Contrary to most people’s understanding, there are various different types of foster care placements. When I was younger I always said to myself, if I couldn’t have children I would be a foster carer. They make such a difference to children’s lives and give them a better start in life. The different types of placement we organise are listed below.

The differing types of foster care placement, suit different foster carers. It can be useful to have a good understanding of these different placements so that you can ensure a good match between you, your availability and resources, and the child’s needs.

Shorter terms and longer term foster care placements

The first distinction in types of placements is to do with the fundamental nature of the placement. Placements are either a temporary arrangement, or a permanent arrangement for the child until they reach adulthood.

Temporary placements are known as short-term placements. That said, they can range enormously in length. Sometimes the placement is just for a few days in an emergency or to provide respite care. Sometimes the short-term placement can last for years or months whilst longer term arrangements are settled, an adoption is finalised, or if a court case is involved.

Long term placements can last for several years, and are designed to provide a child or teen with stability until they reach adulthood.

In reality, this means that nearly all children coming in to foster care will start off with ‘short-term’ placements until further decisions are made.

This is where carers need to first understand what they can offer in terms of foster care placements. Different carers will be able to offer different things in terms of time. You may prefer the flexibility of multiple very short-term placements, or prefer the greater stability of fewer long term placements. It’s very much about what suits you and your lifestyle.

Within short-term placements, there are a number of different distinctions to be made:


  • Transitional care: Transitional foster care placements can be used at various different times. For example, they can be used when transitioning an older teen to independent living after care. They can be used when transitioning a child who has been within institutional care, back in to care within a family. The purpose of these placements is a short-term transition between different settings with the purpose of making the long term move successful
  • Mother and baby placements:Where there is a need for a mother to kept with her baby, but care is needed for the baby and in supporting the mother, a mother and baby placement may be necessary. These are unique placements where the onus will be on facilitating the care of the baby through mentoring the mother, and sometimes assessing her parenting abilities.
  • Respite care:Short-term foster care placements are used to provide short-term respite to families coping with challenging situations. These situations vary enormously but may include caring for a child with a physical disability or complex health needs, behavioural problems, or a child who has a sick parent.
  • Sibling foster care placements:Sibling groups often provide security and consistency to each other in the face of upheaval and uncertainty. Therefore, it is often very important to keep siblings together within their foster care placement. Taking multiple children requires additional resources and larger accommodation. However, it is often a very rewarding placement to offer.
  • Remand placements:In rare situations, a court may decree that a minor convicted of an offence, or one awaiting trial, would be more appropriately homed in foster care. In these situations, specialist training and support is needed. These placements can be ‘high-stress’ but are hugely important.
  • Sanctuary-seeking foster care: If children entering the UK asylum system either arrive without caregivers, or cannot be cared for by their parents or guardians, then they will be placed in short-term foster care until further arrangements are made. These children may have experienced trauma, fled war or political conflict, and likely are not familiar with the culture or the language. These are therefore specialist placements.

Deciding which foster care placements would be best for you

As you go through the steps to becoming a foster carer, these different types of placements will be explained in more detail to you. Furthermore, the assessment process will help you identify which type of placement suits you best.

Are you a foster carer? I would love to know in the comments below or on social media: @mummyconstant. 

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Last Update: Thursday, 6th December 2018