Fostering for adoption (Early Permanence)

Could you foster a baby or child with the possibility of adoption?


Fostering for adoption is also called Early Permanence. It is used for babies and children who are in local council care where the plan is likely to be adoption, but who still have a chance of being reunited with their birth family.

Here, Helen at Adopt South West gives a short overview about fostering for adoption (Early Permanence):

Fostering for adoption - and overview from Helen at Adopt South West

Fostering for adoption protects children from experiencing multiple moves within the care system. It provides children with good quality, uninterrupted and consistent care while detailed assessments of their birth family are completed and decisions are made about the plan for the child.

Children are placed with approved adopters who have been assessed and approved as temporary foster carers for the child. These carers will provide the day-to-day care for the child and will continue to work with the child’s social worker to ensure that the child has all of their needs met.

Watch Tom and Alison’s story about fostering for adoption

Fostering for adoption

Contact with the birth family

Many children continue to have supervised contact with their birth family. We recommend a maximum of three supervised contacts per week for children in a foster to adopt placement. However, sometimes the Court may order additional contacts.

As fostering for adoption carers your confidentiality is protected, so the birth family will not know your private details.


A social worker will provide you with advice and support.

A fostering handbook will be provided along with details regarding fostering requirements and information about any available support groups and training courses.

They will continue to offer support up until the point of an adoption matching panel or if the child leaves the foster to adopt placement.


You will receive a weekly fostering allowance for the child.

Being realistic about what could happen

It is highly likely that you would go on to adopt the child, but you would have to deal with the uncertainty before the court reaches a final decision.

You would need to think about the possibility of the child returning to their birth family and would need to work together with the local council to manage this in the most sensitive way for the child.

If you are interested in fostering for adoption and would like to know more, please contact us.


The details about adopting through Fostering for adoption/Early Permanence

What is adopting through Early Permanence?

Early Permanence is usually, but not exclusively, used for babies and young children coming into care, they have a high risk of being unable to return safely to the care of their birth families. They are likely to need adoption but still have a chance of being reunited with their birth families. If the court decides a child’s future is best protected by adoption, the child already has a secure attachment to their carers who are now able to adopt the child.

Early Permanence are placements for a child with approved adopters which are made where there is a possibility of adoption but no authority of the court or consent for the child to be adopted. We, at Adopt South West, make Early Permanence placements using a legal mechanism which enables adopters to be temporarily approved as foster carers for a child.

While Early Permanence is often associated with babies, it is also be used for older children. This planning for children aims to provide the child with a temporary foster placement but with the potential for this to become their permanent home if they need to be adopted. (Fostering for Adoption: A child-centred solution. A guide for prospective FfA carers).

We work in partnership with local councils within the region to place children with prospective adopters who are temporarily approved as foster carers for that child, where the need is identified. These placements are valuable for children, where the plan for adoption is a strong possibility, but the local councils have not yet ruled out the likelihood of the child being reunified with birth family and are used prior to the Court making a final decision about the child’s future. The child’s temporary foster placement with their Early Permanence carer(s) can later become one of adoption, provided the relevant court orders are obtained.  This means that children can be placed with their future adoptive family at the earliest possible stage, reducing the delay for the child and the potential for them to have to make a further move.

As there will be on-going visits from social workers, and birth family meetings, the geographical location of the placement will need to be taken into consideration and balanced against the impact of the child travelling long distances to contact  The child’s needs will be central to decision making around placement location.

We also provide early permanence placements to older children, some of the older children will have been in the care of local councils for some time and where a return home to family has proved unsuccessful.  We are also interested in placing children straight from birth family members into Early Permanence placements with additional support available to Early Permanence carers.

We believe that Early Permanence provides the best possible futures for children, we therefore give all our prospective adopters the chance to explore this option through training. The majority of adopters are approved as Early Permanence carers, so that our children experience fewer moves in their lives and can be placed with a family as early as possible; however, it is a personal choice, and you will be given the option to ‘opt out’ of becoming an Early Permanence carer to follow a more traditional adoption journey.

What are the advantages for the child and for me?

Research shows that the longer the delay and the greater the number of foster placements, the greater the potential for damage to children’s mental health and development. Early Permanence placements are intended to lay the foundations for improved health and emotional wellbeing throughout the child’s life, by giving more stability during the vital early years of development. Early Permanence placements are already showing positive results in limiting delay and securing better outcomes for children where adoption is the likely path to permanence.

Early permanence shifts the stress and uncertainty about future placements from the child to the adults in the system and provides protection for the child against the impact of delay. Early permanence for babies and young children lays the foundations for greatly improved health and emotional wellbeing throughout the child’s life by giving more stability during the vital early years of development.

The child is placed with their potential adopter(s) as early as possible, providing stability and consistency of care at an early stage, which enhances the likelihood of them developing a secure attachment.

For babies and young children, it allows the early months of the child’s life to be as settled and secure as possible at a time in their development that this is vital. The potential disruption and trauma to the child, caused by having to separate from their foster carer(s) to whom they have become attached, is reduced.

