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Can Short Term Foster Parents Get Financial Help?

If you provide short-term foster care or are considering foster care on a part-time basis this guide outlines what support is available to help you cover the costs.

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Emergency foster care

While long-term fostering can last for months or years, emergency foster care situations may need you to look after a child for a night, several days or a week or two, and be on-call during the night or at weekends.

Given the urgent nature of emergency foster caring, this is reflected in the financial assistance you'll receive from your foster agency or local council.

Approved carers with a spare bed can register and may receive a retainer for offering emergency care during the period when they are on-call.

A retainer is paid instead of the standard allowances and fees that you'd expect to receive while looking after a child, so that you have some income.

For example, If a young person is sent to stay with you on an emergency basis because they aren't safe at home, you will get the usual allowances and fees offered to all foster parents for the duration of their stay.

Respite and short break fostering

Respite fostering is where you look after a child for a short time, to help them and their families.

Respite care is often for children with disabilities or impairments and gives them the chance to meet people and develop their social skills, while giving their families a break.

As respite care is usually for a day, weekend, or during school holidays. Short break fostering doesn't last for a long period of time.

This means that while you may receive an allowance to cover entertainment and leisure activities, it will be proportional to the amount of time you spend with the child (i.e. one day's allowance = one-seventh of the appropriate weekly fee).

Make sure you check with your agency or council as respite fostering rates vary nationwide.

Short to medium term fostering

Children entering care but not in an emergency situation often need to be fostered on a short to medium term basis while their long term future is sorted out, possibly by the courts.

This means you may end up fostering them at short notice for a period of time ranging from a few months to a year.

As you will be providing full-time care in these situations, you should be able to claim allowances and fees from your foster agency or council, as well as tax exemption and relief if you're registered as a self-employed foster parent with HMRC.

Short term remand fostering

Sometimes young people who are remanded by a court as they await sentencing, or their case is considered, need to be fostered for a short time on placements that could last a few weeks or months.

Children being cared for on these short-term remand placements will be entrusted to experienced foster parents who've demonstrated they can work with a range of vulnerable young people.

This type of fostering differs from others because remanded young people may have behavioural problems and a history of violence or criminality.

While financial support is likely to be offered by your local council or foster agency, the amounts paid are likely to vary.

Some will provide a weekly remand fee of several hundred pounds plus varying allowances (based on the child's age), along with a small retainer, while others may offer a flat-rate remand fee and a higher retainer rate.

Double-check what financial help is provided if you're interested and feel able to provide care for remanded children.

Kinship, family and friends fostering

Kinship care, sometimes called family and friends fostering, describes a situation where children are cared for by relatives or someone known by the family, like a friend or neighbour.

This may come about if the children can't stay with their parents, and social services or the local council believes it's in their best interests to ask you to care for them.

This issue has caused controversy in the past because kinship carers could be refused financial support even though they were doing the same job as any other foster carer.

In 2013 the Court of Appeal ruled that family members and friends should receive the same benefits as unrelated carers.

Whatever type of care you're providing for vulnerable children, you should be entitled to claim financial support to give them the best start in life, as well as support yourself.

If you don't think you're getting the right level of help, make sure you contact the foster agency you're registered with or your local authority.

Help stretch your budget a little further by making the most of your savings.

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