Due to the current shortage of foster carers in NSW (and more generally nationwide), children in need of foster care are necessarily being put in hotels and motels.
These in-need children span a range of ages and level of care needs however, the most significant area is Western Sydney.
Across NSW at any one time, there is usually around 150 children in hotels and motels and the age ranges from as young as 3 years through to 18 years.
The majority are boys and there are sibling groups, individual children, children who have had multiple placement breakdowns, children who have never had any placements and have been removed straight from home and placed in a hotel because there is nowhere else for them to go.
A lot of the children in the hotel placements have a diagnosed disability, either learning, developmental or physical. Some of the messages from the young people regarding their experience of being in the hotels is heartbreaking; they dislike the fact they don’t know who will be putting them to bed at night and who will be there when they wake up in the morning.
It is recognised that a lot of these kids will come with challenging behaviours and therefore particular types of carers are required; however, I think we all need to try and do something to find these kids a home.
What is foster care?
Foster care is the care of a child or young person who is not able to live with their own family. For children and young people to enter foster care, Family and Community Services (FaCS, NSW Child Protection organisation) needs to determine that there is a significant risk of harm that cannot be addressed or alleviated without removing the children from their parent’s care.
Why do children enter care?
There are many reasons a family may not be able to continue to look after their children.
- Parental health issues including impacts of diseases, disability, mental health and use of drugs or alcohol
- Family breakdown for many reasons including family violence
- Special support needs of the children
What is the role of a foster carer?
The role of a foster carer is to:
- Provide a safe home environment
- Provide love, nurture and support
- Meet day-to-day needs of a child
- Provide consistency
- Maintain and support the child’s relationship with their birth family
What are the different types of foster care?
There are four main forms of foster care which require different forms of carers able to cater to the diverse needs of children in care:
- Emergency foster carers are available to provide immediate care for children and young people for a short period of time, often only a few nights or weeks while the care team creates a plan to meet the child or young person’s longer term needs.
- Some children require ongoing care beyond immediate emergency care while the care team (including foster carers, case managers and external agencies) works with the child’s family to create a safe environment for the child to return home. This is known as restoration and when possible, is the best possible outcome for children and young people in care.
- Short-term carers may provide care for a period ranging from 6 months to 2 years depending on the needs and circumstances of the particular child and family and is determined on a case-by-case basis.
- In some cases, it isn’t safe for children and young people to return home and they require dedicated carers to provide an ongoing loving, supportive home environment until they reach independence.
- Long-term carers may provide ongoing care for children and young people until age 18, or have the option to consider applying for guardianship for a child who has been in their care for a minimum of two years. Guardianship enables carers to become the legal guardians of the child or young person until they reach 18 years of age and are able to autonomously make all the day-to-day decisions for the child in their care independent of an agency.
- Respite carers may not have the capacity to provide full-time care but are able to offer one weekend a month or fortnight to care for a child or young-person.
- Respite offers the child or young person’s parents or foster carer a break and importantly offers the child the opportunity to develop another important connection within their life.
- Respite care can be a very rewarding experience for people considering foster care who may limited by other commitments that prevent them from having the capacity to provide full-time care.
- Respite care can also be used as a stepping stone to full time care and can be an opportunity to develop foster carers skills and knowledge of the needs of children and young people in care before committing to becoming full-time carers. Many of our carers begin their caring journey as respite carers.
Please consider opening your hearts and homes to children in need of foster care.
The Benevolent Society’s Fostering Young Lives program invites anyone considering foster care to contact us to learn more about the need for foster carers and the process of becoming a carer. Contact The Foster Care Recruitment team at Fostering@benevolent.org.au or call The Benevolent Society support line on 1800 236 762 to discuss how fostering may fit in to your life.