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.
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.
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.
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.
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.