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Care options

In Edinburgh, we offer a number of care options; each tailored to fit in with the needs of the children, their families and you. Whatever your circumstances, you might be surprised how you can help and offer care to some of the children currently looking for a home in Edinburgh.


Providing temporary care for children who cannot live with their own families, sometimes for weeks, months or for the rest of their childhood.

The children

Children who need to be fostered are aged 0-21 and come into care for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes the problems at home can be sorted quickly. For others, it can take a few months or even years for parents to get back on their feet. Occasionally, the difficulties are so serious that a decision is reached that a child cannot return home. If this happens the child may sometimes remain with their foster carers (although this should not be assumed) or move to permanent foster carers or adopters.

What the children need

Some children come to foster carers at very short notice. Most will need reassurance and support because they have had to leave their own family and get used to unfamiliar people and a strange home. They usually need a lot of time, understanding and good physical care. For most, keeping in regular contact with their parents, brothers and sisters is important.

About you

If you’ve got energy, patience, commitment and a sense of humour, you could be just what we’re looking for!

Find out more about the general qualities and experience needed to be a carer.

Permanent fostering

Providing full-time care for children who cannot live with their own families for the rest of their childhood.

The children

Children who need permanent fostering or adoption will have been looked after by the Children and Families Department and can’t go back to their own homes for a range of reasons. They’re likely to have had troubled early years and they may have been neglected or abused. They may feel rejected, angry and be lacking confidence or self-esteem. These feelings can make their behaviour quite difficult.

Most of the children are of primary school age or younger and some will need extra support with their education. There are single children and groups of brothers and sisters.

What the children need

The children need stability and security for the rest of their childhood. And they need a family who they can turn to in their adult lives. They also need a family who appreciate that their birth parents may still be important to them and that some contact, direct or indirect, may be needed.

About you

In addition to the general qualities and experience needed for carers, as a permanent foster carer or adopter you must be able to make a commitment to a child for the rest of their childhood and beyond.

What is the difference between permanent foster care and adoption?

Both are a lifelong commitment, providing a permanent family for a child or children in care who cannot, for whatever reason, return home. However, when you permanently care for a child, you share legal rights and responsibilities for the child with the City of Edinburgh Council. Adoption means providing a child with a family for life, secured by an adoption order through the courts.

Specialist foster care

Looking after children with a higher level of need on a full or part-time basis.

The children

Children who need specialist foster care are usually aged seven years or older. They have experienced varied degrees of neglect, abuse and disruption. Some of the children may have lived in residential care. They can present a higher level of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, but, with the right family, the children can grow, develop and thrive. For older children this can mean a better start in adult life.

What the children need

These children need carers who can manage challenging behaviour and who can provide a safe home environment with security, clear boundaries, advice and guidance.

About you

In addition to the general qualities and experience needed for carers, as a specialist foster carer you must have:

  • the emotional strength, resilience and enthusiasm to help young people
  • an adult at home or available at all times to support the child
  • a spare bedroom for the young person in your home
  • a commitment to continue with your professional development
  • energy, patience, commitment and a sense of humour!

Foster care for children with disabilities

Caring for a child with additional needs, either full-time or part-time, for at least two years.

The children

The children are usually aged between two and sixteen and are affected by a wide range of disabilities. Some have difficulty with communication and can show some challenging behaviour. Others may have a physical or learning disability, hearing or visual impairments. Most children live with their families.

What the children need

Caring for a child with disabilities can put extra pressure on families. Regular planned breaks provided by trusted carers can make all the difference, allowing everyone to ‘recharge their batteries’. This is usually one weekend a month. The children need activities that help them build up their self esteem and give them fun and stimulation. Some children will depend on carers for their physical care. They all need a high level of supervision and care which enables them to reach their full potential.

Some children have very complex medical needs or behavioural difficulties and their families require substantial support. Other children are unable to live at home and need full time care. A few of the children may have experienced abuse or neglect. These children need carers who can understand their individual needs and offer them commitment, consistency and patience. They need a carer who can meet the special challenges that caring for a child with disabilities brings.

About you

In addition to the general qualities and experience needed for carers, you must have an understanding of disability. Carers are given regular support and training in relation to the specific needs of children placed with them.

We particularly welcome carers who live in bungalows or other accommodation suitable for wheelchair access.

Pen portrait

Pen portraits are profiles of children who need foster care. They are created to give potential foster carers some background about the child they may foster. Find out more about one of our special children with disabilities.

Short breaks care

Looking after a child or children for planned overnight care in your own home.

The children

The children are primary school aged or younger. Short breaks care supports parents or grandparents to continue to care for children by giving them some time and space for themselves.

What the children need

The children need carer families who can care for them for short periods of time. This can allow them to have a break from their parents who may be struggling personal issues or health worries.

About you

In addition to the general qualities and experience needed for carers, you need to be available for several periods of planned respite each month and consider some school holiday support.

Short breaks care is an invaluable service. Many of the families who receive short breaks care would struggle to cope without it. Greta’s mother wrote to tell us how much short breaks have meant to their family.

Private fostering

Understandably, people confuse the difference between private foster carers and local authority foster carers. However, private fostering is quite different from local authority fostering.

The term is used when a parent or person holding parental rights and responsibilities places a child under school leaving age, for 28 days or more, in the care of someone else who is not a close relative or an officially approved foster carer. There is a duty on the parent and the carer under the Foster Children (Scotland Act) 1984 to notify the local authority of the arrangement. While fostering panels do not approve private foster carers, the Council still has a duty to secure the well-being of every private foster child. They must carry out necessary checks and take into account the wishes and feelings of the child about the placement.

If you think private fostering may apply to you or someone you know, contact Social Care Direct on 0131 200 2327. A qualified social worker will give you further advice.