Are you interested in foster caring?

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1 Are you interested in foster caring? It s not just the child s life that changes

2 2 What is foster care? When families are troubled and children cannot live safely at home, they come into the care of the Department for Child Protection. Wherever possible, we place these children with relatives or someone close. When this isn t possible, we consider fostering. Foster care is an arrangement where a family or an individual cares for other people s children in their own home. The child could be a baby, at school, or a young person. Foster carers are volunteers who are able to include these children in their own home and family. There are different types of fostering, depending on the age of the child, and if they have problems such as behavioural difficulties or a disability. The children generally keep in touch with members of their birth family. Foster carers help children keep in contact with people and places that are important to them. Why do some children need foster care? A child s parent might be unable to care for them because of illness, drug or alcohol problems, domestic violence or imprisonment. Sometimes children have been neglected or hurt by a parent and need to be protected. Foster care provides a caring home while the parent and family members get help. If possible, the child will then return to live with their family when they are able to be cared for properly. Types of foster care Some children will need care for just a few days, others for a few weeks or even years. We don t always know how long a child will need care. That s why we have several types of care: Emergency Care up to 28 days Respite Care weekends and school holidays Short-term up to six months Long-term over one year Home for Life Program - permanent foster placement until the child turns 18 years.

3 Could I be a foster carer? Foster carers are everyday people who like helping others, especially children. Foster carers can be male or female, single or a couple, with or without children and work full time or part time or even be retired. What s important is your maturity, health and lifestyle. What do we expect from you? You need to be able to provide a safe, supportive home for a child who may be troubled or traumatised. You also need to be prepared to attend training to learn new skills, and to keep information about the foster child confidential, even from close friends and family. We are looking for people who are prepared to work closely with the Department and the child s family to plan and maintain the best care for the child. Foster carers are also expected to: provide emotional support and care to meet the child s everyday needs help the child communicate and behave in positive ways support the child in their schooling and recreational activities help the child maintain contact with their parents and extended family support the child s cultural and religious needs. 3

4 Becoming a foster carer Step 1 Study the information pack Step 2 Attend an information session Step 3 Expression of interest Step 4 Home visit Step 5 Application and screening Step 6 Assessment Step 7 Training Step 8 Approval 4

5 The information pack contains basic information about being a foster carer. After you have read the material and you want to find out more, you should attend an information session. If you are unsure if you would be suitable or eligible as a foster carer, call Fostering and Adoption Services on At the session you ll meet an experienced foster carer and staff from the Department for Child Protection. You ll have the chance to ask questions, and find out about different types of fostering and the fostering agencies (there s some information about these later in this booklet). Find out when the next metropolitan session is at or call If you live in the country, contact Fostering and Adoption Services for information. Once you and your family have decided to take the next step, complete an Expression of Interest form and return it to Fostering and Adoption Services. After you have sent in your Expression of Interest form, a Fostering and Adoption Services worker will call you to make a time to meet you and your family at home. This is a chance for us to learn more about you and have a look at your home. For you it s an opportunity to hear more about fostering. If you live in the country a Fostering and Adoption Services worker will phone you and talk further. If you still want to go ahead, the worker will leave you an application form. (If you live in the country an application form will be posted to you.) Fill in the Application Form and send it to Fostering and Adoption Services. The form asks for background details of you and your family. Part of your application includes giving us permission to carry out police and Department checks, contact referees, and get a health report from your doctor. Foster carers also need a Working with Children Card; you ll be asked to apply for this later in the assessment process. If you have completed an adoption/fostering assessment, we will need permission from you to release your assessment report, which will be used to provide evidence required for the assessment. The assessment starts after we have received some of the screening information. We will visit you and your family several times in your home. You will decide, with your assessor, what type of foster care you wish to do, and what age and sex of child would fit best with your lifestyle. We will assess your readiness to become a foster carer and your ability to: work as part of a team respond to a foster child s emotional, educational, psychological and physical needs provide a safe home, free of abuse take the responsibility to learn and develop as a carer. Before being registered as a carer, you will need to attend 19 hours of preparation training over four evenings and a Saturday (country areas have different arrangements). At these sessions you will learn about why children enter care and the issues that they experience, as well as the roles and responsibilities of both yourself and the Department. Your assessor will submit a report to the Foster Care Assessment Panel, who, in turn, will make a recommendation to the Department about whether or not you should be a foster carer. If you are approved you will get a letter and be asked to sign an agreement with the Department. This whole process can take about six months. It might seem a long time and a bit intrusive, but we need all this information to make sure that you are suitable, safe and able to look after other people s children. If you are not approved, there are still ways you can help. You may be able to assist with foster care camps, or volunteer in other ways. To find out more, either call Fostering and Adoption Services or contact Volunteering WA (www.volunteeringwa.org.au or ). 5

