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 Frequently asked foster care questions

Frequently asked questions

  1. What is fostering? 
  2. How do I become a carer? 
  3. What are the next steps?
  4. Can I bring my chilren to the information session? 
  5. How long does the assessment take? 
  6. What will the assessor ask? 
  7. What is preparation training? 
  8. Do I have to attend all the Preparation Training?
  9. My partner works away, do they have to attend all the Preparation Training? 
  10. What types of caring can I provide?
  11. Do I need to be married or have a partner? 
  12. Will I be paid to care for the child? 
  13. Am I still able to work full or part time?
  14. I have never had children of my own, does this mean I can't parent a foster child?   
  15. We are a same sex couple/single homosexual - does this matter?  
  16. How much contact will I have with the Department?
  17. Will I get assistance to help me work under the Foster Care Partnership? 
  18. How long are children in care? 
  19. Does it matter how old you are?
  20. Am I able to eventually adopt the child I care for?
  21. What is Special Guardianship? 
  22. Do I have to own my own home to be able to foster? 
  23. Can I take the child to my church/place of worship? 
  24. When are you told how long the placement will be?
  25. Will the child go to our school or stay at their local school?
  26. Can a foster child attend my child's private school? 
  27. Will I have direct contact with the child's parents? 
  28. Do I have to pay for day care when I'm at work? 
  29. Can I foster if I don't have a spare room? Can they share a room with my child? 
  30. Will I be a foster carer for the district in which I live? 
  31. Can I nominate the age of child I would prefer?     
  32. What may foster children have experienced that has led to them being in care?   
  33. What are the impacts of children experiencing trauma?   
  34. How can I help my foster child overcome the trauma they have experienced?    


 
1. What is fostering? 

Fostering is an arrangement where a family or an individual cares for other people’s children in their own home. Foster carers are volunteers who are willing and able to open their homes and include these children and young people as part of their family. The children and young people generally keep in touch with their birth parent(s), brothers, sisters and other family members. Age can range from 0-18 years. All children in foster care are in the care of the Department for Child Protection and Family Support. Foster carers are paid a subsidy to cover the living costs of the child.

2. How do I become a carer?

We will send you an information pack then you will need to attend an Information Session where more details about fostering will be provided to you. You then complete an Expression of Interest form and return it to us. An assessor will then contact you and arrange a home visit.

3. What are the next steps?

At the information session you can complete and leave an Expression of Interest form with us, or complete it later and post it. We will try to arrange a home visit within 3 weeks after we receive this form.

4. Can I bring children to the information session?

We welcome children to attend information sessions and to ask any questions they have. We don’t provide crèche on the night. Please bring something for the younger child to do quietly so they do not get bored.

5. How long does assessment take?

The assessment process usually takes 4 to 6 months to complete. The assessment involves screening checks, a series of home interviews, preparation training and an approval process.

6. What will the assessor ask?

The assessor is looking for evidence that you are able to care for children. The questions relate to your family background, parenting and other child care experience, and other skills that show that you can care for children safely. This will be fully explained on the first home visit.

7. What is Preparation Training?

In the metropolitan area, Preparation Training is nineteen hours of training (usually four Wednesday nights and one full Saturday) to increase participants' knowledge and skills in readiness for their role as an approved foster carer.

Topics include:

  • Providing foster care as part of a team
  • Care for the child: understanding trauma and attachment
  • Care for the child: ‘healing’ parenting skills
  • Bringing a child into your home: considerations and impacts
  • Self-development and self-care
  • Leaving care, policies, review and evaluation

8. Do I have to attend all the Preparation Training? 

Yes, the preparation training is essential for both partners to help you prepare for a child in your care and for you to be registered, however, some flexibility can be allowed. For example you may choose to do the training over two months instead of one if your work commitments restrict you. Foster carers will not be approved until they have completed all sessions of Preparation Training. This means that no child can be placed in your care until you have completed the training.

Most country areas provide a shorter version of preparation training which covers the same topics.

9. My partner works away do they have to attend all the Preparation Training? 

Yes, the Preparation Training is essential to help you as well as your partner prepare for a child in your care and for you to be approved, however, some flexibility can be allowed. For example you may choose to do the training over two months instead of one if your work commitments restrict you.  

10. What types of care can I provide?

Emergency – overnight or up to 28 days.

Respite – weekends or school holidays. Respite carers look after children for short periods of time to give their full time carers a break. The break gives carers the chance to recover from illness, respond to family emergencies or recharge their energy. (Foster carers are entitled to 5 days respite per month.) Respite carers undertake the same training, assessment and approval process as general foster carers.

The Respite Program

  • The Respite Program is a fostering program which maintains a group of specialist respite carers. The Respite Program is available to metropolitan applicants only but all districts also have respite carers.
  • As a respite carer you work as part of a team which includes the child’s full-time carer and departmental staff.
  • The Respite Team matches the child’s needs with your skills and experience.

