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Long term fostering and adoption

foster carer helping foster child

Long term fostering and adoption

Long term fostering and adoption are very similar, but have some key differences. In this article will be a brief summary of what the two are, and how and why they differ.

When someone decides to foster, they are providing family life for someone else’s child when the child can’t live with their birth family. Foster care is generally a short term service, and the child will most often return home. However, when this is not possible, permanent foster care or adoption comes into the picture.

Long term fostering

Long term foster care (or permanent foster care) is where the foster family will care for a child until they reach adulthood. The key difference between long term foster care and adoption is that with foster care, the foster family will never have full legal responsibility for the child. Legally, the child’s birth parents will always have legal (parental) responsibility which means that they have to be involved in decisions about their child whilst in foster care and the involvement details are written in the child’s care plan.

Long term fostering does not give full legal security for either the foster carers or the child, and would usually only continue until the children and young people are 18. The fostered child can stay in contact with their birth family, and foster carers will be asked to work in partnership with social workers as well as the child’s birth family.

Children and young people are placed in foster care for a variety of reasons, such as abuse, neglect/mistreatment by parents which can result in truancy or antisocial behaviours. A birth parent (voluntary care) or a court (legal requirement) can decide if a child should be fostered.

Often, long term fostering is more appropriate than adoption, especially if the parents are against losing parental responsibility and there are no significant reasons why a court should decide on an adoption order. Long term fostering is often best for the child if the parents cannot continue to meet their child’s needs, such as children with special/complex issues.


Adoption is a legal process which takes away the legal rights and responsibilities of the child’s birth parent(s), and gives them to adoptive parent(s). Adoption also means that an adopted child will have the same last name as their adoptive family and lose all rights of inheritance from their birth family.

An adopted child becomes part of his/her adoptive family as if born into the family, with the adoptive parents making the decisions concerning the child’s life. Adoption might be ‘closed’ or ‘open’ which decides if the child has contact with their birth family or parent(s).

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