Providing long term foster care to a child is often foster applicant’s ideal scenario and central to their motivation to foster, with long term fostering depicted as the most rewarding type of care for both the child and the foster carer. Long term foster care involves a child being cared for in their foster placement for a number of years and often up to and beyond their eighteenth birthday– allowing foster children to build long-lasting and stable relationships over time.

However, children are rarely received into the care of Tusla with the knowledge that they will require long term care. Therefore children and young people often experience short term placements before moving into long term foster care. Foster carer’s openness to also provide short term placements, alongside their hope to be long term carers, is therefore very important as this may allow a child the experience of remaining in one care placement.

If you’re interested in finding out more about long term foster care, read on.

What is long term foster care?

Long term foster care is typically defined as any foster placement that continues for more than six months. Placements up to six months are considered short term placements. Foster children in long term placements can often remain in the care of their foster family up until their eighteenth birthday.

Long term foster care allows a family to bring a foster child into their home and create a loving, lasting relationship over the course of many years, providing them with much needed stability and consistency of care. Long term foster care also supports a child’s development of a sense of belonging and identity, as they can experience security and a stable base. While long term foster care placements are long term commitments, they can reap many emotional benefits for the child and the foster carer.

When does a child enter long term foster care?

A child can enter the care system from any age and this can be by agreement with their parents or where a child is subject to a court order. Children are received into care as they have experienced or are at risk of experiencing significant harm physically, emotionally and developmentally. The reasons for children no longer being able to live with their birth family are vast and include parental addiction, parental mental health, child’s experience of physical, sexual or emotional abuse as well as parental death or serious ill physical health.

When a child is unable to return to the care of their birth parents due to any of the above vulnerabilities they require long term care from a foster carer/s who will commit to understanding and meeting their care needs, providing them with a safe home, consistent care, nurturing and stability.

What does a long term foster carer do?

When a foster child enters a long term foster placement, with the foster carer having been assessed as suitable to provide for their long term needs, the foster carer is fully supported by Tusla and Orchard Fostering to be able to understand and meet the needs of the children in their care.  The foster carer has responsibility for the child’s education, medical and social needs and meeting these to the best of their ability.

By becoming a long term foster carer, you are entering into a relationship that will change your life. It’s a brave and exciting thing to do and while it can be intimidating you will receive a lot of support on this journey for you and your family.

As a long term foster carer, you’re there for the highs and lows, the good days and the bad. You’re there to pick your foster child up when they fall over, to applaud them when they succeed. You’re there to drop them to school, football matches, dance rehearsals. You’re there to feed them, to clothe them, to tuck them in to bed at night. You’re there for everything, and you’re there for all of it.

A long term foster carer nurtures, supports, and guides their foster child through life. You’re there every step of the way, helping them grow and thrive. You’re responsible for helping them build a brighter future.

Should I become a long term foster carer?

As we’ve discussed, long term foster care is a long term commitment. As such, it requires a person with the ability to meet this commitment head on. If you believe you’re ready and willing to take on a long term foster child, then you’re already halfway there – belief in yourself and your abilities is a major factor in fostering.

To be a long term foster carer, you need to be willing to provide a caring, nurturing, and loving environment for your foster child. If you feel that you can provide this sort of environment – a place for your foster child to grow into a caring, nurturing, and loving person – then you should strongly consider long term fostering.

Being open to providing short term placements, alongside long term placements, is an important flexibility that is required of foster carers. Fostering is not predictable so it is not always possible to identify children as requiring long term placements when they first come in to care. However those who cannot be reunified with their birth parents will then become known as needing long term foster care and be matched with long term foster carers.

What supports do Orchard Fostering offer long term foster carers?

 We believe in building brighter futures at Orchard Fostering – and we don’t believe in doing it alone. We pride ourselves on offering top of the line support to all our carers.

Long term foster carers are offered the full range of Orchard Fostering’s support. We offer a wide range of services, each one designed to deliver the best possible experience and outcome for our foster carers and foster children.

As a long term foster carer, you have access to a dedicated social worker; a 24/7 on call service; locally-run support groups; foster trainings; etc. You also can avail of our play therapy services, our theraplay practitioners, and our other internal supports.

How do I become a long term foster carer? 

All journeys begin with that first step – and the first step on your journey to becoming a long term foster parent is as simple as making  a call. If you’re interested in becoming a long term foster carer, contact Orchard Fostering today. We’d be happy to talk you through the entire fostering process – so give us a shout, and start building brighter futures today.