5 things about foster caring everyone wants to know
At Life Without Barriers we are always looking for foster carers to join us in creating a safe and supportive future for vulnerable young people in our communities. This means we get asked hundreds of questions each year about what it is like to be a foster carer.
At Life Without Barriers, we provide foster care for over 4,000 children and young people from across Australia. We talk to thousands of people each year who are interested in becoming a foster carer. Here we answer the top five most common questions we hear .
1. Can I keep my foster child?
We know it might be tempting to come to fostering hoping to keep the wonderful children who enter your home, but it’s important to note that at Life Without Barriers reunification with parents or family is always the goal when a child is brought into foster care. The role of our foster carers is to provide a safe, stable and loving home for children who are unable to live safely in their own homes. Our first hope is always reunification as we know a child has the best chance of thriving with their birth family. There are times however when reunification with parents or extended family isn't possible and in these instances, permanent placements or guardianship is explored.
2. Why did the parents have their child removed?
This is a hard question to answer because we are a foster care agency, not the government agency who makes these decisions. Some common misconceptions we hear from prospective foster carers is that they believe all parents have substance abuse issues but this is not the case. Children are removed when it is determined that at this time, the parents cannot provide a safe home for the child. This can occur due to domestic violence, homelessness, mental health issues, imprisonment, poverty and in some cases, substance use or abuse.
3. Have all children in foster care been abused?
No. Children enter foster care for a variety of reasons. Children often come from a complex and unstable family environment and while some children have suffered abuse, trauma and neglect, this is not the case for all children. Life Without Barriers supports our foster carers 24/7 and provides specialised training on how to deal with complex behaviours and trauma using evidence-informed frameworks such as Therapeutic Crisis Intervention.
"Life Without Barriers give us a lot of support. They give us training in different aspects, we have a care team of three to four people that we see on a regular basis that give us advice"
— Steve, foster carer to a sibling group
4. Do I have to give up work to be a foster carer, does someone need to be home?
Again, this is a hard question to answer but most of the time the answer is no. It depends on the age of the child you foster, and the type of foster carer you decide to become. Generally speaking it is only for babies, young children and children with severe disabilities that a primary carer needs to be home full-time. Life Without Barriers provides many different types of foster care, including short term, respite and long term care, that can work in with your lifestyle. Foster carers also receive a tax-free allowance to support the needs of the child placed in their care.
5. Is it hard when you have to give the child back?
Our foster carers share that goodbyes are bittersweet. Often times carers are truly happy when reunification with parents or family occurs as this has always been the goal. They see themselves as one stop on the journey of helping a child find a safe, long-term place to grow up. Sometimes this place is back with their parents or family, other times it is in a longer term placement with someone else.
"It's emotional yes, you can't have the attachment without the sadness at saying goodbye, but it's about being emotionally prepared for that."
— Brie, short term and emergency foster carer.
"After kids leave our care, my partner and I book a weekend away together, we hang out, we cry, we eat lots of food, we talk about them and debrief. But even though it’s hard, it’s still worth it"
Peer Parent and Family Advocacy in Child Protection
By Jessica Cocks, Churchill Fellow 2016, New South Wales
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