About Foster Care
Foster Care is the temporary provision of a supportive home environment for children and young people who are unable to live with their family of origin.
Foster Carers are trained, assessed, and accredited to provide a safe place for these children.
Children and young people may enter Foster Care for two reasons:
- Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Order
The child is identified by DHHS’s Child Protection Service team as being at significant risk of harm. A court order enforces his or her relocation to a safe environment. Foster Care is usually a last resort, used only when the child’s family and social networks are unavailable or unsuitable.
- Voluntary Placement
The child’s family of origin requests that he or she be placed in temporary care, typically in times of family crisis – for example: domestic violence, serious illness, or significant financial difficulties.
Every effort is made to provide these children and young people with as much stability as is possible. When circumstance allows, Westcare aims to keep sibling groups together. Given the significant role a child’s school plays in their development, we also prefer he or she continues attending their usual kindergarten or school.
The length of time a child or young person stays in Foster Care is decided on a case-by-case basis. Some children may need to stay with a Foster Carer for just a few days or weeks, whilst others may not be able to return to their families of origin for months or years.
Westcare provides the following types of Foster Care:
- Emergency Care
Emergency Care is required when the child or young person’s safety is at immediate risk. In these situations, those Foster Carers available at short notice provide temporary care until Westcare can place them in a more suitable arrangement – for example: with extended family.
- Respite Care
Respite Care offers both parents and long-term Foster Carers the opportunity to take time out from their caring duties. This allows them some relaxation. To ensure consistency, the children and young people are typically placed with the same Respite Carers each time their regular Foster Carer takes a break.
- Short Term Care
In cases of Short Term Care, the child or young person will generally need to stay with their Foster Carer for up to six months. The child or children’s Care Team works together to return them to their family of origin once their parents or guardians have successfully demonstrated their ability to care for them.
- Long Term Care
Long term Care is for children and young people who cannot return home within a six-month timeframe. In these scenarios, Foster Carers provide the much needed routines and stability children and young people need to thrive. Some children may need to stay with Foster Carers until adulthood.
Children and young people of all ages – from newborns to toddlers; pre-teens to adolescents – may need to be placed in Foster Care. Many of them have experienced trauma, abuse, and neglect.
For many of these children and young adults, entering care can be a time of overwhelming uncertainty. It is important to note that every child is different. Some will adjust easily to Foster Care, whilst others require additional support, nurturing and understanding.
Children and young people enter Foster Care for various reasons, including:
- The illness or death of a parent, guardian, or close family member.
- Mistreatment or exposure to their parent or guardian’s alcohol or drug use.
- A parent or guardian’s mental illness or intellectual disability.
- Domestic violence.
- Acute financial problems resulting in severe poverty or homelessness.
- Limited parenting skills or capacity within their family home.
Needless to say, Foster Carers must be mindful that children and young people leaving home feel a range of different emotions which they may express through varying and sometimes unexpected behaviours. They might find it difficult to talk about their experiences; may be suffering grief, loss, and shock; or require medical follow up.
You are certainly not expected to undertake a case you do not feel comfortable with or qualified for, or that doesn't fit with your household.
Can you become a Westcare Foster Carer?
- Do you live in Melbourne's Western Metropolitcan region?
- Are you at least 21 years old?
- Do you have a spare room in your home for a child or young person?
- Are you willing to undergo Health, Police, and Working with Children Checks?
- Can you complete the training and assessment process to become an accredited carer?
- Have you discussed become a Foster Carer with other members of your household?
- Can you provide the time, energy, and commitment needed to care for a child or young person?
Who Can Become a Foster Care?
Foster Carers come from all walks of life. Just like the children and young people who need their care, Foster Carers hail from many and varied cultural backgrounds and family environments.
The one thing all Foster Carers have in common is the desire to provide a safe, stable, nurturing and loving home to vulnerable children.
Basically anyone can become a Foster Carer as long as they are committed to cultivating a patient, understanding, and good humoured environment for children and young people to thrive.
*Foster Carers must be an Australian citizen or hold permanent residency status.