Emergency fostering is when children or young people need somewhere safe to stay immediately for a few nights.  Typically, you might get a call from your social worker asking if you can take a child, later that day, whose parents have been admitted to hospital or taken into police custody, or the child has just been removed from their home because of serious abuse or neglect.

Some carers specialise in taking emergency placements, but others may agree to take one because they recognise the importance of a safe, caring environment for a distressed and frightened child.  You will need to be very flexible and understanding when a child comes to your home in these situations. You will probably know very little about he or she, and they will know nothing about you, so you cannot expect the child to instantly adapt to your family life.  You will need to be adaptable and flexible to their needs.

Respite care is when disabled children or those with special needs or behavioural problems have a short stay with another family, while their own family or usual foster carers have a short break for themselves, or time to spend with their other children.  This type of foster care may have also been known as ‘short break care’, ‘family link’ or ‘shared care’.

It is important that the child coming to stay with you, either for a planned break or respite care, feels that they are not being ‘sent away’, and people offering this sort of care usually try to ensure that the child gets some new experiences and happy memories from the visit.  It is good to create a sense of occasion out of the child’s visit and, where possible, plan some activities and new experiences (however small) that they might not have at home so the child feels welcomed in your family, and looks forward to visiting you.