6 What happens once I m a registered foster carer? A Senior Officer Care Services from your local district will support you and place a foster child with you. Foster children have their own case worker who supports them and their family. The child s case worker will also work closely with you. Foster Care Partnership Policy The Foster Care Partnership Policy aims to: Acknowledge the central role of foster carers in providing a nurturing family environment for children in care. Emphasise the role of the Department for Child Protection care team to support carers in their role of providing child support to create more stable and successful placements. Engage foster carers in decision making regarding case management as well as to incorporate foster carer views into departmental policy and services. Learning and Development Fostering and Adoption Services will regularly send you a calendar of learning and development workshops on a range of topics such as first aid, child development and coping with children leaving care, as well as social events. (Country areas have different workshop arrangements.) Support There are regular foster carer coffee mornings and other social events where you can meet other foster carers in your area. All foster carers can get respite care (breaks) both in emergencies and on a planned and regular basis. Foster carers get a tax-free subsidy towards the cost of looking after a foster child. You can get help any time by calling the Crisis Care helpline on (08) or (free call). Foster carers and their families have access to a free, confidential counselling service. There are also clinical psychologists, therapists and teachers available to help you. Foster Care Association The Foster Care Association of WA represents and supports all foster carers. It is an excellent source of support and information for foster carers, funded by the Department. Contact the Association at or on (08) or (free call). 6

7 Everyday Issues Confidentiality For their privacy and to retain a sense of normality in their lives, you may not always be able to share information about the child in your care with your family or friends. You may also have to ask your own children not to tell that their new housemates are foster children. For your privacy, we don t normally give your address to the child s family unless it s appropriate and you have given your permission. Schooling We try and keep children in their local area to continue contact with familiar people and places. If the child is staying for a short period they ll usually remain at their own school. If it s a long-term placement, then they ll attend a school in your area. Generally they will attend public schools to maintain consistent education, as in many cases they will return home and to their previous school. Financial Assistance Foster carers get a fortnightly subsidy towards the cost of looking after a foster child. You also get additional payments for clothing, school, medical, and recreational expenses. The amount depends on the age and needs of the child. You can find out the current rates at The subsidy is tax-free you don t have to declare it as income. You can also receive Family Allowance for foster children you ll need to discuss the length of placement with the case worker and meet Centrelink criteria. Healthcare If your foster child is sick, you should take them to a doctor as with any child. You may need Department permission for some dental and medical treatments. The Department pays any medical expenses. Holidays Holidays may be an experience that some children in care have not had. Foster carers should discuss arrangements with the Department before they take a child away. You will have to get special permission to take a child interstate or overseas. If you need a regular or occasional break (or in an emergency), we also have a respite care service where the child can stay with another person or attend a residential camp. 7

