Toggle menu

What is Fostering?

West Lothian Council foster carers have to be approved.

What is fostering?

Their approval will say:

  • what kind of fostering they can offer
  • what age of children they can care for
  • how many children they can care for

Foster carer approvals are reviewed every year and can change.

There are different kinds of fostering:

Full-Time Fostering

This means caring for a child on a full time basis.  Children needing a full-time foster family will be aged 0-16, although they may continue to be cared for until they are 18.

Children may need full-time fostering for a few days or weeks, or they may need to stay with a foster family for a few months, or even years.  Full-time fostering will support children until they either return home or  move on to longer term care either through permanent fostering or adoption.

Permanent Fostering

This means caring for a child who is never going to be able to return to live with their birth family.  Children needing a permanent fostering family can be any age but will need a fostering family who will care for them into adulthood. Babies and younger children who cannot return to their families are more likely to need an adoptive family.

Adoption transfers the parental rights and responsibilities to adoptive parents and the child is no longer in the care of the local authority.  If you are interested in adoption, rather than fostering, we would encourage you to contact an adoption agency.  West Lothian Council does not currently recruit adopters.  We would usually identify adoptive families through one of our two partner agencies either Scottish Adoption Association (opens new window)  or St Andrew's Childrens Society (opens new window) .

Permanent fostering offers a child a secure and safe family to grow up in while usually still keeping in touch with their family.  The local authority continues to be involved and foster carers and the child would each have a social worker who would maintain regular contact.

Short Break Fostering

This means looking after children for a short time to give families or carers a break.  A short break may be a one-off or it might take place regularly.  Children needing a short break may be living with their family or with another foster carer.  Children may have a disability, whether physical or learning difficulties, and need time away from their families.

Supported Adult Placement

When a young person has been living with a foster carer for some time, and reaches 18, there is an option for the foster carers? approval to change to a supported adult placement approval.  This means that young adults can continue to be supported for some time before they move on.

If you are interested in offering supported adult placements from the outset you can contact the Through-Care After-Care Team at

Outreach fostering

Approved foster carers, in addition to offering one (or sometimes a combination) of the kinds of fostering, may also wish to be approved to offer some outreach fostering.  There are two kinds of outreach fostering:

  •  Befriending
    This means working with a child or young person on a one-to-one basis.  A befriender will help to guide and assist children and young people through difficult times.  They may be living at home, or living with another foster carer or in a residential setting.
  • Family Support
    This means working directly with parents and children in their own home.  This can include budgeting, household tasks, managing difficult behaviour or establishing routines for children.  This support can be significant in helping to keep families together and can offer extra help at times of crisis.


The money paid to carers varies depending on the approval of the carer and the type of care offered.  Full-time and permanent fostering carers receive a weekly allowance to cover the costs of caring for each child in placement along with a fee payment in recognition of their work.  For short-break fostering this fee and allowance is paid on a pro-rata basis.  Outreach fostering is paid on a sessional/hourly basis.  For further information about carer payments please contact the Children and Family Placement Team at C&

A Foster carers role

Foster carers provide a good standard of care for other people's children.  They also do much more:

  • Foster carers support children in their education, look after their health and support their social wellbeing
  • Foster carers have an understanding of the difficulties parents face and often work closely with children's families and others who are important to the child
  • Foster carers may help children to come to terms with difficult or traumatic experiences
  • Foster carers may manage difficult or challenging behaviour
  • Foster carers work in partnership with social workers and other professionals
  • Foster carers attend meetings and contribute to making care plans for children and young people
  • Foster carers keep records and maintain confidentiality
  • Foster carers are motivated to develop new skills and learn new things through reading, discussion and attending training