Foster carers come from all walks of life. All you need is a commitment to children and the willingness to give it a go!
Anyone who is over the age of 18 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
- renting, buying or owning your home
- working (full or part-time) or not working
- from any ethnic or cultural background and with a diverse range of life experience
- a parent or have a strong interest in helping children and young people.
- younger or older. Age requirements are flexible as long as your health, energy, maturity and desire to foster are up to it.
There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ carer. However, patience, energy and a sense of humour can go a long way towards helping a foster child.
You’ll also need flexibility as fostering doesn’t always go to plan. You’ll need to be a good listener and to be culturally sensitive if the child in your care is from a different background to yours.
It’s important to be a team player, knowing you will need to share in the care of a foster child with other people, often including caseworkers, teachers and medical professionals and the birth parents.
Perhaps the most essential qualities you’ll need are the skills to look after children and provide a stable home.
Also important is the ability to say goodbye when the time comes for the child to be reunited with their family.
My life is pretty busy, but I would like to help. Can I be a carer?
Yes you can. However, some types of fostering will be more demanding of your time than others. If you work full time you may want to find out about respite care for other carers on weekends, short week-day breaks or school holidays.
What about my own children?
The decision to become a foster carer will impact on everyone living in your home. Your children will have to share their parents and toys and sometimes cope with difficult behaviour on the part of the foster child.
Despite this, many children say that having foster children in their home has been a positive and life-changing experience. You should speak to your children about fostering before you apply so that it is a family decision.
Foster carers work as part of a team with the child’s caseworker and the foster care agency.
Training will equip you with the skills you’ll need to care for and nurture your foster child. Training is compulsory for all those wishing to become carers. It can be completed over a series of weeks and there is no cost to you.
The training is designed to develop your skills and understanding of children who have lived within troubled family relationships and how this affects their behaviour and their capacities.
People often worry about whether they can afford to foster. Foster carers receive a fortnightly allowance based on the age of the child.
It will help to feed, clothe, educate and meet other needs of the child in your care. A number of other payments and reimbursements are also available for certain children and situations.
Additional payments can be made if the child or young person has special needs that put extra demands and costs on the carer.
There are many foster care support groups that can help you. They provide lots of opportunities to meet other carers, share advice/tips and build important support networks with other foster carers in the area.
Your foster care agency will be able to give you more information on the groups in your area. You can also ring a government-funded, 24-hour support line (1300 130 052) for free counselling, information and referrals.