I haven't had kids of my own - does this rule me out?
Parenting experience isn’t a pre-requisite for becoming a Foster Carer. You may have taken care of younger siblings or relatives, looked after a friend's child, or worked as a babysitter.
The main thing is that you are committed to providing stability, support, and care. You just need to be willing to learn along the way.
How can I be sure my own children are getting the support they need?
We have training and support specifically for the sons and daughters of Foster Carers. The I care 2 program is designed to provide fun and interactive learning experiences and a safe space for your kids to explore their thoughts about caring. It also helps build their capacity and resilience.
Although Foster Care can be challenging, with extra support and resources, your own children are more likely to have a positive experience of helping you to provide care.
My household doesn’t really fit the description of a “nuclear family”.
Biological families come in many shapes and sizes and so can Foster families! You could be single or in a same-sex relationship; in a de facto couple or remarried with a blended family; or even just friends who share a house. If you can foster a safe and nurturing environment for a child or young person, you are a family.
I’m in a long-term relationship but we don’t live together – can he/she stay with me as usual?
You are certainly not expected to give up your normal social life when you become a Foster Carer. However, your partner and any regular overnight visitors may need to complete a Police Check before they can stay whilst you’re caring for a child. This is something you would discuss with your Westcare agency worker.
Pets and animals can play a valuable role in the development of children and young people. Pets are also a great way to learn about responsibility. Foster Carers should provide adequate supervision to ensure safety before encouraging positive contact between their pet and the child in their care.
I rent and don’t have my own house.
As long as you can provide a child or young person with their own private bedroom space and your house is deemed safe, it can be a home.
What if I work full-time?
Lots of biological parents work full-time too!
Whilst you might not necessarily be able to take on a newborn baby or toddler, we can work with you to arrange suitable day care options for school-aged children. Alternatively, you might just be the perfect person to give someone a break and provide Respite Care over a weekend.
Westcare’s agency workers will pair you with children or young people who match your needs.
What if I want to go on holiday or if I get really busy at work?
If you have a holiday planned or if you know you’ve a got a lot of work coming up, you can simply let us know that you’re unable to provide Foster Care for that specific timeframe.
If you already have a child or young person in your care and life suddenly gets in the way (and we know this can happen to anyone at any time!) it is your Westcare agency worker’s job to support you and help resolve the issues.
Can I still have visitors?
Absolutely! We highly encourage you to keep in touch with your usual support networks. It is also a great way to expose children and young people to healthy and happy social relationships they may not have experienced before.
How can I prepare my home for a Foster Child?
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for a child or young person to enter your care:
- Create a space when he or she can relax, play, and feel at home.
- Demonstrate and promote health and hygiene practices within your home.
- Provide smoke-free home and transport vehicle.
- If you have a swimming pool on your property, ensure it is safe and complies with Australian pool fencing regulations.
What if the child or young person doesn’t like me?
It is important to remember that Foster Children can be emotionally challenging and/or display difficult behaviours. Often this isn’t personal and is simply their way of reacting to what can be an overwhelming time. You can rely on Westcare’s staff to support you through challenging placements. If a placement doesn’t work out, we will work tirelessly to make a more suitable arrangement.
Do I need to discipline a child in my care?
We definitely encourage you to share your house rules with the children or young people who enter your care soon after they arrive. Rules and boundaries help give children a sense of what is expected of them and how they fit into their new home environment. Our staff are always available to talk through setting appropriate boundaries for the children in your care.
Westcare wholly supports Victoria’s DHHS policy that no child will be physically disciplined with hitting or smacking, nor will they by threatened or denied a meal for punishment, in Foster Care.
What if some element of the placement becomes difficult or distressing?
The safety of your home is of utmost importance. If a child’s family of origin poses a serious threat to his or her safety – or your own – a court will order the Foster Care placement is not disclosed. Your personal details would be kept private to ensure you can’t be located.
If the child’s own behaviour becomes distressing or challenging, Westcare’s agency workers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week should you require back-up.
What happens with the child or young person’s family of origin?
Westcare seeks to include birth families throughout a child’s placement. As a Foster Carer you will help children in your care to maintain their significant relationships. This is done with safety in mind and contact is monitored by our trained staff.