Foster care is care provided by people in their own homes for children and young people who cannot live with their own families. Where it is in their best interest, children and young people are reunited back with their natural family as soon as possible.
Who can become a foster carer?
Foster carers come from all types of backgrounds and families. Foster carers can be individuals, couples or part of a family. Foster carers can work part-time or full-time or be at home full-time. Foster carers are culturally, religiously and ethnically diverse, male or female, and come from a range of age groups. What is important is that foster carers can provide a safe and nurturing environment for children and young people who need care. Foster carers must show a commitment to meeting the needs of the children and young people they are looking after. This includes an acceptance of individual diversity and difference. They must also be able to work as part of a team.
As part of the assessment process for becoming a foster carer, you will be required to complete a number of screening checks, including a health check, referee checks, a home and environment check, police checks and Working With Children Checks. Other people over 18 years of age living in your household need to have a police check and in some circumstances may also need a Working With Children Check.
You will also be required to attend training (initial caregiver training 'Shared Stories, Shared Lives Victoria') before being approved as a foster carer and commencing in the role of caring for children and young people.
Who needs foster care?
Children and young poeple from birth to 18 years of age may need foster care. The decision to place a child or young person in foster care can be made by either the Child Protection Service, which is part of the Department of Human Services, or the child or young person's family. Foster care may be required for children or young people who have had a number of difficult experiences, including the death or illness of family members, coming from a family that requires extra support, being abused or neglected, displaying at-risk behaviour and their parents being unable to protect them, or being homeless.
Children and young poeple may enter foster care individually or as a sibling group. They may have a disability and may display emotional or behavioural difficulties or mental health problems.
What do foster carers do?
Foster carers look after children and young people in their own home. A foster carer and their family provide care, support and stability for a child or young person in a caring home environment.
Foster carers play an important role in caring for children and young people. They help children and young people to keep in touch with their parents, brothers, sisters and other significant people. This is usually done through regular planned visits. As part of their role, foster carers may be required, at times, to transport children and young people to appointments, pick them up from school when they are sick, or take them to activities, such as football training or ballet.
Foster carers are part of what is known as the 'care team', which is the group of people who share the parenting responsibilities for a child or young person while they are living away from their family. The 'care team' usually involves the parents, the foster carer, a Westcare Case Worker, the Child Protection Worker and any other significant adults, all working together to consider the things that any good parent/s would naturally consider when caring for their own children. To help everyone to do this, there is a tool for good practice called Looking After Children (LAC). You will learn more about LAC as you find out more about fostering.