Short Term Care – up to 6 months.

Long Term Care – over 12 months.

Permanent foster care

  • There is a strong, ongoing need for carers who can provide a permanent home for children not able to return to their parents or live with other family members.
  • Permanent foster carers make a lifelong commitment to a child who is loved, nurtured and accepted as part of the Carer’s family.
  • Long term foster care may lead to a Special Guardianship Order or a Carer Adoption - both provide a child with permanency.
  • To become a long term, permanent foster carer, you need to apply and be assessed by the Department..

Pre-adoptive – can be a few days or up to 24 months. These foster carers mainly care for newborn babies while the birth parents are considering long-term care options for their child. The period of care can range from a few days to several months, and occasionally up to 2 years.


11. Do I need to be married or have a partner? 

Carers can be male or female, single or couples, have their own children or not, working full time or part time or not at all, or retired.

12. Will I be paid to care for the child? 

Foster Carers are paid a contribution to the cost of caring via a fortnightly subsidy. The amount of the subsidy depends on the age and needs of the child/young person. This subsidy is not taxable; it is not an income but is to cover costs for items such as food and gas/electricity. The costs of children’s clothing, uniforms, some recreational activities, special equipment, medical and dental costs, etc are also covered. There is more financial information in the information pack.

13. Am I able to still work full or part time?

Yes, foster carers can work full time, part time, or not at all, but it will affect the type of placement we will make. We would not normally place a very young child with a carer who works full time. You might like to consider respite care if you work full time.

14. I have never had children of my own, does this mean I can't parent a foster child? 

Foster carers can be parents or not be parents. What is important is that you can relate well to children and young people and be capable of meeting their needs. Consideration is given to a person’s maturity, health and lifestyle, and an ability to provide a safe and nurturing home environment.

15. We are a same sex couple/single homosexual - does this matter? 

Foster carers can be same sex couples, or single and homosexual. What matters is a person’s ability to provide care for a child in a way that promotes their well-being, ensures that all of their needs are being met and protects them from harm.

16. How much contact will I have with the Department?

As a foster carer you will be working as a part of a team with DCPFS staff, teachers, the child’s family, and others. Through the Foster Care Partnership, DCPFS is committed to supporting Carers to formally participate as a team member in assessment, planning and review of the child, and to participate in other child centred decision making. Working with foster carers including them in planning for the child and keeping them fully informed. Honest, open communication is the key to a good partnership.

17. Will I get any assistance to help me work under tha Foster Care Partnership? 

Once you are a carer, you will receive a variety of resources to assist you which includes the:

  • Resources for Foster Carers folder with lots of useful information, including the Foster Care Handbook
  • Foster Carer Partnership Policy and Practice Guidelines
  • Communications Book: for communication between foster carers and birth parents
  • My Life Story Book: belongs to the child to record photos, letters, etc and goes with the child to new placements and when they return home.


18. How long are children in care? 

The department’s priority is always to return children to their parents. But sometimes this cannot happen. The length of time varies depending on each child or young person’s situation. It can range from overnight to placements that are 12 months or more. Some children and young people are in care for many years if they are unable to return home.

19. Does it matter how old you are?

Foster carers need to be at least in their early twenties and even then what matters is a person’s ability to provide care for a child in a way that promotes their well-being, ensures that all of their needs are being met and protects them from harm. Your age may affect the decision about which child is placed e.g. we would not normally place a teenager with a carer in their early 20s or a baby in long term care with a retired person.

20. Am I able to eventially adopt the child I care for? 

Possibly – it sometimes happens. But adoption is very different to fostering. Foster carers are not the parent of the child and do not have parental responsibility – DCPFS retains that. The foster carer works closely with the department who retains all major decision making. The information session will talk about adoption as well as fostering. Please feel free to talk to us about which pathway best suits you and your family.

21. What is Special Guardianship?

Special Guardianship Orders (SGO), were introduced in 2010, and gives parental responsibility to the child’s carer until the child turns 18 years old. This is not adoption. The department can apply for an SGO for a carer or a carer can make a direct application to the Children’s Court for the Protection Order to be revoked and be replaced with a SGO provided:

  • The child is in the CEO’s care via a protection order (time-limited or until 18) and
  • They have had the continuous care of the child for at least two years from the time the protection order (time limited or until 18) was granted.

22. Do I have to own my own home to be able to foster care?

No you do not need to own your own home. If your home is owned by Department of Housing you need to check that children are allowed to live in the premises. Likewise if you are renting privately you will need to comply with the conditions of your lease in respect of children living there. If you are planning to move soon we encourage you to wait until you have moved and settled before you commence fostering.

