28 Mar Does Your Family Have What It Takes To Foster?
With more than 46,000 children who need foster care across Australia, Director NSW for Australian children services provider Key Assets, Jamie Hodgson, says that misconceptions could be contributing to the shortage of foster carers.
“Anyone who has a spare room, is patient, caring and understanding, and is willing to open their heart and home to provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child in need, is who we are encouraging to apply.”
“Some people also aren’t aware of the support carers receive. At Key Assets, we provide carers with on-going training, 24/7 support, a dedicated social worker and an allowance. We also hold regular events and connect carers with other carers for extra support.”
Lynda* and Joanna* have been together for 8 years and live with their fur babies Fonzy and Pablo, and their 9-year-old foster child, Matt*. Joanna says that long-term foster care has been a rewarding and challenging experience.
“Matt is truly a remarkable kid. He’s resilient, caring, smart, funny, talented and a LEGO whiz. He farts a lot too. We’re all adjusting to a new life together and really; we can’t imagine life without him.”
“We didn’t have many expectations going into fostering. We assumed it would be quite challenging, but also very rewarding, and it certainly is both of those things. We didn’t expect to be long-term carers so early on and didn’t expect that it would work so well. We are a great fit for each other. We also didn’t expect to receive so much support from our friends and family, our employers, Key Assets and from other carers as well.
“Sharing a safe, loving and warm environment with a child in need is the best feeling. Watching them grow, develop and thrive, and enjoy enriching experiences is such a reward. We’ve learned a lot from Matt too. We’ve developed new skills and insights as individuals and as a couple.”
Marty* transferred to the Australian Navy from the UK military when he and his wife Mary* moved to Australia four years ago, with their two adult daughters. They offer short-term, emergency and respite care for kids over four. So far, they have cared for children, including siblings from aged 4 to 8, and young adults aged between 14 and 17. Durations have been from one night up to ten weeks.
“The first time we were called was late on a work-day evening to look after two young brothers,” Marty says. “We said yes but were apprehensive. Two hours later, two very shy, frightened and quite young boys arrived. Two weeks later, two energetic, happy, friendly, young lads left. And they left behind two very upset yet happy carers at the same time.”
“You never get used to saying goodbye no matter how long you have them, how old they are, or the problems they may or may not have caused. There have been times when Mary has not wanted to be there when someone has come to pick them up and move them on to somewhere new. Those time are draining, and the house can feel empty again.”
If you are thinking of becoming a foster carer, Jamie points to these considerations: “Accept that you might have to cope with difficult and sometimes stressful situations. Recognise that you cannot do it all and you need to rely on a strong support network.”
The recruitment process itself can be a challenge because it’s quite comprehensive, he notes. Marty and Mary had five home visits by the agency of two to three hours each, plus police checks. The process took about 6 months.
Jamie says that new carers often experience the excitement and concern of the unknown. “When will the child arrive? What will they need? And will I be able to do this? It’s a real mixture of emotions for everyone involved. Once the child arrives, the challenges are getting to know the child or young person, building relationship and developing an understanding of who they are, what their needs are. I find that most new carers are surprised by both the rewards and the challenges of fostering but no matter what challenges come, they want to continue on fostering.”
Fostering-There’s more than one kind
EMERGENCY – Emergency placements involve caring for a child or young person who needs somewhere safe to stay immediately, usually for a few nights or up to six weeks, depending on the child’s need. Children usually have face-to-face contact with their family two to three times a week while in an emergency placement.
SHORT-TERM, OR RESTORATION CARE – Short-term care is also known as restoration care and involves caring for a child, or children for anywhere from three months up to two years, until a permanent placement is found, or the child is restored to family. Family contact can occur two to three times a week while in short-term care.
FOSTERING TO ADOPT AND GUARDIANSHIP – When it’s identified by the court or in the child’s case plan that a child’s best interest is in permanent placement through open adoption or guardianship order, then the carer can apply to adopt or be the child’s guardian. A guardianship or adoption order will require an additional assessment and court work.
PERMANENT CARE – Carers make a commitment to caring for the child or young person until their care order ends at 18 years old, and they can continue to care for the young person informally after that. Family contact is usually at least once per month.
RESPITE CARE – Respite care offer a short stay to a child or young person, who lives with their own family or foster carers, to give them a break. This might be for weekends or a few weeks, but we really need people who are flexible to meet the needs of the children and their carers.
*Names have been changed
HOW TO BECOME A CARER
Anyone who is interested in becoming a foster carer can contact Key Assets on 1800 WE CARE or visit iwanttofoster.com.au for more information.