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Foster caring – is it right for you?

fostering-julieIt might shock you to find that the number of children in out-of-home care in NSW increased by almost 24% from 2008 to 2012.

There is an urgent need for 900 foster carers in NSW alone over the next 2 years. Fostering NSW need at least 450 carers just to maintain the status quo.

Fast facts:

  • 900 foster carers are needed in NSW alone over the next 2 years
  • More and more same sex couples are fostering and have been for many years
  • People are becoming foster carers at an older age
  • Singles are more likely to foster than couples
  • Working parents are considering fostering for its flexibility
  • Aboriginal and culturally diverse kids are increasingly being placed with culturally appropriate carers.
  • Foster carers aren’t thrown in on their own – they are given training and ongoing support.

I was recently invited to attend an event put on by Fostering NSW to learn more about what they do. Speakers included Andrew McCallum from Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA); Professor Judy Cashmore of the University of Sydney and foster carers David, Louise, and Deborah.

Although professional in their capacity, both McCallum and Cashmore eschewed a warmth and sincere passion for their work in this industry. Cashmore teared up saying, “The state is not a good parent, we need people to parent.” She went on to say these young people especially need parenting and care as, for many, what they have been through in their short lives is very tough. She also said that foster carers give these young people a family for life, well beyond the age of 18.

So what does it take to be a foster parent? Increasingly, empty nesters, singles and same sex couples are becoming carers. As a foster carer you are not simply thrown in the deep end on your own, there are a host of non-governmental agencies who provide both training and a support network.

Key traits of foster carers:

  • Love
  • Empathy
  • Time
  • Sensitivity
  • Supportive nature
  • Ability to ‘just be there’

Some of you may be worried that you don’t have the time for foster caring, or you don’t have the heart to take in kids and then give them up. There are so many different kinds of foster care and so many children and young people in need, that if this is something you’re interested in, there is likely to be an option that will fit with your lifestyle. It might interest you to know that long-term care is quite similar to adoption, but the relationship with the biological family remains open.

What types of fostering are there?

  • Immediate or crisis care
  • Respite care
  • Short to medium-term care
  • Long-term care
  • Relative or kinship care

David has been a foster carer for 7 years. He and his same-sex partner started on their fostering journey taking in a 6 and 10 year-old. The 10 year-old came to him with a diagnosis of intellectual disability, but with the care and support of his foster family, he is now doing the HSC (senior high school) via mainstream classes.

Foster carer, Louise, says that the challenges of having foster kids are no different to those faced by her natural-parent friends – they all have their ups and downs. All you need to be a foster parent, she says, is, “a desire to care for a child.”

“There’s nothing special or magic about us,” she continues, “all you need to do is provide for the kids.” I have to argue that point, from all I’ve heard today, there is something very special about foster carers.

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask of David or Louise, or about fostering in general? Please share them with us below in the comments (you can comment anonymously if you wish).

*Note that the photo used is a creative commons image sourced from Flickr, as Foster children are not allowed to be photographed.

If you’d like more information visit the Fostering NSW website or Family Relationships for other states and territories.

– written by Julie Delaforce

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