Getting started as a foster carer

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Opening your home to foster children and welcoming them into your family is a big commitment, and not a decision you should make alone.

The whole family has to be on board with the decision to become foster carers, because you will all have to work as a team to provide support to children in need.

Previously, we’ve looked at the personal attributes you need to become a foster carer. But what about your family? How can you be sure they are ready to welcome a foster child (or children) into your home?

Is your family ready to foster children?

There is plenty to consider if you want to become a foster carer, and you aren’t the only person who will be affected by your decision. Make sure you sit down with your family, both immediate and extended, and carefully discuss the impact fostering will have as well as how you will manage caring for children who have had a rough start in life. In your discussions, you need to consider if you have appropriate:

  • Support: You need to be sure you have plenty of support networks to provide help and a friendly ear when things get tough. Knowing that your family, friends and foster care agency is there whenever you need them, can sometimes be all you need to get you through a hard patch. If you don’t have family or friends close by or that you can rely on, find local support groups.
  • Space: If you are going to take on foster children, especially siblings, teenagers, or children with behavioural issues, you need to know that you have the space for them, both in your life and in your home. This includes having a spare bedroom for each foster child. You will need to be able to take foster children to appointments and commitments, school, and care for them when they are sick.
  • Stability: To be a foster carer you need to provide a stable family life. It doesn’t matter if you're in a relationship, single, homosexual or heterosexual, just as long as you can provide a stable loving environment over an extended period of time.
  • Teamwork: You will need to be able to work as a team with all the different people that will be involved in your foster child’s life. This includes not only the members of your own family, but also could include the foster child’s own biological family, foster care agencies, social workers, schools, counsellors, and health professionals.
  • Communication: Open hearts, minds, and doors are essential for a foster carer. Not only will you have children in and out of your house, all day every day, you can also expect regular home visits from your foster child’s social worker, or health professionals. You need to be prepared to communicate with the different people and agencies that are involved in ensuring the good health and wellbeing of children in your care.

How can a foster care agency help?

When you decide to care for a foster child, you don’t have to go it alone. Your foster care agency is there to provide you with plenty of support to ensure you are confident in your role as a foster carer.

  • Case Worker: Each child has an allocated case worker that will work with you as the child’s carer. They will also help you liaise with schools and healthcare organisations as well as regularly visiting your home and providing other support as required.
  • Support: Ensure you have access to a 24/7 emergency support line and your agency should also provide carer support groups and social activities for you to attend.
  • Counselling: Debriefing sessions occur at the end of each placement and counselling is available when you need it. Challenge also has a Therapeutic Services team that are trained to work with carers and foster children.
  • Training: You receive training before you start foster caring and this is provided on an ongoing basis to ensure you have the tools to deal with any situation.

What steps do you need to take to become a foster carer?

There’s obviously a lot of thinking that needs to occur before you decide to become a foster carer, but once you start the process you can change your mind at any time.

Beginning the process gives you the opportunity to raise any concerns you have and start taking advantage of training offered. The more training you undertake and questions you get answered, the more confident you will feel that you have all the information you need to make a decision.

Here are some steps to take to get you started.

  1. Contact a foster care agency, such as Challenge Community Services, and register an enquiry.
  2. Read carefully any information given to you and fill out a Foster Care Application Pre Approval form.
  3. Challenge staff will visit your home providing the opportunity for your family to ask questions and understand the process better. During this time they will also ensure that your home is suitable to support a foster child.
  4. Participate in Shared Stories, Shared Lives and the online foster carer training.
  5. Decide if you wish to continue the process to become a carer.
  6. A two to three day Step By Step (SBS) assessment will occur at your home with all applicants and household members.
  7. Become approved as a carer.
  8. Wait until a child/ren need your help. You will be able to discuss any issues with the case worker before you accept the placement.
  9. Welcoming a foster child into your home is a big decision that every member of your family needs to be involved in. But with the right support and training, becoming a foster carer can be a rewarding experience for the whole family.

If you’ve decided you want to start on the path towards becoming a foster carer, your next step is to download the Challenge Foster Care Handbook or fill out an enquiry form.  You can also start your application, if you are ready.

Author: Katrina Warmoll

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About Challenge Community Services

60 years ago we were a small band of parents and friends seeking support services for our children with disabilities. Today, Challenge has grown to be one of the largest community support services in New South Wales. We provide support to over 2500 people from Albury to Lismore, Sydney, Dubbo, Tamworth and beyond. With over 600 staff, 85 of which have a disability, we strive to comply with and exceed all standards required under State and Federal Acts.
In the spirit of Reconciliation, Challenge Community Services acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this country, and their connection to land, water and community. We pay our respect to them, their cultures and customs, and to Elders both past and present.
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