Benefits for the child:

  • it can speed up the planning for vulnerable babies and young children
  • the child acquires a ‘secure base’ in attachment terms; it avoids the trauma and damage caused by moves in care if terminating temporary foster care relationships which children will have experienced as their primary parenting relationship
  • the child develops a sense of belonging and a robust, positive identity
  • they have a sense of security; It allows the early months and years of the child’s life to be what most children need and expect
  • they develop close trusted familial relationships; the bonding period with their adoptive parents can begin sooner, giving both child and carers the opportunity of forming a close and secure attachment
  • their future is predicted and therefore it avoids the chance of the child getting older in care and never having the opportunity to be adopted

Benefits for me:

  • the bonding period with their adoptive parents can begin sooner giving both child and carers the opportunity of forming a close and secure attachment
  • for young children, the carer(s) will be part of the child’s early life experiences and will have a deeper understanding of their life story
  • adoptive parents will have had the opportunity to get to know their child’s birth parents at contact sessions and will be in a good position to understand their background and struggles. This will be helpful for them and their adopted child in the future when adopters are talking to their child about the reasons their birth family were unable to care for them

What are the challenges for me?

Early Permanence adopters are expected to work with the local council’s Fostering Service for the child whilst court proceedings are ongoing. During the fostering period, it is likely that the child will have regular supervised contact with their birth family.

Early permanence carers need to be extremely child-centred and have the emotional resilience to accept that one outcome of the court process may be a decision that the child in their care should return home to their birth parents or birth family.

In Early Permanence placements, the emotional uncertainty associated with possible and actual placement moves is held by the adults rather than experienced by the child in placement moves. Early Permanence carers need accept that these challenges are worth taking on; you will be supported throughout the process.

  • the child can be placed before all the assessments of the parent(s) have been fully completed and before therefore the final care plan is known. At this point the Local Authority cannot predict the final decision of the Court.
  • the court process is typically 26 weeks (around six months) and can go on for longer if there are delays with assessments.
  • the child may be placed before all the possibilities for the child to be cared for within the birth family and connected network, have been fully ruled out
  • the information available about the child at the point of them being placed with you is likely to be limited and will not be as full as that which you would have access to traditionally at the point of matching. This means the child’s individual needs may not be fully known at the point of them being placed
  • the child is likely to continue to have on-going contact with their parent(s) and possibly with wider family members up until the final court hearing. You will be involved in supporting these meeting arrangements with the parents and possibly wider family members, possibly transporting the child to and from family time.  This might include virtual contact.  If you want to know more about contact, you can read here (include link to case studies) how some adopters have experienced this.
  • while placing a child in an Early Permanence placement is intended to avoid the disruption of the child’s attachment to their primary carer, until the Court authorises the child’s placement for adoption, the placement remains temporary.
  • Early Permanence carers have no legal rights over the child and if their care plan changes and the child needs to be moved to an alternative placement

You must also be prepared to support a child to be returned to the care of their birth family, if this is determined by the court to be in the child’s best interests.

Will I be entitled to adoption leave and pay from my employer?

Since April 2015, prospective adopters who foster their child prior to adopting them are eligible for adoption leave and pay  It is likely you will be required to leave work at short notice if you have a child placed with you through Early Permanence, and therefore you will need to have supportive employers.

As a foster carer, you will be entitled to a fostering allowance from the local council responsible for placing the child, which will end if the placement becomes one of adoption.

Could I be an Early Permanence carer?

There will be a few things you will need to think about in relation to Early Permanence.  Initially, as a foster carer, you are caring for the child under fostering regulations, as approved by the child’s Local Authority, so you will need to consider whether this is something with which you are comfortable, primarily the fact that you will not be able to regard the child as your own.  You will need to be mindful that you are not yet ‘mummy’ and/or ‘daddy’.

It is likely you will go on to adopt the child, but you will need to be able to manage the uncertainty of other outcomes.  You will need to think about the possibility of the Court not agreeing a plan for adoption and the child leaving your care.  If you already have a child, whether they are a birth or adopted child, you will need to consider the impact on them as well as yourselves if the child does not remain in your care.  Preparation and support for other children in the home is essential.

It is important for you to consider what support you might need around you and how you typically deal with stressful or painful situations and there are specific issues about preparing for the period of uncertainty in the fostering phase of Early Permanence.  You will be encouraged to discuss this with your family members and close friends.  Members of your network may have questions and views themselves, but they also need to be a reliable source of support for you.

Qualities of Early Permanence carers:

  • very adaptable – can manage the dual role as foster carers and possibly then adopters
  • child centred – willing to take on emotional pain and uncertainty so the child doesn’t have to
  • very resilient – can cope with the idea of and the actual potential loss of the child
  • able to manage (practically and emotionally) the arrangements for the child’s time with their birth family
  • able to manage the anxiety and uncertainty during proceedings
  • well supported – with a robust support network who also understand Early Permanence
  • well prepared – having received specialised preparation, assessment and support

Becoming an Early Permanence carer is not suitable for all prospective adopters. You and your support network will need to be emotionally resourceful, flexible, and able to manage uncertainties. We believe that this model is child-centred because it is the adult making an informed choice to manage this period of uncertainty whilst the child experiences good quality, uninterrupted and consistent care. Adopt South West Social Workers will support and guide you through this process. You will also be linked up with experienced Early Permanence carers for advice and support and receive supervision from a Social Worker in accordance with fostering regulations.

You can discuss all of the implications with your assessing Social Worker during your home study and there will be information available during the preparation stage as you journey towards becoming an adoptive parent.  It can be arranged for you to talk to other adopters who have provided Early Permanence placements, to give you more of an idea of how this type of placement might impact on you and your family. Adopt South West also provide a one-day training event on Early Permanence, which all prospective adopters are required to attend.


If you’d like to learn more about some of the challenges and rewards of Early Permanence in general, you can listen to the experiences of other adopters through the First4Adoption Webcasts.