FOSTER CARE
By Tony Briffa

As some of you may know, I have been a foster parent for the last 4 years and have a 9-year-old child currently in my full-time care. A few support group members have asked for more information on foster care, so I thought I would include some information in dAISy and the website.

Foster care is not like adoption; its main aim is to reunite children with their families. It is therefore very important for these children to have regular contact with their own biological families. Foster families need to be able to share the children with their biological families and help them understand why they are unable to live at home. Ways children and their families can keep in contact include telephone calls and letters.

It is important for children in care to have their parents play a continuing role in their lives. This is especially important in working toward the time when the child returns home and the family is reunited. One of the foster carer's roles as part of the team is to help maintain contact between children and their parents.

Training

Training of foster carers is essential so issues and concerns affecting the child, the family and the carers are shared and understood by all members of the team. Training is usually provided by the Foster Care organisation the carer goes through.

Supports for Carers

Always remember that there is a lot of support offered in sharing the care of the child. This involves the foster care agency, and sometime the Department of Human Services and the biological family. Carers are not expected to know all the answers about foster care, which is why ongoing support is necessary for all foster carers.

Types of foster care

There are many different categories to describe the types of foster care. They include:

Emergency foster care - Placements should not exceed 28 days.

Temporary foster care - You may hear the words 'temporary care' used instead of short or long term care because of the difficulty of putting a time on some placements.

Short term foster care - Placements from 28 days to three or six months.

Long term foster care - Can be up to two years or longer. Some children may find themselves in foster care longer than this. Children can be placed back with their family even after very long periods in care.

Permanent Care - Guardianship of the Child is given to the Foster Carer(s).

Who can be a foster family?

All sorts of people in many different types of relationships can be foster parents. Both 'traditional' and 'non traditional' families may foster with great success. Families may be:

one adult
two adults
living in own home
rented home
having children
not having children
unemployed adults
employed adults
gay/lesbian/transgender adults

One essential quality for all foster carers however, is to be willing to help and care for children and to be able to move on when the child goes back to their biological family.

All family members are involved in fostering and it is important to think about your values and what feels right for you and your family.

My Experiences

I won't dare suggest that foster care is for everyone, or that it is easy work, but it can be very rewarding. The most difficult experiences I have had have involved children returning to their families, or not having the legal rights as a "normal" parent. Having said that, it has given my family and I an opportunity to help a child and their family, and has given me the opportunity to be a parent; something I am not able to do naturally.

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Last update: 6 December, 2014

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