What is foster care?
Foster care offers children a home while their own family is unable to provide them with a safe or caring home environment. Children in foster care are aged from 0 to 18 years (up to 21 years in Victoria).
Depending on their circumstances, a child may be in foster care for a few days, a few weeks or for many years. Sometimes they may remain permanently in the care of foster carers.
In NSW, there are about 20,000 children not able to live with their birth parents. In Victoria, this number is over 11,000. Of these, about 15% are from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background.
Why do children need foster care?
Many children who need foster care have experienced trauma and various forms of abuse and can’t continue to live with their birth family. Wherever possible, the intention is to get children back living safely with their birth families.
Foster care is required when there are no extended family members or other suitable people to provide immediate or long term care.
When a child has been separated from their family because of ongoing child protection concerns, the Children’s Court and the relevant state government department are involved in making the decisions about children’s care.
What are the types of foster care?
There are four main types of foster care:
- Respite foster care is regular periodic care. Children are looked after for short periods of time to provide birth parents or foster carers with a break, for example over school holidays or weekends.
- Emergency or crisis foster care is required when there is immediate concern for a child’s safety. The duration can be from one night to a few weeks, or until another foster care arrangement is available.
- Short-term foster care is required when there is a possibility that the situation that caused a child to be removed from their birth family may be resolved and they will be able to return (called restoration) or until another carer is found who is committed to providing long term care for the child.
- Long-term foster care refers to caring for a child who is not expected to return to their birth family, and who will therefore need long-term care and be part of your family.
Becoming a foster carer
What is a foster carer?
Foster carers care for children and young people who can’t live safely with their family. They provide safe and caring homes for these vulnerable children. By providing guidance, support and encouragement, foster carers make a real difference to the lives of children in care. Foster carers are trained, assessed and authorised to provide foster care.
Who can be a foster carer?
Anyone can apply to become a foster carer as long as they meet the conditions set out below. Applicants must be:
- over 21 years of age
- an Australian citizen or permanent resident
- in good physical and emotional health without any medical condition that may affect their ability to care for a child or young person
SSI recognises that foster carers can have different personal and family circumstances. Foster carers can be:
- single, married or in a de facto relationship
- renting, buying or you may own your home
- working or not working
- a parent or someone who has a strong interest in helping children
Check your eligibility with our quiz!
What qualities make a good foster carer?
The important qualities of a foster carer include:
- Empathy and good listening skills
- Perseverance and adaptability when things get tough
- Flexibility, patience and humour
- Ability to provide a safe, loving and caring home environment
- An ability to guide and discipline children without the use of physical punishment
- A willingness to work with other people in the child’s life such as birth parents and caseworkers
- A willingness to support the child to develop a sense of identity that includes their culture, language and religion, where appropriate.
- Be willing to learn and understand the impact of trauma on a child
- Able to balance your family’s needs, finances, interests and supports with the needs of the child
- Happy to participate in meetings and training
How do I apply to become a foster carer?
What does the assessment process involve?
Once you complete our quiz or get in touch, we will arrange a time to speak with you and your family about foster care, what it involves, and how to apply.
You will be provided with written information about our service and an application form. Once you have gathered the information you need and you decide you want to proceed, the next step will be to submit the application form to us.
You will then be invited to participate in an assessment process that will help us determine whether you can become a foster carer with our service.
The process includes:
- You and all adults in the household will have to complete a Health Check, Police Check, a Working with Children Check and referee checks
- Participating in training (Shared Lives) which covers nine topics and usually takes about 20 hours in total, either on weekends or evening sessions, in person or online
- A series of one on one interviews at your home to focus on your interests, skills, strengths and ability to take on the foster care role.
What should I expect as a foster carer?
Being unique and different is part of what makes every one of us special. Every child and their birth family is different. Foster carers make a significant contribution by caring for vulnerable children in need of care and stability. Some children may show signs of stress, worry and uncertainty. Some may seem quiet, others may seem troublesome.
Child abuse causes trauma and harms how a child’s brain and emotions develop and how they learn to behave and react to situations.
Some children may show their anxiety, fear and confusion by not wanting to be a part of a family and withdrawing. Others may show behaviour that could be described as difficult or
challenging such as talking back, being angry, not listening, not eating or sleeping, not being able to regulate their emotions, throwing tantrums or running away.
Some children have never had routine in their lives and will need extra amounts of love, understanding and patience to help them learn new ways of behaving. The longer a child has not had stability and emotional support, the more time they will need to accept a different way of being cared for.
Will there be direct contact with the child’s biological parents?
Maintaining or rebuilding relationships between children and their biological parents, siblings and family is continued when it is safe for the child. Many parents struggle to understand their roles when they are not caring for their children and this can raise many emotions including anger, loss, confusion and hope. How carers talk about children’s biological parents will influence how a child sees their family.
It is important that visits are safe, helpful and a good experience. It is also beneficial for children to see their carers have contact with their birth family. It gives them positive messages about people’s ability to communicate despite the situation.
Foster care at SSI
What is SSI Multicultural Foster Care and what makes them different?
SSI provides foster carers and casework support for all children, with a strong focus on children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
We deliver a specialist out-of-home care service that provides a culturally appropriate model of foster care for children and young people from CALD backgrounds aged 0-18 years in NSW, and up to 21 years in Victoria.
While SSI has a strong focus on recruiting foster carers from CALD backgrounds, we recruit carers from any background if they have a genuine desire to provide a safe and caring home for children.
We are staffed by bilingual case workers and managers with cross cultural and out-of-home care casework skills and knowledge. We also work closely with community organisations, community leaders, women’s groups, religious organisations and other relevant services, in the recruitment and support of foster carers.
Why is it important to help children maintain a connection to their culture?
At SSI, we believe children in care who are supported to learn about and maintain a connection to their culture, religion and language have better outcomes as they grow up than those who are not supported in this way. These connections help children to understand where they have come from and to develop their sense of belonging and identity.
Helping children stay connected with their ethnic background, language and religion can also help children maintain positive relationships with their birth parents, extended family and community. This is important should children be returned to parental care, and in staying connected into their adult years.
What support does SSI provide to children in care?
Our service provides:
- General foster care and case management to meet the full needs of the child
- Foster carers from the child’s cultural background where possible
- Bilingual and bicultural case managers
- Cultural care planning to promote connections with their culture, religion, language and community
- Access to counselling and support services for children from refugee backgrounds
What support does SSI provide to foster carers?
SSI Multicultural Foster Care works closely with foster carers to ensure they have the support they need.
A range of support services are available including:
- Carer assessment processes conducted in either English or community languages
- Initial and ongoing training conducted in English or community languages
- A professional caseworker to support you and the child
- Bilingual caseworkers who understand the child’s culture
- Monthly visits and regular phone contact with your caseworker
- Access to 24-hour on-call phone support for crisis situations
- General and culturally specific support groups for example, Vietnamese carers group, Arabic carers group
- Respite foster care
- Financial support to meet the day-to-day cost of caring for the child through a foster care allowance (for NSW carers, please refer to the DCJ website, and for Victorian carers, please refer to the DFFH website)
- Referrals to a range of support services for you and the child
Where does SSI foster care operate?
In NSW we cover parts of metropolitan Sydney and the Hunter/Central Coast area and in Victoria we cover the northern, southern and western of Melbourne.
Get in touch
SSI operates our Multicultural Foster Care program in NSW and VIC. In NSW, the program is active in parts of metropolitan Sydney as well as the Hunter region and Central Coast. In Victoria, it is operated in Melbourne’s northern, southern and western suburbs.