhood.

Children coming into foster care may also include those with learning disabilities such as an autistic spectrum disorder (ASDs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and/or a severe or complex health condition which may also be life-limiting.

Children and young people with these levels of complex needs often require enhanced fostering placements.

You do not need to be medically qualified or have previous medical experience to look after a child with complex health needs.  Full training is provided, and the child/young person will also have medical personnel available to ensure their health needs are fully met.  Depending on the needs of the child, they may require particular care routines, medication, or a downstairs bedroom and bathroom.

If you agree to support a full-time enhanced fostering placement, you will be offered routine respite so that you have appropriate periods of rest.

Taking care of a child with complex health needs or a child or young person who requires an enhanced fostering placement may seem daunting, but your fostering service will provide foster carers with high levels of support and supervision and specialist training to support such a placement.

This type of placement also attracts a much higher fostering allowance.

What is Respite Fostering?

A respite placement allows you to care for a child for a short period (often a weekend or week), however this may be on a regular basis to help support the young person’s full time foster carer or birth family.

Respite can provide the birth or foster family a break from the care that the child requires. This may be particularly valuable if the child requires additional care and attention such as a child or young person with complex health needs.

Respite placements provides the foster parents and the child a chance to recharge and rest via a short-term change in routine. Ideally the respite family assigned to a child should remain the same so young people who find change destressing can transition between both families more easily.

Respite placements are seen as one of the most flexible types of foster care as you can control your level of commitment and work to your own schedule to fit around your everyday life (or other placements). Foster carers who start their fostering career with respite placements often convert to full-time carers.

It is important to remember however, that the young people who benefit the most from respite are often also those who have the highest physical and emotional needs, so as a respite foster carer it is key that you are able to properly support them when they are placed with you. As a respite foster carer you will be expected to undertake both mandatory and specialist training to ensure that you have the appropriate skills for respite placements.

Siblings Placements

Keeping families together wherever possible is extremely important. Where possible (and if appropriate), local authorities will ensure that sibling groups are kept together when being placed in foster care. It can make a huge difference to the sibling wellbeing if they remain together, as they are able to support each other and make adjusting to a new home and environment easier.

Sibling groups placed together have a greater chance of stability and in the long term a more positive adulthood.

However, it is not always possible to keep siblings together when placed in foster care for the following reasons:

  • Size – The larger a sibling group is, the more likely they will have to be split into different placements, however every effort is made to keep them together wherever possible.
  • Timing – If siblings are taken into care at the same time, then they have a greater chance of being kept together as a group.
  • Behaviour difficulties – The siblings’ behaviour may mean splitting them could be beneficial to all children. This will be discussed during the initial referral process with the Local Authorities.

If siblings are not placed together, you will be asked to support the children in a way that allows them to maintain contact with their siblings so they can continue their relationship.

While fostering services usually mandate that children over the age of 3 need their own bedroom, if the bedroom is large enough then two siblings may be able to share with bunk beds or two single beds. This decision will be made subject to information provided by the Local Authority. Siblings sharing a room is only recommended until the siblings are approximately 10 years old, as from this point onwards it is beneficial for them to have their own bedroom and personal space.

Whether you are able to foster siblings when you already have a child in placement, depends on the space in your home, your capability to properly manage their care, and how comfortable your current foster child will be. The fostering service and your social worker will help you assess these factors to ensure all the young people in your care have the best chance of thriving.


The fees paid for fostering often vary significantly between independent fostering agencies and that of local authorities. In general, the independent fostering agencies pay higher fees and provide greater support to foster carers. Although some local authorities are increasing their fees to become more equitable, they are in general unable to match the support which the independent fostering agencies provide.

Do You Have Any Further Questions?

Let us know a time that suits you and one of our approved foster agencies will be in touch to give you any information or support that you need.