02 November 2016 John G Kennedy   | News | Community  
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What is Foster care? (Key Messages)

Foster care gives children, who cannot live with their own families, the opportunity to live within a safe and nurturing home environment. Children in foster care are aged from 0 to 17 years.
Depending on their circumstances, a child may be in foster care for a few days, a few weeks or for many years.

Why do children need foster care?
Most children who need foster care have experienced trauma and various forms of abuse and can't live with their birth family.

Wherever possible, the plan is to get children back living safely with their birth families. Foster care is required when there isn’t an extended family member or members of a child’s community to provide for their care

When a child has been separated from their family because of ongoing child protection concerns the Children’s Court and Family and Community Services will be involved in making the decisions about children’s care.

Are there many children in NSW in foster care and how many ha CALD backgrounds?
There are about 20,000 children not living with their birth parents in NSW and of these there are about 12% from CALD backgrounds.

What do children need from foster carers?
When children have been seriously harmed and need care most will be affected by there experiences and from being separated from their family. Each child is different but child abuse causes trauma and harms how a child’s brain and emotional develop. They may show signs of stress, worry and uncertainty. Their anxiety, fear and confusion can be expressed in the form of withdrawal as well as difficult behaviours such as tantrums, withdrawal and running away. Some children have never learnt to live within the usual routines of family life and will need extra amounts of love, understanding and patience.

  • Babies may have special feeding or medical or sleeping needs
  • Brothers and sisters should stay together

What types of foster care can I provide?
There are different types depending on children’s needs and carer’s capacity. They include:

  • Regular periodic care (knowns also as respite) – This gives children an opportunity to have another family supporting them and it be helpful for foster carers to have a regular break,
  • Emergency or crisis care is the urgent placement request often with very little notice when a decision has been made that a child needs to be in care
  • Short term homes are for children are required for periods from a few weeks to a few months while decisions are being considered about the child’s future. Will the child’s parents be in a position to resume their care, if there a family or community member available or does the child need long term care?
  • Long term care if needed for children who cannot return to their biological family and there is no other family member who can look after them

Will I have direct contact with the child’s biological parents?
Maintaining or rebuilding relationships between children and their biological parents is mostly helpful, when it is safe for the child. Many parents are struggling to understand their roles as parents when they are not caring for their children and this can raise many emotions including anger, loss and confusion and hope. How carers talk about children’s biological parents will influence how a child sees their family.
Contact or visits with family will in part depend on the parent’s behaviours and the circumstances surrounding the child going into care SSI caseworker will talk with you and the child and the biological family to organise arrangements
Initial contact with the biological family might be at the regular meetings held to discuss the child’s care (these meetings are not held in your home).
Many long-term carers have developed very positive relationships with the biological families of children in their care and this is hugely beneficial for all involved, especially the children.

What do I need to do to be a foster carer?
The important things include you ability to

  • Make a commitment to being a meaningful person in a child’s life.
  • Provide a safe, loving and caring environment.
  • Respect the child and their biological family and culture.
  • Be patient, flexible, creative, a problem solver and a good listener
  • Have a sense of humour.
  • Manage your family finances with the addition of another child
  • Maintain your other interests and family supports
  • Participate in meetings and training that involve your carer role.
  • Work as part of a larger team.

What does the assessment process involve?

  • Probity checks include: Working With Children’s Check, a police Check. a Community Services Check and a home inspection
  • One on one discussion
  • Participating in training (Shared Stories Shared Lives) which covers 9 topics, usually takes about 20 hours wither on weekends or evening sessions
  • 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. The topics discussed cover a broad range of issues such as your from motivation, your ideas about parenting and child rearing, your experiences of loss and grief.

What financial support is available?
Family and Community Services allocates an allowance to each child depending on their foster care needs. The allowance is paid fortnightly to meet the day to day expenses in caring for a child or young person.
The allowance is intended to cover such things as general clothing and shoes, food, basic medical needs, preschool, or school and recreational activities.

What other support will I receive?
SSI will work closely with you to ensure you receive the support you need. A case worker will provide both professional support and practical help through regular phone calls and home visits.
You will also have access to 24 hour support, including an on-call service for emergency situations.
You will be invited to attend education and training on topics that might be relevant as well as language specific peer support groups
To support you in meeting the needs of the child in your care, you will be invited to periodic meetings as an opportunity for all involved in a child’s life to come together to discuss the child’s needs and develop a plan to meet these needs.

Why is culture important?
At SSI we believe children in care whoa re 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 culture, language and religion can also help if and when children are returned to their birth parents.
Our foster care service has a strong focus on helping children placed with you to learn about and remain concede with their culture.