Children and young people in the foster care system often lack the permanency and security required to reach their full potential. While the goal of foster care is usually to return the child to their birth parents or family, sometimes this is not possible.
How can we provide these children with the stability they need to flourish? Recent changes to the NSW child protection system makes it easier for children to find a safe and secure permanent home by reducing the bureaucratic hurdles foster carers face when applying for guardianship and open adoptions.
Challenge Community Services has produced a new ebook, Fostering for Permanency, designed to help carers and potential carers understand and navigate the new system. There are three ways you can welcome a foster child into your home: foster caring, guardianship, and open adoption. But what are the differences between these three care types?
Welfare of the child
The main difference between the types of care you can provide is the process by which decisions are made about the child’s welfare. A child’s welfare includes their emotional, cultural, social, spiritual, educational, and healthcare needs.
When you foster, you are responsible for the day-to-day welfare needs of the child, under the guidance of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS). FACS holds legal responsibility for the child and is in charge of all decisions relating to the child's care. Birth parents retain legal rights over the child.
When you become a guardian, you take on the parental rights and responsibilities for the welfare of the child, without the guidance of FACS, until they are 18 years old. Each year you will need to send a report to FACS.
In open adoption, you take on all legal rights and responsibilities for the child with no guidance from FACS or birth parents. However, where possible, you will need to enter into a contracted agreement to encourage and maintain relationships between your adopted child and their birth family.
Connections to family
In all three care types, maintaining family connections is a priority. Encouraging a positive relationship with the birth family and culture leads to better outcomes and happier children. These relationships are vital to keep children and young people connected with their identity: their family, their culture, and where they come from.
When fostering a child, your foster care agency will take responsibility to arrange visitations with parents to maintain these connections. When you take on guardianship or open adoption, you will also be managing the contact between the child or young person and their parents without the involvement of a case worker or an accredited foster care agency.
Who can apply?
Whether you’re married or single, in a de facto or a same-sex relationship, you can apply for guardianship or open adoption. It’s not essential to have previous experience as a foster carer or parent. But you do need to demonstrate your ability to provide care and meet the support needs of the child or young person in your care.
To be eligible to adopt a child in NSW you must be over 21 and at least 18 years older than the child. Guardians are usually a relative, family friend or someone who has established a positive relationship with a child or young person, such as through an existing or previous foster care placement.
To find out more about guardianship, open adoption, or fostering for permanency, download Challenge’s new ebook:
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