The aim is to offer children a secure, stable, and loving home to last through childhood and beyond, providing a sense of security, continuity, commitment, identity, and belonging.
Many children or young people placed in foster care return to live with their birth parents. Some, however, are unable to for a variety of reasons. Although there are permanency options, there is no defined rule or hierarchy. The child's or young person's well-being and finding the best home and foster carers ultimately matter most.
Foster carers in the UK can look after children for extended periods, even until adulthood. However, long-term fostering differs from adoption, as the child's responsibility remains with the local authority - the 'corporate parent'. Foster carers do not have parental responsibility.
In England, long-term fostering is an accepted permanence option for children in care. The child's local authority keeps parental responsibility, but foster carers can make decisions for the child, provided all parties agree.
Although there are children of all ages in need of foster care, there is a particular shortage of foster carers who will foster teenagers.
Fostering teenagers can be very rewarding, and although placements are needed for young people of all ages, there are a greater number of teenagers in need of foster care.
There is a stereotypical image of what teenagers are like, but this is not true of all teenagers, including those in care. Sometimes teenagers in foster care will behave as though they are much younger children, and sometimes they will engage in behaviour that can put them in danger, so foster carers are needed to keep these young people safe.
What does fostering a teenager involve?
The more foster carers we have, the more likely we can find a safe, stable home for teenagers in their area, close to their friends, school and family.
A positive fostering experience can teach teenagers about independence, trusting and respecting adults and learning from them.
As a foster carer, you can show them they are grown-ups now, and if you trust them, you can teach them about listening to criticism and taking in different information.
In a household, fostering enables teenagers to experience a more caring environment than in a residential home. In the residential home environment, they might seek advice from their peers rather than a trusted adult.