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Types of foster care

child and adult holding handsEach child and young person is unique and their circumstances vary. To respond to this, there are different types of foster care available to suit every child or young person.

Whether foster carers offer short-term, emergency support or a more permanent home, their roles are key to the wellbeing and care of each and every child or young person who is reliant on foster care in Northern Ireland.

Whatever type of foster care you can offer, support is available including training, development opportunities, and fostering allowances.

  • Short-term

    Short-term foster care is for temporary periods of time, from an overnight stay up until two years. It is hoped that in this way, foster care can provide a safe and secure home for a child or young person while a process of reunion with birth parents is undertaken.


  • Long-term

    Long-term foster care indicates a more permanent foster care solution. This takes place when children and young people cannot be placed back into the care of their birth parents. In these circumstances, the child or young person can stay in a family where they feel safe while still maintaining contact with their birth family, until they can live independently.

  • Short breaks

    Short breaks offer a child or young person a temporary and short-term placement in order to provide their current carer (whether that is their birth family, foster carers or adoptive family) a break. Care may be offered for a weekend, a month, or a period of 2-3 weeks, and may be part of the regular routine of the foster child or children.

  • Emergency

    Emergency describes out-of-hours foster carers who provide time-limited care at short notice. Emergency foster carers may be contacted late at night or over a weekend. Foster carers who can offer emergency care will receive a child or young person into their home where they can offer them safe and welcoming accommodation and care.

  • Fostering teenagers

    There is a need for more foster carers in Northern Ireland for teens.

    Being a teenager is tricky. Consider all the pressures of growing up as well as the additional challenges a young person in care will have experienced. It can be hard for them to handle these pressures. Every young person deserves a safe and secure home and to be supported throughout their youth. 

    Many of our foster carers tell us the reason they love fostering teens is for the fun they bring. Young people can be great banter, and can offer the home a fresh perspective, an energetic outlook, and a new set of interests that the family can get involved in. 

    There are also teenagers who have travelled from outside Northern Ireland who need foster care. Find out more about young refugees.

  • Children with disabilities

    Some children in the foster care system have physical or learning disabilities and may need to be placed in long or short-term foster care, emergency foster care or short breaks.

  • Supported lodgings/STAY (Supported Transition & Accommodation for Young people)

    Supported lodgings/STAY is accommodation provided in the home of an approved individual or family, known as a ‘host’, who offers a safe and secure home for care-experienced young people, aged 16-21. Hosts offer practical and emotional support to prepare a young person to live independently.

    View our supported lodgings leaflet here.

    Watch the videos below to hear from supported lodgings hosts and Olivia, a young person who lives in supported lodgings.

  • Young refugees

    Young refugees from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia arrive in Northern Ireland without a parent or responsible adult. Most of these children (primarily teenagers), are separated from their families and find themselves in a new country facing the challenge of new customs and a different language.

    We are actively recruiting foster carers and supported lodgings hosts who are in the position to support these vulnerable children and young people who come from a range of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

    In many cases, these young people are fleeing danger and war, may have been victims of trafficking or exploitation, or their parent or carer has disappeared. These circumstances are hugely challenging and they desperately need a safe and welcoming home environment where they will receive practical and emotional support and care. It is our aim that these children will be able to integrate into local communities, making new friends and learning English. Ideally, we hope to find homes where there is a current, or potential understanding of the child’s heritage, culture, and religion.

    Contact us if you would like to find out more.

    Click here to watch video of Kathryn, foster carer for a young refugee

  • Kinship foster care

    Kinship foster care is when you are looking after the child of a relative or friend on a full-time basis, either temporarily or permanently.

    Training and support is vital for kinship foster carers. These foster carers face unique challenges as they care for children or young people who are known to them. We hope all kinship foster carers will undertake as much as possible of the training and support offered by all the local fostering teams.

    Watch the following kinship foster care related videos to give you some more information and help you understand how vital this type of foster care can be.

  • Specialist schemes

    We have some specialist schemes in place for children or young people with particularly complex needs for which additional fees are available in addition to fostering allowances.

    To find out more about schemes in your area, contact us on 0800 0720 137.


  • GEM (Going the Extra Mile)

    The ‘Going The Extra Mile’ (GEM) scheme applies to existing foster carers. It reflects the role and contribution of foster carers who continue to provide care, support, and accommodation for young people aged 18-21 whom they have previously fostered.

    The goal of the scheme is to provide continuity of living arrangements for young people in addition to the necessary support to enable them to move ahead in training, employment, education or career goals.

    Download the GEM leaflet here.

  • Parent and Baby

    Across Northern Ireland, there are opportunities to be involved in Parent and Baby assessment placements. These involve offering a home to a young person with a child while they are undergoing the assessment process. Foster care is essential to this process as it provides both the parent and the child help and day-to-day support. Parent and Baby placements are time-limited.