Foster carers provide day-to-day care, in their own homes, for children and young people who aren’t able to live with their own families for a variety of reasons, often including abuse and neglect.Day-to-day care refers to the normal daily activities that ensure that children have adequate food, shelter and clothing.
It also involves making sure that children and young people attend school and receive routine medical attention when required. Sometimes, it may mean carrying out these activities with the child’s parents, for example, taking a child to a special doctor’s appointment, depending on what’s in the child’s best interest.
Foster carers work closely with a variety of people in providing care for children and young people, including the Department of Communities Child Safety Services, the children’s family members, foster care agencies, schools, therapists and doctors.
Anyone who is over the age of eighteen years, who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident and in good health can apply to become a foster carer.You can be: single, married or in a de facto or same-sex relationship
Foster carers are approved by the Department of Communities Child Safety Services. Training and an assessment which demonstrates an applicant’s capacity to foster are required in order to be approved as a foster carer.
At Mercy Family Services, we work closely with the Department of Communities Child Safety Services to train potential foster carers so that they can be approved as carers and have children placed in their care. After foster carers are approved, we continue to work with them to ensure they are supported in caring for vulnerable children and young people.
If you would like to find out more about becoming a foster carer, contact us today.
The assessment process starts with criminal history, child protection, traffic and domestic and family violence checks.
The physical safety of your home will also be assessed to identify any safety issues as early as possible so that these may be addressed.
All foster carers and every adult household member must have a valid Blue Card, which is a check on the applicant’s suitability to work with children.
Not necessarily. It would depend on the nature of the conviction and the circumstances around it, such as when it occurred.
It’s important that any information about criminal history is shared with your foster care worker so that it can be considered at an early stage. This information will be kept confidential but may need to be documented in your assessment report.
We encourage prospective carers to tell us about criminal convictions as these may not be a barrier to becoming a carer.
We would much rather explore this with you than lose the opportunity for you to become a foster carer.
For fostering to be successful for both the children placed with foster carers and the carers themselves, it’s important that all members of a household are supportive of fostering.
Two people living in a spousal relationship must be approved as foster carers together.
Both applicants must also take part in training and assessment and undergo the required checks.
See also What checks are required in becoming a foster carer? above.
Children and young people in foster care are just like other children and young people in the community, except that they will most likely have experienced abuse and neglect and separation from their families. These experiences frequently leave children confused and distressed.
Children and young people in foster care need carers who are understanding and supportive of them. They need a great deal of patience and acceptance from their carers and they need carers who can accept support themselves in order to meet the children’s needs.
During the preparation and assessment process, we help you identify the types of children and young people you are best placed to care for. You can decide the number, gender and ages of children and/or young people you would prefer to care for. You will then be approached to care for children and young people with these preferences in mind.
How often you are approached to care for children and young people will depend on the needs of the children and young people who need foster placements. Generally, there’s a greater need for foster carers who are able to care for older children and/or sibling groups.
You can also indicate the type of foster care you would like to provide, be it respite, emergency, short-term or long-term. When children are placed in an emergency, we don’t immediately know how long they will need to stay with foster carers.
While there is no absolute answer to this question and we recognise the need for our carers to work outside the home, it’s important to consider the needs of children and young people in foster care. Children and young people in foster care have often experienced poor and broken attachments and may not trust adults because of these experiences. Therefore, it’s important that they have the opportunity to experience their carers as safe adults who respond to their need for a great deal of their carers’ time and attention.
Many carers do work and this is matched with the needs of the child or young person to be placed with them. For example, it would not be typical to place a baby or young child with carers who work full time, as it’s important for young children to have close and constant access to their carers for optimal physical, emotional and social development.
This is considered on an individual basis, as it will depend on the needs of the child or young person placed with a foster carer, as well as the views of the carer’s child.
While children and young people sharing bedrooms may not be problematic, it is important to consider your ability to ensure that all household members, including a placed child or young person, are given adequate physical and emotional space within your home for privacy and private time.
Child protection legislation dictates that no form of physical punishment or any punishment that humiliates, frightens or threatens a child or young person or is likely to cause emotional harm is acceptable.
Smacking may also have a very different meaning for a child or young person who has experienced abuse and may cause further trauma.
Foster carers are given training on the impact of abuse and harm, as well as alternative ways of supporting children with challenging behaviour, so that they can feel confident about this requirement of fostering.
At Mercy Family Services, we recognise that fostering is both highly rewarding and demanding. We aim to provide a high level of support to help carers in this invaluable role.
As a carer with Mercy Family Services, you’ll be supported by skilled and experienced staff who appreciate the challenges and rewards of fostering.
Mercy Family Services offers you:
Foster carers are also given a financial allowance which is a contribution towards the cost of caring for children and young people. The allowance is to cover the daily living costs of the child or young person, such as food, clothes, travel, pocket money, recreational activities, household costs and gifts such as birthdays and Christmas.
Extra contributions may be sought on a case-by-case basis, but require approval from the Department of Communities Child Safety Services.
Foster carers are approved by the Department of Communities Child Safety Services, whether they are affiliated with a foster care agency or not.
Agencies such as Mercy Family Services work in partnership with the department to provide safe and secure placements for children and young people.
While the department focuses on working with the child and their family, the agency supports the carer in meeting the child or young person’s needs and working well within the foster care system.
When a carer is affiliated with an agency such as Mercy Family Services, this ensures the carer household has a source of support and guidance independent of the department.
You can make an application to become a carer only after you have completed pre-service training for foster carers.
Once you complete an application form, your assessment should be completed within three months, however, statutory checks and Blue Cards must be completed before you can be approved as a foster carer.
Once you are approved as a foster carer, you can begin caring for children and young people in care immediately.
Care to join us as a foster carer? We'd love to hear from you. Call us on 1300TOFOSTER
(1300 863 678), or visit our dedicated foster and kinship care site at www.caretofoster.com.au to read our carer stories or make an online enquiry!