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How to Become a Foster Carer in Australia

What is Foster Care

Although the ideal has always been for children and young people to remain with their biological parents, circumstances sometimes dictate otherwise. Foster parents step into the breach when biological parents, for a variety of reasons, are unable or unwilling to provide the type of safe and nurturing environment necessary for their children to thrive.

In some cases such as the illness of a parent, foster care may only be required for a short period of time. In other cases where drug or alcohol addiction, physical abuse, mental health issues or domestic violence may precipitate the need to remove children from their home, medium or longer periods of foster care will be needed.

Foster carers will be chosen according to their ability and willingness to accommodate the unique needs of each individual child or, where necessary, to provide care for two or more siblings.

Types of Foster Care

There are many ways for caring persons to contribute to the safety and well-being of children in crises.

On joining an agency it will be ascertained exactly how much time a person has to devote to this very rewarding cause. Some may be in a position to commit to a limited number of hours or weekends only, while others may have the means to devote longer periods or to offer a permanent home to a child.

Working as a foster carer on a short-term basis generally involves emergency situations where a child’s safety requires immediate removal from their home environment.

The role of a foster carer would then be to offer a place of safety until the home situation has been satisfactorily resolved, or a more permanent foster placement becomes available. This could be within a few hours or a number of weeks. Working as a foster carer can also simply involve giving long-term foster carers some time off for a much-needed break. This is known as respite care and can last for a weekend or a few weeks.

Lengthier periods of working as a foster carer will often mean caring for children while their own parents receive the counselling and assistance needed to restore the safe and stable conditions demanded for a child’s continued wellbeing.

Where this is not an option, a child may be placed up for adoption, or a more permanent foster carer will need to be found. The interim foster care necessary under these circumstances may involve a period of up to 12 months.

The role of a foster carer where long-term placements are necessary can include court-ordered guardianship, an open adoption or cases where a child cannot be returned to their home, but prefer not to be adopted. In these cases, foster care will be required for a period stretching from 6 months to the time a child reaches the age of 18.

Although these children are then entrusted to the long-term or permanent care of foster carers, they maintain contact with their biological families. This helps children to understand why they were placed into care, as well as helping them to identify with their cultural backgrounds.

Who is Eligible and How to Become a Foster Carer

Single individuals, married couples, same-sex couples and those in a de-facto relationship are all eligible to become a foster carer provided they are in good health and have no criminal record. Candidates will preferably be over the age of 25 and be citizens or permanent residents of Australia.

Successful candidates will receive excellent training in dealing with traumatised children and will continue to have ongoing assistance from a team of professionals. Foster carer support groups also offer invaluable support. Financial support will also be provided to cover the day-to-day expenses incurred in caring for the child.

Enquiries at any reputable agency on becoming a foster carer will provide in-depth information covering all aspects of foster care. The rewards will far outnumber the challenges involved.

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