Foster care and permanence

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Foster care and permanence

Unfortunately, not all children who come into the care system are able to return home to live with their parents. In such cases, the courts make the decision as to the best option for the child or young person. This is governed by making sure that they are safe and able to grow up and mature in a ‘permanent’ home. In this country, there are a number of different types of permanence: what always matters most is the wellbeing and welfare of every child and finding the right foster home, or care arrangement for them.

Different foster care options for permanence:

Kinship foster care – also termed family and friends foster care

While a ‘looked after child’ may not have the option of being able to live with their birth parents, it may well be possible for them to be placed with a grandparent, uncle, aunt, other relative or possibly a friend of the family. All will have to be well known to the child or young person. They will have to have been assessed and judged to be able to meet the needs of the child to be fostered.


Kinship foster care; which is often described as ‘family and friends foster care’, is most usually a short-term solution – perhaps because of an emergency situation. Sometimes, if all parties agree, it can be an arrangement that lasts for the whole of a child’s childhood. There are differences around the country with fifty percent of ‘looked after’ children in Northern Ireland living with kinship foster carers.

Right across the UK, there are also kinship or ‘family and friends carers’ who look after children outside of the care system system – and who are not approved as foster carers. In Scotland, all kinship carers are regarded as a completely separate group of foster carers, and this is irrespective of whether the children/young persons they care for have ‘looked after’ status.

Permanence orders as they apply in Scotland

Here, the situation is that only a local authority is able to apply for a permanence order. When this happens, the authority removes the child from the children’s hearing system – this can last until the child reaches eighteen. It transfers the parental right to have the child, or young person living with the parent and to control where the child lives to the particular local authority concerned. This arrangement clarifies that the child, or young person will not be returning home; it does not, however, necessarily, mean they will remain with their current foster carers – although often that is the case. Details will be specified in the care plan of the child or young person.

Special Guardianship Orders in England and Wales

Special guardianship orders known as SGOs are most often granted by the courts to a member of a child’s family. In much smaller numbers they are granted to an unrelated foster carer who will have been providing care for the child. The special guardian, then has the care of the child and this means they also acquire parental responsibility. This is along with the birth parents plus anyone else who has parental responsibility. Under SGOs, children and young people are not in the care system.

Residential care arrangements

Residential care will offer the best type of permanence for some ‘looked after’ children. Most usually, this applies to older children as well as those with special needs that are best met by being cared for in a residential setting.

Child Arrangement Orders in England

Child arrangements orders effectively replace residence orders as well as contact orders.  In relation to permanence options, a child arrangements order determines  where a child, or young person lives and this will give the person parental responsibility for as long as the order is in place.


Of all the options for permanence in the UK, adoption is in all probability the most well-known. When a child, or young person is adopted, their ‘adoptive’ parents assume the full parental responsibility for them as their legal guardian.

Most of the children adopted in the UK are aged between one and four years of age. Adoption is generally considered to be the best option for roughly five percent of the children in care. As with fostering families, there is also a shortage of adoptive families – currently there are approximately 4,000 children currently waiting to be adopted.

Fostering for adoption is a scheme that is operated in England. This allows children to be placed with their potential adopters within a fostering arrangement. Whilst this arrangement is in effect, the local authority applies for a placement order from the courts. In such situations, the foster carers will also require to be approved as adopters.

Long term foster care

Right across the United Kingdom, foster carers often look after children or young people for many years – quite often until adulthood is reached. Long term fostering is, however, different from adoption and the other forms of permanence. This is because the local authority (in England, Scotland and Wales), or the health and social care trust (in Northern Ireland) in which the child/young person resides always remains the child’s ‘corporate parent’. Unlike adopters, foster carers never have the parental responsibility for the child or young person they care for.


In England, long term fostering officially has a formal status as being a permanence option for ‘looked after’ children and young people. The child/young person’s local authority retains the parental responsibility, however, foster carers have greater authority to make decisions on behalf of the child and, if all those involved agree, meet less often with supervising social workers. These changes were introduced in 2015: the aim was to provide improved stability, together with a better sense of ‘normal’ family life for a ‘looked after’ child to experience.

In Scotland long-term fostering applies to a fostering placement longer than 24 months that is not secured by a permanence order. Young people here may also be looked after in a permanent placement, for example, one that is secured by a permanence order.

Foster with Rainbow for a great experience

Join a team of dedicated professionals who know, despite the challenges, foster care should be about fun! Childhood is, after all, a very special time. We are now looking for people who really do have an interest children and supporting them to achieve in life. Many of the children we care for have come from difficult backgrounds and crave the chance to be given a secure, stable and loving home. Because life has often been difficult for them, children can present challenging behaviour. We provide excellent levels of support so our foster carers can ‘turn’ these young lives around. And achieving this can be hugely rewarding for a foster carer.

We welcome applications from people regardless of their ethnicity, religion or cultural background. Please call us today on 020 8427 3355 for more information on building a fostering career with Rainbow.

Read about foster care issues on our website

Court now rules in favour of foster care victim

October 19th, 2017

In a landmark ruling, a woman who had experienced abuse from her foster carers as a child, has won a battle against Nottinghamshire County Council. The court ruled against the council, judging it was “vicariously liable” after placing the her with two foster couples during the nineteen eighties (for more visit)

Foster care and what permanence means

Foster care and permanence

‘Rainbow Rewards’: bonus payments available

Special bonus of £500 by referring someone who becomes an approved carer with us. The money will be paid once your referral has received their very first placement. Existing carers! Please have talk to us if you are thinking of fostering with a new agency. Carers who transfer to Rainbow, can also claim  our special ‘reward’ payment (this payment will only be made for carers who are currently caring a child on a long-term basis.)

And the good news at the end of this rainbow…our plans for this years Annual Foster Carer Awards are coming together. Invitations have been sent so please reply promptly!

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