What is Long Term Foster Care?
Long term foster care often takes place when a child or young person cannot return to their birth family, or when adoption is not a possibility. Children and young people living in long term fostering arrangements typically stay with their foster families until they move on from care at the age of 18 years old.
However, unlike adoption, when it comes to long term fostering, the foster family don’t have legal responsibility over the foster child. This is because fostering doesn’t end the birth parent’s legal relationship with the child.
Throughout the fostering arrangement, the foster family continues to work in partnership with the young person’s Local Authority, birth family and service professionals – ensuring the young person receives the wrap-around support they need.
What are the Benefits of Long Term Fostering?
Many children and young people come into foster care having experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect. They may suffer from attachment issues, challenging behaviour, or even additional learning difficulties like as a result.
Fortunately, long term foster care provides young people with the space, time, and stability they need to understand and work through some of this trauma and achieve better outcomes.
Building Healthy Attachments
Children that come into care often suffer from some form of attachment issues. Attachment refers to the relationship a child has with their primary carer; this bond helps children feel safe, comforted and trusting of other people.
When this attachment bond is disrupted or broken, children no longer feel safe. Attachment difficulties can lead to a range of problems, including trouble managing emotions, challenging behaviour, depression, low self-esteem, social difficulties and relationship issues.
The key element to helping children heal from attachment issues is a secure base. Long-term fostering gives children and young people a sense of permanence and stability. This allows them to build new, healthy relationships and attachments with their foster family that will benefit them later in life.
Understanding Their Emotions
Foster carers are trained in a range of specialist areas. This includes knowing how to manage challenging behaviour in children and young people, allowing them to continue providing care and support for them even when their young person is hostile and rejecting.
As role models, foster carers can support the young people in their care to learn to understand and regulate their emotions. Long-term foster care provides more opportunities for carers to model healthy emotional behaviour, helping their young people express themselves in a more appropriate way.
Stability of Routine
Sometimes, when children move into foster care, they might need to move away from their hometown or even change schools. They may also need to move between foster homes if an arrangement doesn’t work out, or their circumstances or the circumstances of their carers change. This can be challenging for foster children to deal with, causing disruption to their education and friend groups.
Children living with a foster family long-term can settle into more permanent routines. This minimises the amount of disruption they experience at school, as well as helping them forge lasting friendships with their peers.
At Compass, we always work hard to ensure that the needs and wishes of our children and young people are at the heart of any decisions made. We do our best to make sure that any disruption to a child’s life is minimised – this includes staying in their school wherever possible and living with foster carers in or near to their hometown. We also make sure that appropriately.
Receiving Specialist Care
Some foster children come into care because of a disability, learning difficulty or medical condition. Their birth family may not have been able to fully meet their needs, and they might require a bespoke approach to their care that ensures they can lead a rich and fulfilling life.
Long-term foster care means children and young people with additional needs can benefit from ongoing specialist care from trained foster carers. Specialist foster carers will guide them throughout their lives, making any necessary adjustments where needed and ensuring they have the support they need to succeed.
Julie and Neil’s Story
Julie and Neil have been fostering with us since 2020. They have one foster child with them, E, on a long-term arrangement. When asked about their fostering experience, they said: ‘We don’t really think of it as fostering anymore. E is a part of our family; we have three children now. She’s started calling us Mummy and Daddy – we never considered how much E would bring us. She’s added so much laughter to our house.’
Read more about Julie and Neil’s fostering experience here.
Interested in Long Term Fostering UK?
If you’re considering becoming a foster carer – know that you won’t be alone.
To find out more about fostering with Compass, get in touch with us. One of our friendly team members will be happy to guide you through the first stages of your fostering journey.