Some children and young people cannot live in their homes because their families are struggling with managing varying life issues. Sometimes the children are at risk of harm because of family violence, or their parents are struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, illness or financial concerns. Sometimes families just need time to sort through issues. Foster care provides care for children and young people aged 0–17 years of age when their families are struggling to manage their care and wellbeing.
The overall aim of foster care is that the children will return home to their families when their parents are ready to care for them again. While the children and young people are in foster care, they will feel supported, nurtured and connected and have opportunities for continued growth and development.
CAFS urgently needs more foster carers to help care for children and young people. If you are interested in promoting the care and wellbeing of children and young people in your local community, think about becoming a foster care family. A foster carer’s role is a challenging but rewarding one. The rewards come from knowing you have helped make a difference for a child or young person. Foster carers come from all walks of life. We need diverse carers to meet the diverse needs of children and young people.
If you have thought about becoming a foster carer, take the next step and contact Di Walker or Glenn Licheni from the carer recruitment, engagement and support team on 5337 3333 for further information.
To become a foster carer, you will need to participate in the training package, Shared Stories, Shared Lives. A thorough assessment and background checks will also need to be completed prior to your becoming an approved foster carer.
The Foster Care Program has two areas of focus:
- The Foster Care ‘Carer Support Team’, including Circle (Therapeutic) program
- The Foster Care ‘Client Support Team’
The Foster Care ‘Carer Support’ Team is inclusive of recruitment, training and assessment of new foster carers linked with CAFS, the Circle program and intake. The carer support team promotes inclusivity, support, learning and skills building of foster carers. The carer support team makes sure all CAFS Foster Carers have opportunities for further learning and collective activities and has a focus on building capacity, extending networks and hearing foster carer’s voice. The carer support team aims to ensure foster carers feel valued and supported; CAFS values and appreciates the important work foster carers do in caring for vulnerable children and young people in our community.
This team includes the work undertaken by the ‘Circle’ program, which provides Therapeutic Foster Care. The Circle program is a collaboration between CAFS and Take Two (Berry Street), and provides specifically trained carers additional supports and services, to provide therapeutic care to children in their care.
The Foster Care ‘Client support’ team has a focus on the needs of the children placed in Foster Care – whether that be in supporting them to return home to the parents, or in finding long term and permanent placement if they are unable to return home. The client support team has their eye firmly on the needs and best interests of the child.
While the two teams work closely and in fact ‘hand in hand’ – often the needs of the client and the carer are one and the same – the separation recognises the specific needs of both elements of the relationship and ensures attention is paid to both needs.
Types of Foster Care
Emergency care is providing a child or young person with somewhere to live for approximately one to five nights. Vulnerable children and young people are removed from their family home due to a range of issues and situations. They require a safe place to stay until their family issues have been sorted out.
Respite care is caring for a child or young person on a short-term basis, such as the occasional weekend or during school holidays. Respite carers support full-time carers in the care of a child by allowing them to have a short break when needed. Sometimes the full-time carers and the respite carers are matched and, together, they share the care of the child or young person, allowing for a consistent approach to the care of the child.
Short-term carers provide a child or young person with a stable place to live for anywhere from three weeks to two years. The aim of a short-term placement is that the child or young person will return home when their family issues have been sorted out. During this time the carer ensures the child is well supported, nurtured and cared for.
Similar to short-term care, the foster carer ensures the child’s or young person’s needs are met while they are in their care. Long-term care can be anywhere from six months to five years, or until the young person turns 18. Children in long-term care form strong bonds with their carers and can maintain connections into adulthood.
How to Become a Carer
- The first step is a simple phone call to the foster care recruitment team. Some initial information is taken and an information pack will be mailed out to you.
- Next, an information exchange will be organised. You will find out about CAFS, and what processes need to be undertaken to become a carer, and will be provided with literature that will allow you to make an informed decision about becoming a foster carer. You can ask any questions you want answered.
- An application form needs to be completed, as well as background checks including a criminal background check. CAFS uses Fit to Work processing and this can be done at the agency. There is no cost associated with the process. A current Working with Children Card, or an application for one, will also be required. All persons aged 18 and over intending to work with children are required to have these checks in place.
- Shared Stories, Shared Lives training needs to be completed prior to becoming an approved foster carer. This training is held regularly at CAFS throughout the year and usually takes place over three consecutive Saturdays.
- A four-part assessment will be undertaken. The assessment is called Step by Step and is inclusive of all members of a prospective carer’s household. Your motivation to become a carer, ability to work as a team and the provision of an emotionally and physically safe home environment are all key factors that will determine your suitability to become an approved foster carer.
- A final report on your suitability to be a foster carer is presented to a panel comprising DHHS and CAFS staff and a community representative. After considering the report, the panel will make the decision whether to approve your application to become a foster carer.
Foster carers come from all walks of life and all types of families. What matters is that you want to make a difference to the lives of children and young people.
Support for Carers
- Financial reimbursement for each child in care to assist in meeting the child’s general everyday needs.
- Case management support.
- After-hours emergency service support.
- Regular carer newsletter.
- Regular opportunities for carer networking.
- Opportunities for further training that will assist in developing skills and knowledge required to be a foster carer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I be a foster carer just for weekends?
Yes. Respite care is caring for a child or young person on a short-term basis, such as the occasional weekend or during school holidays. Respite carers support full-time carers of a child by allowing them to have a short break when needed. Sometimes the full-time carers and the respite carers are matched and, together, they share the care of the child or young person, allowing for a consistent approach to the care of the child.
I’m single; can I be a foster carer?
Yes. Foster carers can be younger or older, married, in a partnership, or single. The requirements are that you need to be over the age of 21, have a stable home environment, and enjoy the company of children and young people. You need to meet the required competencies for the Shared Stories, Shared Lives training and Step by Step assessment. (Refer to How to become a foster carer.) Carers come from all walks of life and need to be diverse to meet the diverse needs of children in care.
How long will I care for a child?
Children and young people come into care for various reasons and for various periods of time. Short-term care can be from three weeks to 18 months. A child will remain in care until a decision has been made by the courts as to whether they will return home or remain in care for a longer period of time.
Does the child need to change schools?
It is expected that the child will remain in their school and linked to their wider community. This assists the child or young person to maintain their education, their connections, their friendship circles, and their participation in team sports. However, if a child has come from another region, or the carer lives out of town, consideration is given to transport requirements. All decisions made for the child occur within the care team.
What is a care team?
The care team consists of DHHS staff, CAFS staff, the foster carers and biological family members. Decision-making regarding the best interests of the child is undertaken by the care team. All team members are consulted regarding decision-making processes and meet on a regular basis to discuss and plan for the child’s emotional and physical development and wellbeing.
Does the child see their parents or other family members while they are in care?
A child is placed in foster care under a court order. With the court order comes provisions for the family and the child to see each other. These visits are called access visits and usually occur at CAFS or DHHS offices and are supervised by staff. Carers are required to transport the child to and from access visits. The number of access visits per week is set down by the court.
Will I get to meet the child’s parent(s)?
You can have opportunities to meet the child’s parent(s). Sometimes this may occur at an access visit, where you can be introduced to the parent(s) as the child’s carer. You may also meet the parent(s) at a care team meeting in a formal setting.