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How long are children in foster care?

Each child’s situation will be different. How long a child needs a foster placement will depend on their individual needs and circumstances. They may need to be placed in foster carer for only a few days, however, sometimes foster placements are needed for months and sometimes for years. Children in foster care may be able to return home after a period or they may go on to be adopted. Other children remain in foster care long term until they reach adulthood.

What are the different types of Fostering?

  • Bridging placements are required when a child needs to be prepared for another placement or while a more suitable placement is identified. For example, they may be in foster care for several months while they are matched with a family for adoption or while a foster family with the same cultural background is found.


  • Emergency placements are required when children need somewhere safe to stay at short notice where they will be supported while future plans are made for them. For example, the Police may remove a child from an unsafe home environment and they may remain in foster care until a member of their extended family has been assessed as being suitable for caring for them.


  • Short term placements can range from a few weeks or months’ duration to a couple of years. These placements provide children with a positive experience of family life in a safe, stable family home until their long term placements are identified and become available.


  • Long term placements are for children who are unable to live with their families and need a foster home to stay in until they reach adulthood and are able to live independently.


  • Family and friends (kinship) placements are made when children are placed with people they already know. These placements are overseen by the Local Authority.


  • Private foster placements are when parents make an arrangement for their child to stay with someone who is not a close relative and has no parental responsibilities for more than 27 days. Although this is a private arrangement there are special rules about how the child is looked after. The Local Authority must be told about the arrangements and undertake assessments to ensure the arrangements are safe and meet the child or young person’s needs.


  • Remand foster placements are foster placements with specially trained foster carers. They are for children who have been ‘remanded’ by the Court to the care of a Local Authority.


  • Short break foster placements are foster placements for disabled children or children with special needs and/or behavioural difficulties to enjoy a short stay on a pre-planned, regular basis with a new family, giving their parents/foster carers a short break for themselves.