Foster carers making the difference in young people's lives

HELPING HAND: Foster carers take on the responsibilities of a parent to provide a safe, nurturing and secure family environment for children and young people needing care while parents get help to change.
HELPING HAND: Foster carers take on the responsibilities of a parent to provide a safe, nurturing and secure family environment for children and young people needing care while parents get help to change.

Foster carers support families by caring for children and young people when they are unable to live with their own families.

There are many complex reasons why children may be unable to live with their own families and the length of time in care will vary depending on when a child can safely return home.

Foster carers, in the meantime, take on the responsibilities of a parent to provide a safe, nurturing and secure family environment while parents get help to change.

If children are not able to return to their birth parents, a foster care organisation will try to locate a member of the child's extended family to care for them.

Depending on where you live, and your personal situation, there are different organisations across Australia that you can foster for.

There are generally five types of foster care, according to the Department of Community and Justice, NSW:

Immediate or crisis care: Emergency placements are for children who need an urgent placement because there are concerns for their immediate safety. These placements can occur after-hours and on weekends. Emergency carers need to be able to provide care for children at short notice.

Respite (part-time) care: From time to time, parents and carers need a break from their caring role. Respite care or part-time care is for short periods of time, such as school holidays, weekends or for short periods during the week.

Short to medium-term care: This can last for anywhere from a few months to two years. Short to medium-term care has a strong focus on reuniting the child with their birth parents or extended family within two years of the child or young person coming to live with them. In some circumstances a short-term carer may be caring for a child before they move to another carer who is not a relative or kin.

Long-term or permanent care: These are people who care for children for longer than two years. Long-term or permanent care occurs when the child is not going to return to their family. In some circumstances, carers can apply to become legal guardians, or adopt children through open adoption, who have been in their long-term care.

Relative or kinship care: Relative or kinship care is when a child or young person lives with a relative or someone they already know.

"Foster carers receive support from a caseworker for the child in their care through regular visits, support and advocacy," a spokesperson from the Department of Communities and Justice said.

"Caseworkers also help arrange specialist appointments for children in care such as psychologists and speech therapists, and receive an allowance to cover expenses.

"There are many benefits to being part of a child's life - helping them to grow and thrive can bring great joy to a person's life.

"Giving children a sense of belonging and helping them to feel safe and secure is another benefit."

People who are interested in fostering go through a training and assessment process before they become authorised foster carers.

"Foster carers need a caring and compassionate nature, patience, flexibility, humour, stability, an open and accepting attitude and an ability to work as a team," the spokesperson said.

"Foster carers, adoptive parents and guardians can be single, married, young or old, renters or home owners - if you have a safe, loving home you can make a real difference."

To find out more information call My Forever Family NSW on 1300 782 975.

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