Becoming a Carer
The table below contains information on various scenarios of becoming a carer
The information outlined within this table is provided in further detail below
Types of foster care
As described in the table, there are various types of foster care that can be provided to children and young people, depending on their needs. These include:
A temporary break for full-time carers, parents and guardians from their caring duties. Respite care is usually voluntarily arranged and can be for one or two weekends a month, or a week every school holidays.
For children or young people who require an immediate placement in a safe environment. This is often due to safety concerns, and so placements may be urgent and often involve short notice to the carer.
For children who require care for less than six months. After this time it becomes more likely that they are reunited with their immediate or extended family.
Long term care:
For children and young people who may not be able to return home for an extended period and require more long term care until a more permanent placement is found, until they become independent adults or until they return home.
Permanent care is where a child or young person is placed with permanent carers who have been approved as suitable to be the child’s legal guardians, as they are unable to be cared for by their parents on a long-term basis.
Who can become a foster carer?
Foster carers come from all different walks of life, backgrounds and families. Foster carers are people who are able to provide a child or young person with a safe, secure and nurturing environment. Carers may be single, married, in a same sex relationship, working full time, part time or unemployed, with or without students/ children, house renters or owners of homes. A person’s race, gender, marital status, employment, sexuality and religion do not affect a person’s eligibility in becoming a carer.
What do foster carers do?
Foster carers provide day-to-day care for children and young people in their home. Activities can include transportation to school, after school activities, caring for children and young people when they are unwell, preparing meals, spending time with them and being supportive. Carers also provide a safe, stable and nurturing home environment and ensure that the spiritual, social, physical, cultural, emotional, and psychological needs of the child are met as best as possible.
Things to consider:
Being a foster carer is an important and rewarding role, however, it involves a level of commitment, changes in lifestyle, and challenges. Becoming a carer also involves the whole family, so it is important to consider some important question and discuss these with your family members.
Lifestyle changes to consider
Having a new member in a household involves some adjustment. This adjustment will impact you, in your new role as a carer and also your family. It is important to consider whether you and your family will be able to adjust and warmly welcome a new member into the household. Having a conversation with those who would be affected by these changes is necessary to gain their opinions and to make an informed decision together as a family.
Life style changes also include having to dedicate time to the care of a child or young person. It is important that thought is given to whether you have enough time and energy available to be able to provide the best care and which type of care is best suited to you.
Thinking about whether this is the right time to become a foster carer is also important. All children and young people require attention, support and care, and those in out-of-home care are no exception. If you have significant life stressors or if your own family situation is unsettled, think about whether this will impact your ability to appropriately care for a child or young person and provide them with the time and attention they need.
Children and young people in foster care can sometimes display difficult behaviour. This challenging behaviour often comes from experiencing trauma, being separated from their families and the feelings associated with this such as grief and loss. Because this is a common experience of children and young people in care, it is important to think about whether you would be able to cope with externalising behaviours and your level of patience and tolerance in these situations. Carers need to be able to address challenges they may face with flexibility and patience and persevere in caring for a child or young person.
Working as part of a team
Carers are one component of the care team of a child and young person in out of home care. Carers need to be able to work cooperatively and respectfully with other members of the care team, such as protection workers and the parents of the child. This also requires carers to maintain clear and open communication with community service organization staff and to be able to manage the different working relationships with workers.
Being culturally aware and sensitive
When caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children or young people, carers need to be able to promote and help facilitate them to maintain a positive connection to their culture and identity. It is highly important for carers to have the tools and resources to achieve this and also to have some understanding about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and protocols. Carers need to consider what further training or information they may need to appropriately promote and facilitate connection to culture and community.
What can carers expect?
- To be provided with information needed to provide good care for a child or young person
- Ongoing training and support from community service organisations and relevant government departments
- Reimbursement towards the day-to-day costs of care
- Being an active participant and support in a child or young person’s life
- New learning and experiences
- Challenges and rewards
- Being involved in the decision making process
- Working towards the best interest of the child or young person
- To promote children and young people to maintain their cultural identity and their connection to family and community
State and Territory: Who to contact and the process of becoming a carer ?
The first step in the process of becoming a carer is to have a good understanding of what it means to be a carer, an understanding of who needs care and also of the challenges and rewards of being a carer.
Talking to your family and friends is also an important part of the process of becoming a carer. Your new role as a carer can impact those around you and your family. Family and friends are an important source of support when you are a carer, thereby it is important for them to know and understand the process you will be undergoing.
The process of becoming a carer and who to contact varies slightly from each state and territory in Australia. It also varies if you are applying to become a carer through a government department or a community service organization.
Typically, the application process contains the following components:
- Attending an initial information session
- Submitting an expression of interest
- Police Check
- Working with Children’s Check/ Blue Card
- Home Visits
- Medical Checks
- Referee Checks
- Previous foster care check
- Training and Assessment
- Panel review of application
The process of becoming a carer can take about three to six months. This process is to ensure the appropriateness of carers, so they will be able to provide safe and supportive environments for children and young people. Although this may feel like a lengthy process, it also aims to equip you with the necessary information and training to prepare you for your new role.