What is foster care for complex needs?
Fostering a child with complex needs is providing care to a child, or young person, who may have experienced significant trauma prior to coming into care or be living with a disability. These children and young people typically experience significant pain-based behaviours, which can make responding to their world a little different.
Fostering children with complex needs requires a special type of carer, with a certain skill set, and the right circumstances, to create an environment where children can learn to feel safe, secure and grow.
In some states, foster carers for children with complex needs are referred to as specialist, therapeutic, or intensive foster carers. All these carers are special people, with the capacity to understand and meet the complex needs of children and young people that have been impacted by significant trauma or abuse.
"Brace yourself - while it won't be easy at first, it eventually clicks into place and it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have."
Andrea and Colin were initially placed with a young girl with high needs due to the trauma she had experienced. They don't sugar-coat the challenges of those first few months, as it is part of their foster caring journey that has led them to the dramatically happier and fulfilling place they're in now. Two years on the young girl in their care has grown in ways they never could have imagined.
Could you be a carer?
Your questions, answered.
Why do children need this type of care?
Children with complex needs may have significant disabilities or medical conditions, or have experienced ongoing trauma, through abuse, neglect, and other family violence.
For families that may already be in a state of instability or crisis, providing positive and safe environments for healing and growth may be out of reach in the short term. Foster carers are needed to provide a stable and nurturing environment for children and young people with complex needs to thrive and form healthy, healing connections.
The experience of fostering for a child with complex needs can be very rewarding. Seeing a child with complex needs responding to care, growing in capacity, and developing their relationships is a powerful experience.
Do I need specific skills to become a complex needs foster carer?
Whilst there are no specific qualifications needed to care for children with complex needs, we find that people with experience in healthcare, education or community services are often great candidates. This is because people in these roles have an existing understanding of the realities of caring for children who live with a disability or have been impacted by significant trauma and abuse.
A strong passion and commitment to help vulnerable children is vital, no matter what your experience is.
What is the duration of care of a child with complex needs?
Fostering a child or young person with complex needs can vary according to your location and their needs. This can range from respite or short break care for one weekend a month, or short-term care to long-term foster care. Children with complex needs may also need emergency or immediate carers who are available at short notice when unexpected care needs arise.
Children with complex needs benefit from carers who have the availability to ensure they are safe and always cared for. Some children with complex needs may have different school attendance patterns, or additional medical or therapeutic appointments, that necessitate carers being more available throughout the day. Time is one of the greatest things a carer can give children, and for those with complex needs they may need just a little more of your time.
How do we support our foster carers?
We know that fostering a child or young person with complex needs is an immensely rewarding but challenging task and acknowledging this takes supportive relationships and a team effort.
Our foster carers are never alone in their caring journey. They are supported by a dedicated support team, have access to therapeutic and educational supports, regular respite, and ongoing monthly training. With all foster carers, we have someone available 24/7, through our dedicated on-call service, to assist when you need to talk, or an emergency arises.
We provide carers with a range of learning opportunities suited to their level of experience and the needs of children in their care. Carers will be required to undertake additional training to help prepare them for the complex needs of foster children.
This may include; additional training around the impact of trauma, Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI), Children and the Residential Experience (CARE) and any other training that is identified to assist in meeting the unique needs of individual children and young people.
Foster carers receive a tax-free allowance to support the needs of children placed in their care. Financial supports are tiered to consider the level of needs a child has, and the additional time and resources their care requires. Some children living with disabilities may also receive assistance through NDIS funding packages.
For a night or a weekend, children in care may spend time with a respite carer. This is an opportunity to strengthen social and family networks while their carer takes a short break. This type of care is only offered when it is in children's interest.
24/7 on-call support
Our foster carers have access to on-call support at any time of the day or night for advice, support and direction in any situation.
Our specialist staff work with children and alongside carers where additional support is needed. Children with complex needs may also receive support from clinical services, both within and external to Life Without Barriers.
Talking to other carers is sometimes the best form of support. Through regular carer events, we create opportunities for carers to share their experiences, celebrate successes and provide feedback to the Life Without Barriers’ team.
Got more questions?
Our friendly and helpful fostering specialists are ready to answer your questions. Whether you're looking to start the process, get some answers or want more information, our team is waiting for you to connect.