Fostering can be a great way of giving vulnerable children a stable, loving environment in which they can start to flourish. There are currently over 6000 children in Queensland who require care outside of their direct family because of abuse or neglect. Looking after one or more of these children could be very rewarding.
Who can foster? In Queensland, basically anyone can foster, whether you are single, a same-sex couple, or even a group of people sharing a household. You must be assessed by the Child Safety Services (part of the Department of Communities) and complete training, but the basic criterion is that you are able to provide a safe, supportive environment for children.
Things to think about with fostering – You should think very carefully about becoming a foster carer. It’s a big commitment and you need to think about how it will affect your life, just as you would if you were having your own children.
Here’s a few things to be aware of: You are not going to be the child’s parent. They will always have their own parents and for many children, there is always the possibility they may return to their parents since the DOCS policy supports reunification with parents if at all possible. Their parents may continue to have rights to see their children, and have a say in decisions that affect them. For a lot of children, it’s important for them to maintain contact with their parents and wider family.
Children who have come into care have usually experienced trauma, abuse, and/or neglect. There are therefore often significant behavioural issues which will demand the best of your parenting skills. You may even need to take more training for specific issues. With some patience, you will start to reap the benefits when you see a child begin to realise your home is a safe place, and that you are going to be there for them.
Sometimes, kids in care get moved from home to home, finding it difficult to find a family that suits them. Make sure you give a lot of thought to the sort of kids that might best suit your family circumstances.
Where to find more information – Child Safety Services, which is part of the Department of Communities, is the Queensland agency responsible for removing children from their homes when they have been harmed or at risk of being harmed, and placing them with foster carers. Their webpage provides a good introduction to foster caring for those considering it.
Child Safety Services work with community foster care agencies, such as Mercy Family Services, FSG, Spiritus, and Lifeline (Uniting Care), to place children with carers, and provide carers with training and support.
The following are peak bodies or other advocacy groups for foster carers or children in care: