Opening hears opening homes

What is foster care?

“I thought, well, I’m too ordinary to be a foster carer. But then I realised...an ordinary life is what foster kids need most.”

When we see news of a major catastrophe, Victorians always respond generously. But most of us don’t see the ‘little’ catastrophes closer to home; the family breakdowns, the illnesses, the accidents, the cases of violence and neglect. And it is always the children who suffer the most. Foster care exists to help those children.

Foster care provides safe and supportive homes for children and teenagers when they are unable to live with their own families. Children can be in care from overnight to several years, depending on their circumstances. When you become a foster carer, you are able to specify the length and type of care you provide as well as the gender and age of the children you care for.

Who are the children or young people who need foster care?

Children and teenagers in foster care are just like any others except that they’ve typically experienced some form of trauma. They come into care at all ages, from babies to teenagers aged seventeen, across all cultural, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds.

How do children enter foster care?

Children generally enter care in one of two ways. Most will have been assessed by the Department of Health and Human Services to be at risk of significant harm and placed temporarily in foster care for their own safety.

When a family suffers distress it can be because of a relationship breakdown, loss of work, illness, abuse, neglect, extreme poverty, homelessness or an accident. A small percentage of children may enter care because their parent or guardian has signed a voluntary agreement to place them in care for a short length of time typically during some form of family crisis. Families and children receive a thorough assessment prior to acceptance into foster care through this method.

Are siblings kept together in foster care?

All efforts are made to keep siblings together when they enter foster care. However, it is often hard to find foster carers who can provide care for sibling groups. If you can provide this type of care, you will generally receive a higher level of support for taking on the extra responsibilities.

How do foster children attend school?

It is preferable for most children who enter foster care to continue at their existing school. So wherever possible, children are placed with foster carers who live near their existing school or preschool. In most cases foster carers are expected to provide transport to and from school. If you will have difficulty providing transport, you should discuss this with the foster care worker completing your assessment to see what other options are available.

What types of foster care are there?

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RESPITE care gives a regular break to full-time foster carers, parents and guardians; often one or two weekends a month, or a week during school holidays.
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EMERGENCY care is for children who require placement immediately due to concerns for their safety. Due to the urgency there is usually very little notice before a child is placed with the foster carer.
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SHORT-TERM care is for children who may require placement from a couple of weeks up to six months. They are often able to be reunited with their family at the end of the placement. 
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LONG-TERM care is for children who cannot or are unlikely to return home for an extended period. This may cease when a permanent placement is arranged, or when the child reaches adulthood.