What does foster care involve?
Foster carer qualities
• a love of children
• an ability to understand and respect each child as an individual
• the capacity to look after young people in a safe and stable environment
Foster carers can be
• any gender or sexual orientation
• single, married, de-facto, blended families or same sex couples
• usually between the ages of 25 and 70 years of age
• with or without children of their own
• Australian citizens or permanent residents
• Undertaking various lifestyles involving a range of commitments such as working full-time, part-time, retired or studying.
Carers have a positive attitude
Foster carers must have a positive attitude and demonstrate common sense, patience, understanding, maturity, a sense of humour and flexibility, including:
• A willingness to learn about issues that lead to children coming into care, particularly the effects of abuse and neglect.
• An appreciation and understanding of the importance of a child’s connections to their family and cultural heritage and provide active support for these crucial links.
• Demonstrate empathy and respond sensitively to children and young people’s needs.
• A willingness to participate in ongoing learning and development through training, screening checks and carer assessments.
Carers provide a safe and stable environment
Stability and safety are an important focus in providing care for young people who have been removed from their birth family and familiar environments. Children who have been removed from their homes experience trauma which can lead to difficulties in adapting to change, therefore it is important that foster carers provide a safe and stable living environment.
• Foster carers must have adequate safe accommodation for a child
• It is not necessary for foster carers to own their own home
• A separate bedroom must be available for each child who is placed with a foster care household with enough space for their personal belongings.
• Foster care homes adhere to safety requirements and regulations.
• Have a secure outdoor area
• maintain a bushfire safety plan where appropriate.
• Foster carers require a reasonable level of financial stability.
• Strong, positive relationships characterised by warmth, constructive decision making and problem solving
• Manage stresses that can come with everyday life and the role of caring for a young person
• An ability to navigate challenging life experiences, which may include trauma, grief and loss in order to support a young person to do the same.
• A reasonable level of mental and physical health.
Caring for children and young people can be a challenge at times, so it is important for foster carers to have a reliable network of practical and emotional support in place from their family, friends and community. For example, a foster carer’s support network may provide practical help with babysitting or transport.
Foster carers provide a nurturing home environment that promotes a sense of belonging and positive identity for children and young people. This includes:
• Care that is characterised by warmth, empathy and playfulness
• Relationships that build a child’s sense of love, attachment and security
• A focus on a child or young person’s life domains (explained below)
• An ability to respond appropriately to challenging behaviours, including with other members of your family or household
• An understanding of the impact of a child’s identity, culture and early experiences on their current and future needs
• An understanding that a young person may only be in foster care for a short time and that their best interests will always be the top priority.
Children and young people that have experienced abuse and neglect require nurturing care. This contributes to a child coming to terms with the adversity they have experienced and positive experiences in foster care. For many children, their first experiences of warmth, empathy and playfulness may occur in a foster care home.
Nurturing care builds a child’s sense of love, attachment and security. Foster carers are best supported to do this when they understand the effects of developmental trauma and attachment. Developmental trauma refers to the trauma endured during childhood when experiences of abuse and neglect have impacted on a child’s emotional, physical, psychological and cognitive development. Attachment refers to the bonding (emotional connection) between a child and their caregiver.
Foster carers receive initial and ongoing learning opportunities around developmental trauma and attachment to support them to provide nurturing care to young people. One of the models foster carers are trained in regarding nurturing care is the PACE model - Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. More information is available in the ‘learning and development’ section on page 16.
Life domains refer to the significant aspects of a child’s life which support their development and opportunities to reach their full potential. The ‘care team’ is responsible for ensuring a child’s life domains are supported so that they are encouraged to have hopes and visions for their future. For more information about the role of the ‘care team’ refer to page 14 below in ‘working with others’.
Broadly a child’s life domains include:
• education and employment
• family and caregiver relationships
• connection with family and kin
• emotional and behavioural adjustment
• social and peer relationships
• life skills.
Care of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) children and young people
The Department for Child Protection and ac.care have a commitment to placing CALD children and young people with carers who share their cultural background.
The Children and Young Person (Safety) Act 2017 informs the practices of ac.care and the Department for Child Protection. The legislation requires that consideration is given to a child and young person’s culture, disability, language and religion and those in whose care children and young people are placed.
Where children are unable to be placed with culturally appropriate carers, Non-CALD carers are able to provide for a CALD child or young person. Carers are expected to support the child's ongoing connection with the child's CALD culture.