Different types of fostering

Here is a brief explanation of the different ways you can foster for Suffolk County Council

There are many different ways of fostering. New foster carers may prefer to provide short term care at first, and can move on to offer a long-term or permanent place for a child later. As part of the assessment process we will help you choose the type of fostering and the age range of children which is best for you and your family. Many change what age of children they care for as their own family circumstances change or they gain more experience. 

Our main shortage of carers is for children over the age of 11, siblings over the age of 8 and / or children with complex needs.  Many of these children wait for a long time to be placed with a family who they know will be ablr to offer them the long-term care they desperately need to feel secure and have a sense of belonging.

We are currently not needing carers specifically for children under the age of 5 - for anyone interested in fostering younger children we are asking that you are able to take school aged children as well.  Please look on Who are the children needing a foster family? or contact us if you would like more information on the age and needs of the children who require fostering.  If your interest is specifically for under 5's, you may wish to consider Adoption as an alternative.  Please ring 01473 264800 or click on Suffolk Adoption to find out more.

The different types of fostering: a brief guide

Short-term: offers a home to a child of any age until difficulties at home are resolved or alternative plans can be made for their future. This may just be for a few days but is usually for at least a number of months, but more often a year or more.

Long-term care of teenagers: Caring for a young person as they grow up until they are ready to live independently. 

Permanent: Supporting a child who, in general, will be between 5 and 12 years of age when they first come into care. They will be fully part of the carer's family for the remainder of their childhood and hopefully throughout their adult life.

Zipwire - Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC): MTFC carers provide care to children over the age of 11 who have more complex and challenging needs. MTFC will be an alternative to residential care or custody for most children on the programme. MTFC carers can provide either full-time or short break care. Please follow this link for more information about the new Zipwire MTFC programme.

Short breaks: Offering children regular short breaks such as one or two week holiday periods or one weekend a month.  Most of our need for short breaks is for breaks of a week or two, especially in the school holidays, for older children and those who have more complex behavioural needs.  We are currently therefore only taking applications for short break carers for our Zipwire MTFC Scheme or people who are able to offer a high level of flexibility with their availability and the age range they can care for.  If you were considing short breaks as an introduction to fostering before committing to this full time, please do still contact us to see if we can help you decide if you would like to apply for short term fostering. Alternatively, you may wish to consider Link.

Link: Supporting children and young people with a learning, physical or sensory disability, and their families by providing regular short breaks. For more information about the Link Scheme please download our Link leaflet.

Emergency: Caring for a child at very short notice because of a family crisis.  We usually know very little about children placed in emergencies and the challenges they may bring.  This kind of fostering is usually undertaken by experienced foster carers.

What it's like to foster: carer insights

Babies and young children: the challenges and rewards of fostering children from 0-5 years old

Teenagers: the challenges and rewards of fostering teenagers

Short-term and permanent: the challenges and rewards of fostering children from 0-18 years old, in both short term and permanent placements