I am interested in becoming a carer or knowing more about foster care. What do I do?
Get in touch with our Carer Support Team on 1300 782 975 or Email us. They will answer any questions you have and talk to you about your situation.
If you decide to take the next step, they will refer you to a foster care agency in your area. A representative from that agency will then contact you to start the application process.
What do you look for in foster carers and what kind of screening is involved?
The most important quality we look for in foster carers is an ability to share your life with children. We need people who have available time, space in their homes, and the capacity to parent children who have had difficult starts to life.
Careful screening takes place to ensure that foster carers are safe people and have the capacity to stay the course for a child in their care. Potential carers must provide references, medical and police checks, and be interviewed several times during the assessment process.
Your home will also need to pass certain safety standards, but you will be given the opportunity to make your home child-safe during the application process.
Can same-sex couples and single people be foster carers? Does there need to be a stay-at-home parent? What if you’ve never had children of your own?
Carers are everyday people from all walks of life – including single people and same-sex couples. For example, a single professional who has their weekends free for respite care once a month, empty-nesters who are available for emergency care, or perhaps a couple who are able to welcome siblings into their home long term.
You do not need to have had your own children. Experience with children is helpful but it’s not essential.
How long does it take to become a carer?
The time varies depending on your circumstances, but generally, you can expect it to take some months.
To become a foster carer, do you have to be prepared to look after a child indefinitely?
Actually no. When you apply to become a carer you will be asked to think about how long you are prepared to care for a child.
For example, emergency and short-term carers look after children for shorter periods of time. This can mean anywhere from a few days, weeks or months for an emergency carer, to up to one or two years for a short-term carer.
Respite carers offer occasional care – perhaps for a night once a week or a weekend a month – to give a child’s regular carers a break.
For children who cannot return to live at home, an alternative permanent arrangement will be found for them, with a long-term carer, a guardian or adoptive parent.
If a child needs foster care they’ve usually experienced some kind of trauma – what kind of support or training is offered to carers to help them deal with that?
All foster carers have a case manager available to them to provide advice and practical support. For children and carers who need additional support, your case manager can refer you to professionals such as psychologists, pediatricians and speech pathologists.
Training in topics such as therapeutic parenting, understanding trauma, and managing challenging situations is provided by your foster care agency, and by My Forever Family NSW. My Forever Family NSW training is also available to guardians and parents who have adopted a child from out-of-home care.
My Forever Family NSW offers phone and online support to all foster carers, guardians and adoptive parents in NSW. We also recommend that you connect with your local community of carers who are a wealth of information and provide practical advice and insights.
Do foster parents have a say in which children they look after?
Yes. Once you are approved as a carer, your agency will know the details of who you are able to care for.
For example, you may have decided you could care for two primary school-aged children long-term. The agency will approach you when there are children that need a home, provide you with some information (such as 'Billy wants to stay in his regular Saturday football team which is a half hour from your house, and Jane has to be taken to speech therapy every week'), and you are able to say yes or no.
Do children need to have their own bedrooms?
In many situations yes, however, not always depending on the ages of children. For example, a baby may not need a separate room.
Do you need to have a relationship with the child’s birth family?
Carers need to understand children in foster care have family already. While they are unable to live with them, this may only be temporary. Even when a child cannot return home, they need to be supported to maintain relationships with their family. Children need carers who can can maintain a positive attitude towards their birth family and help them to stay in regular contact.
It’s really about providing an extended community to children. Again, the situations vary depending on the type of care.
Are foster carers allowed to cuddle the children in their care?
Children in foster care need care and respectful affection, just like any child.
The foster agency will talk with you about the children and what sort of physical affection and touch is appropriate for them.
It’s also important to listen to a child’s wishes. Some kids may not welcome physical touch, particularly at first, and for some, it may just not be appropriate.
What happens when a child is happy with a foster family, and then they have to go back to their birth family?
Usually, if a child is going back to live with their family, you would have been told that this is an option when the child came into your care. In the new system, a child or young person will have a case plan with a goal for permanency within two years.
The case plans will be focused on working with families to keep children at home, or find a stable and secure option through guardianship or open adoption.
How easy is it to adopt a child as a foster parent? Do some people foster as a path to adoption?
In NSW there is recognition that children need permanency. So when a child is unable to live with their family of origin, adoption is possible. It isn’t an ‘easy’ process, but it is becoming a more accepted option for children who can’t return home.
What does the Carer Support Team do?
The Carer Support Team exists to help carers provide children and young people with the stability, care and nurture they need to thrive.
We do this by focussing on three key areas: recruiting new carers, supporting both new and experienced carers, and advocating within the sector to address issues that are causing problems for carers.
You may have seen our social media and advertising campaigns encouraging more people to consider becoming carers. When an interested person calls or emails us, or talks to us at an event, we take the time to answer their questions, find out more about them and refer them to a foster care agency in their area.
It won’t be a surprise to hear that the better-supported carers are, the better the outcomes are for the kids they care for. Our Carer Support Team makes a real difference supporting carers who support vulnerable children by providing guidance and listening ears.
A key part of our work is making sure our carers not only feel supported but are given useful information and advice about their rights and responsibilities.
Sometimes when a situation becomes more complicated than usual, we support carers more directly. Below you can read some glowing feedback from a carer who recently received individual support from one of our team members.
We also work alongside various partners in the sector, including FaCS, foster care agencies and the Office of the Children’s Guardian.
MFF collects data* about the types of problems and questions that we help carers with so that we can identify common issues and advocate with our sector partners to address these issues.
We want to retain the wonderful carers that we have – those who have already done the hard yards and have so much more to offer kids. This is where our recruitment, support and advocacy come full circle. The better we can support and advocate for carers, the more likely they are to continue in their fantastic roles and inspire others around them to step up and become carers.
*(Data is de-identified in accordance with our privacy policies)
What does My Forever Family do?
My Forever Family supports all people interested in or currently providing foster care, kinship care, guardianship or open adoption. We engage new carers and provide training, professional support, peer support and advocacy services. My Forever Family can help you with matters that relate to children in your care, casework support, family contact for children, allegations and reportable conduct.
Do you have a training session in my area?
We endeavor to make training available to carers, guardians and adoptive parents all across NSW, including in remote and regional areas.
If you cannot find a session near you on our training calendar, please Email us with details of what training you are interested in, what area you are from and what your best contact details are.
Why do I just see a suburb, but no exact address for training location?
Once you register for training or for an event, MFF will let you know the address of the venue. There are two main reasons for this:
- MFF needs to know how many people are going to attend a particular training so that we have enough room, training resources, catering and childcare.
- MFF wants to provide a safe environment for carers and trainers, so for security reasons we provide details once a carer has registered.
If you need to know more about the location in order to decide if you will register, you can contact our carer support team on 1300 782 975 or Email us.
Do you have childcare available at training sessions?
Some of our sessions have childcare available and some do not. Please contact us about the session you are interested in to enquire about childcare facilities.
I’d like to be involved in media opportunities
We’re always looking for carers to share their experiences so that we can inspire others to do the same. Please contact Evelyn Santoro for more information on media opportunities.
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