When families are unable to continue to provide a child or young person with the necessary care, alternative arrangements need to be made.
Shared Family Care is ‘family based' care that is offered as an alternative form of care for the child outside their family home.
Foster care ensures that children and young people are able to receive the necessary care while in the home of an approved foster carer or kinship carer.
One of the key aims of Shared Family Care is to reunite children and young people with their families. Carers, therefore, may need to be involved with the child's natural family. This may include participating in group outings, contact visits and/or telephone calls.
Each child in care has experienced a major life disturbance. They may have experienced neglect; emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or any combination of these.
The level of needs and difficulties faced by children in care can include challenging or destructive behaviours; behavioural disturbances; a disability including intellectual, physical or developmental, or parents with a psychiatric illness.
What do foster carers do?
The carer family provides a safe and caring home for children and young people who are unable to remain in their family home. While this sounds simple, ask any experienced carer: It can prove to be very challenging. Fostering, however, is not simply about providing a loving and safe home for the child.
Carers also need to:
- Ensure that the physical needs of the child are met
- Respond to the emotional needs of the child, assist with their development and ensure that educational needs are met
- Understand the abuse and trauma that the child may have suffered and assist the child in coping with this. Carers are also required to seek an understanding of the child's family without judging either the child or their family
- Keep a life diary for the child to take with them, recoding little events, photos and an overall picture of their progress.
Carers may also be asked to attend court, either to provide evidence or to support the child, in regard to their family or an offence that they may have committed.
Please note: This is only a very brief overview of what may be required of an Approved or Kinship Carer when they take a child into their care.
Foster carers look after children of all ages including:
- Babies and infants
- Primary school age
The length of placement varies greatly depending on the following types of care:
- Emergency/voluntary care: usually no longer than one month (but can be extended)
- Respite: involves taking a child for a short period of time to give their parents or foster carers a break
- Short term: up to two years
- Long term: up to 18 years.
There are also special programs, which consist of:
- Bail accommodation: provides young people who are waiting to appear in court with an alternative to being detained in the Police Watch House
- Pre-adoptive care: the carer looks after the child after an adoption consent form has been signed and before they are united with their adoptive parents
At times 'sibling groups' may require care. Where possible, Shared Family Care will attempt to place siblings together. This can mean that a carer will need to be found to care for a large number of children, sometimes between six and eight children of varying ages and needs.
Approved and Kinship Carers are everyday members of the community with a strong commitment to helping others, especially children and young people. It is not a requirement that carers are married couples or have their own children. They may be single, in a de facto or same-sex relationship, and may or may not have children of their own. The age also doesn’t matter: carers are young, middle-aged and older people.
A Carer Agreement is a contract between the carer, Shared Family Care and the Department of Child Safety. This agreement must be completed in writing at the time carers are approved and before any children are placed. This agreement covers the types of placements carers would like to receive (see types of fostering), training that has been undertaken, training that still needs to be done, and the types of support that is available. It will also detail the date of the next review and goals and objectives that are to be reviewed. The Foster Care Agreement is formally reviewed on a six-monthly basis, although a review is possible at any time.
The Shared Family Care service will provide support to Approved and Kinship Carers in the following forms:
- On call after-hours telephone support
- Home visits
- An information and referral service
- Support carer networks like morning teas and social functions
- Identification of training needs and advanced carer training
- Participation in placement meetings
- Conducting carer re-approvals and assessments
- Meeting any licensing requirements
- Providing data to the Department of Child Safety in regard to the number of carers, number of children and young people, level and type of support, matters of concern, etc.
After making an initial inquiry and reading through the information provided, the following steps must be fulfilled before an applicant can be registered as an Approved Foster Carer:
- Completion of the Formal Application Form (APA) by the applicants and other adult household members, which covers personal and criminal history checks by the Department of Child Safety
- Obtaining Suitability/Blue Cards from the Children's Commission for applicants and other adult household members
- Conducting a Household Safety Assessment and an initial home visit by a Shared Family Care support worker
- Completion of an Initial Assessment Form (3A) including up to 10 hours of interviews
- Provision of referee reports and undergoing a medical check-up
- Undertaking the first four training modules.
Within the first 12 months of being an approved, carers will also need to:
- Undertake an additional three modules of standard training, and
- Complete four learning journals in order to be re-approved.
The process of assessment for both Approved and Kinship Carers should be completed within 90 days of lodging the completed APA (formal application) form.
Once each of these has been completed and the application is approved, the successful applicant will receive a form confirming their status as an Approved Carer.
Carers will then have the opportunity to develop a Care Agreement that is suited to the needs and circumstances of them and their family, and also outlines support and training requirements.
For Approved Carers, re-approvals are conducted within 12 months of the initial approval and then every two years after that.
Kinship Carers follow a slightly different process as outlined below, after having demonstrated they have a significant relationship with a particular child:
- Completion of the APA form by applicants and other adult household members which covers personal and criminal history checks by the Department of Child Safety
- Suitability/Blue Card application or confirmation from Children's Commission for applicants and other adult household members
- A Household Safety Assessment and an initial home visit conducted by a Shared Family Care coordinator
- Completion of a Kinship Carer Assessment report
- Referee reports need to be provided and applicants may be required to undergo a medical check-up
- Approval decision
- Carer Agreement is completed to discuss support and training requirements, and then reviewed at six-monthly intervals.
Kinship Carers are re-approved within 12 months of the initial approval and then every two years after that.
Foster Carers are everyday members of the community who have a commitment to helping others, especially children and young people. Before becoming a Foster Carer, please consider the following questions and discuss them with members of your family and support network:
- How will your family adjust to having other children in your home?
- Are there changes or compromises that members of your family would need to make?
- How will your children in particular deal with having another child in your family?
- How will you and your family cope with the uncertainty and disruption that can arise when a child comes into or leaves your care?
- How would you feel discussing personal and painful issues with a member of Shared Family Care?
- Is your family experiencing any stresses that may impact on your ability to care for a child or young person?
- How will your friends and family react to your decision to foster children?
- Do you have room in your home or car to care for another child or young person?
Please be advised that any information that you provide to Shared Family Care will remain confidential.
Please contact us on 4779 3332 for more information about Shared Family Care. Or alternatively you can visit www.fosterafuture.qld.gov.au to complete an initial self-assessment to see if foster caring is for you.