23. Can I take the child to my church or place of worship? 

In most instances you can take the child along to any family activity that you do. We would encourage you to include the child in all of your family outings and interests. Ideally, children are placed in a culturally similar family which may include religious background. In practice, this may be an issue if the birth parents have a strong objection to a particular activity. This would be negotiated at the time. With an older child, their views on whether they participate in attending a religious service must be considered.

24. When are you told how long the placement will be? 

You will be told the likely length of the placement when called and asked to care for the child. An initial planning forum is held for each child when they enter care and then every 12 months and more frequently if necessary. The issue of placement and how long the child is likely to remain in care are key topics for discussion at these forums. Placement length can be quite unpredictable.

25. Will the child go to our school or stay at their local school?

If the child is staying for a short period of time then they will remain at their own school so that they can continue to have contact with familiar people and places. For a long term placement the child would attend your local public school.

26. Can a foster child attend my child's private school? 

This may be considered by the department if the foster placement is long term and if your child attends a private school. It would be based on the best interests of the child, but this is not the usual practice. Most children in care attend government schools.

27. Will I have direct contact with the child's parents?

Experienced, confident and skilled foster carers have been involved with birth parents and there are many examples of how this has benefited the child. New foster carers need support, knowledge and skills prior to considering this type of work. You may find in future that it becomes another rewarding aspect of your fostering experience.  

All carers are asked to use the Communication Book which is passed between carers and the children’s parents when the child goes for contact visits. It is used for the carer to give the parent news of recent events and achievements in the child’s life and for the parent to communicate any concerns or comments to the carer.

As a carer you are a significant person in a child’s life and always will be. We need to keep the child as the central focus of our work, and best outcomes for children usually occur when foster families and birth families can work together with the department. The level of contact between a foster carer and birth parent is dependent on the needs of the child and safety issues. The child will usually have contact with their parents at a separate venue to your home.

28. Do I have to pay for day care when I'm at work?

In most cases, day care is paid for by the Department. However, the child’s best interests will determine whether or not they should attend day care. The child’s age and other needs will be considered before the department will agree to day care. 

29. Can I foster if I don't have a spare room? Can they share a room with my child? 

This may be OK if the children are of similar age but will also depend on the foster child’s needs, as well of course of your own child’s. This is something to discuss with your assessor.

30. Will I be a foster carer for the district in which I live?

Usually but sometimes carers in the metropolitan area may be attached to a district office that is not in the area in which they live. This is to allow for an even as possible distribution of the valuable resource of foster carers across the metro area.

31. Can I nominate the age of child I would prefer? 

Yes. You can give your preference about the age and gender of a child you think would fit best with your family and lifestyle. However, we would not normally approve carers who work to have very young children placed with them if this means the infant will have to go to day care. It is not in these tiny children’s interests to be removed from home and then placed in day care.

32. What may a foster child have experienced that has led to them being in care?  

Most foster children have experienced some form of trauma, which can be a one-off event or ongoing. This includes physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect. It’s important to be realistic about expectations of traumatised children. They are likely to present behaviour and respond in different ways than your own children. There are lots of learning opportunities for carers to develop skills and understanding in looking after traumatised children.

Many experienced carers talk about how rewarding it is to see positive changes in the children they care for in a climate of safety, security and loving support. It takes time and patience but carers can have a very positive impact on the lives of these children and young people.

33. What are the impacts of children experiencing trauma?

Foster children often come from traumatised, abusive situations, are experiencing grief, loss and dislocation, and are dealing with confused loyalty issues. The degree to which trauma impacts depends on the severity and duration of the trauma, support received, personality and age.

  • Brain changes: Even when the threat has gone, the brain may stay in a constant alarm state.
  • Emotional disorders: Such as anxiety, anger or detachment. Children may lose their ability to feel the range of emotions, be poor at connecting with their own or others emotional states, and have a general negativity.
  • Thinking: Nightmares, poor sleep, disturbing flashbacks and a preoccupation with safety.
  • Social problems: Poor control of emotions and impulses, trouble socialising with their peers.
  • Physical effects: Consistently being on guard; reduced ability to concentrate may impact vision and hearing; eating problems, self-harm and use of alcohol or other drugs.

34. How can I help my foster child overcome the trauma they have experienced?

Consciously provide and demonstrate physical and emotional safety. Be reliable, consistent and predictable in a positive way. Provide structure and supervision; consistent contact with safe, reliable adults; stimulation and encouragement for growth; assistance with identifying & expressing emotions; leading by example with your own emotional management and ability to talk about emotions; support in times of stress; an understanding of the child’s difficulties and a willingness to help them; a sense of hope that things can and will get better; managing your own emotions and helping the child manage theirs in crisis; a positive parenting rather than a punishing approach; talking about things after incidents to process emotions and develop insights.

All carers are strongly advised to attend learning sessions and take advantage of other opportunities to learn more about responding to the needs of a traumatised child.
  

  Become a Foster Carer
You won't always see where they go. But you can help them get there. Become a foster carer. 1800 024 453
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