If you are considering becoming a foster carer, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether short-term or long-term fostering better suits your situation and preferences. Both short and long-term fostering play vital roles for children in need but require different levels of commitment and have different rewards and challenges.
This article will explore the key differences to help you determine which option may be the better fit for you.
Providing Immediate Support with Short-term Fostering
Short-term fostering, also referred to as emergency or respite fostering, involves temporarily caring for a child or sibling group for anywhere from one night up to two years.
Reasons children may need short-term care include:
- Their regular foster home is not available for a period
- A permanent placement option is being sought for the child by the fostering agency
- The child’s home situation is unsafe, and care is urgently needed while next steps are determined
As a short-term carer, you would provide stability, comfort and reassurance while the child’s longer-term placement is finalized. It can be extremely rewarding to know you are providing vital immediate support at a time of uncertainty and crisis. However, saying goodbye can also be emotionally difficult.
Short-term fostering also requires high flexibility as placements may be made urgently. It suits those whose work and personal life enable them to adapt plans at short notice when placements come up.
Providing a Consistent Loving Home with Long-term Fostering
Those who become long-term foster carers take on more responsibility for consistency and continuity in the child’s development.
Reasons a child may need long-term care include:
- Court orders preventing them from safely returning to their birth family
- Their parents agree that fostering is best for the child’s stability
- Efforts towards adoption or placement with relatives are being explored
As a long-term carer, you support the child to feel safe, secure, and cared for despite the uncertainty around where they will ultimately live as an adult. You attend school events, and medical appointments and participate in hobbies alongside them.
The aim is to reduce the amount of change and upheaval the child must cope with. This care helps them develop securely. Saying goodbye when an adoptive family or relatives are found can be extremely difficult emotionally. However, some long-term foster carers maintain contact which eases the transition.
Assessing Your Suitability
When weighing up short versus long-term fostering, reflect honestly on questions such as:
- Could you grow attached to a child knowing care would not be permanent?
- Would you feel comfortable looking after children with little advance notice?
- Do you have space in your life for extensive long-term commitments?
- How might foster impact others in your household?
Seeking guidance from fostering agencies on what each role involves day-to-day is crucial. Be open about any apprehensions you may have too. Exploring the pros and cons in an honest, self-reflective way empowers you to know which option is the best match.
Whilst all foster care has emotional highs and lows, understanding what you feel able to manage realistically is key to being the support these children truly need.
Reflecting on whether emergency or routine care suits your situation better clarifies if short or long-term fostering is your calling. Most importantly, follow your instincts as you consider this life-changing, highly commendable commitment.