Fostering and Guardianship: What Is the Difference for Carers?

Both fostering and guardianship are ways of providing care for a child in need of support, but both are very different from each other. They come with unique rights and responsibilities for the carers involved.

What is Fostering?

One of the things that make foster care different from guardianship is that fostering is meant to be a temporary solution to a child’s care needs. Though the duration of placements can vary, and can potentially last the duration of childhood, the ultimate objective is to reunite the child with their birth family whenever it is feasible.

Another of the key differences is that foster carers do not possess the same legal rights as guardians. Instead, they serve as compassionate, but temporary caretakers. Fostering agencies such as can help interested carers find out more about fostering, and the steps you need to take to become a foster carer and put you in touch with your local authority.

Foster carers need to get permission from other parties involved before they can decide on things like a child’s healthcare, schooling, or other important aspects of a child’s life like religious beliefs or their name. The primary responsibility of a foster carer is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child while working towards reunification with their birth family.

What Is Guardianship?

If you become a child’s legal guardian, you bear the responsibility of providing daily care, providing somewhere for a child to stay, and the responsibility for their overall development. However, it is important to differentiate guardianship from fostering. Guardianship is a more enduring arrangement that gives carers a higher level of legal responsibilities and rights than foster carers. 

As a guardian of a child, you possess the authority to make decisions for a child concerning healthcare, schooling, spiritual growth, and other life matters. With court permission, guardians can relocate with the child and give consent for documentation such as passports or provisional driving licenses.

Which Is the Best for You and the Child?

In circumstances involving severe or terminal sickness in a parent, imprisonment, or a sudden bereavement, children often need immediate care and accommodation. Close family members or friends of the child’s biological parents may step forward to provide the child with the care and support they need when they suddenly have no one to rely upon and nowhere else to go.

Foster carers can also apply for guardianship, or even adoption, if it is decided that a child can’t return to their biological parents. Foster care can be an initial step towards positively transforming a child’s life, offering various levels of care to meet their needs.

For those who cannot assume guardianship or offer longer-term care, options like short-term and emergency care may be more suitable for them. All these forms of fostering provide a nurturing home for children between placements, and all are much needed for children across the United Kingdom.

Proving care and a safe and secure home for a child gives them the ultimate gift. Many children’s lives have been disrupted and by giving them a stable environment, you can have a massive positive impact on the rest of their life.