8 Department for Child Protection Foster Care Programs By law, the Department must care and protect those children and young people who are unable to be cared for by their families. The Department is the coordination point for all children who need to be placed with foster carers in Western Australia. General Foster Care Phone: The Department for Child Protection provides care for children from birth to 18 years, for emergency, respite, short, medium and long-term care. The Department s Fostering and Adoption Services recruits, assesses and trains prospective foster carers across the State. They ensure that carers are provided with support, and that children in care are given a safe and good quality home. Once you are approved as a foster carer, you will be supported by your local Department office. They will match children to you, and arrange for ongoing support for the child, as well as for you and your family. Respite Program (Metropolitan service only) Phone: Respite carers look after children for short periods of time to give their full-time carers a break. This provides a chance for foster carers to recharge, respond to other family needs and maintain their general well being. Respite carers look after children in their own home. The length of care is decided before placement and can vary from one day to a few weeks. Respite care is most effective if it is planned and regular, however respite care can be in response to emergency situations e.g. sudden illnesses. 8

9 Pre-Adoptive Foster Care (Metropolitan service only) Phone: These foster carers mainly care for newborn babies while the birth parents are considering long-term care options for their child. This may include caring for the child themselves, extended family care or adoption. The period of care can range from a few days to several months, and occasionally up to two years. Carers need to have had experience caring for a newborn baby, and the main caregiver cannot be in paid employment. You will also have to be flexible about contact visits, which are usually at your home (by appointment), and may include extended birth family. You ll also be involved in a transition plan when the baby is due to move to the adoptive parents. This transition period can often be very time consuming, lasting three weeks or more depending on the age of the baby. You also need to be comfortable in interacting with parents of various cultural backgrounds. Home 4 Life Phone: or (08) Home 4 Life carers provide a child with a permanent, caring home - for life; otherwise known as permanent foster care. The Home 4 Life team provides assistance with: the preparation of a child s placement carer learning and development matching children with foster families the child s transition to a home for life with ongoing support until the placement is stabilised. 9

10 Non-Government Agencies If you would like to foster through a non-government agency you should contact them directly. You are very welcome to attend a Department information session (see page 5) even if you wish to foster with one of these agencies. You will need to go through the same kind of assessment process with the agency as with the Department for Child Protection. 10 Anglicare WA 23 Adelaide Terrace East Perth WA 6004 Phone: (08) Fax: (08) Web: Anglicare WA s Teenshare is a 24 hour, seven day a week service, providing emergency short-term care to young people aged 12 to 17 years throughout the Perth metropolitan area. Uniting Care West 16 Sunbury Road Victoria Park WA 6100 Phone: (free call) Fax: Web: Futures is a service of the Uniting Church which provides long-term placements to children from birth to 12 years with disabilities who cannot remain in the care of their own families throughout the Perth metropolitan area. It also provides respite care. Key Assets (Metropolitan service only) 80 Cantonment Street Fremantle WA 6160 Phone: (08) Fax: (08) Web: Key Assets is a not-for-profit organisation offering services throughout Western Australia. Its services meet a wide range of needs, including those of children from birth to 18 years with complex and complicated histories who may make considerable demands upon their carers. Life Without Barriers 38 Pearse Street North Fremantle WA 6159 Phone: (08) Fax: (08) Web: Life Without Barriers is a national, not-for-profit community services organisation that provides over 1200 placements for children aged one to 18 years throughout Australia, including placements for children with disabilities, mental health issues and/or living in crisis. Mercy Family & Community Services (Metropolitan service only) 18 Barrett Street Wembley WA 6014 Phone: (08) Fax: (08) Web: Mercy Foster Care, run by the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Church, provides respite and medium to long-term care (more than six months) in the Perth metropolitan area for children from birth to 17 years. Parkerville Children & Youth Care Inc Beacon Road Parkerville WA 6081 Phone: (08) Fax: (08) Web: Parkerville is an Anglican organisation providing medium to long-term care for children and young people from birth to 18 years throughout the Perth metropolitan area.

11 Wanslea Family Services (Metropolitan service only) 110 Scarborough Beach Road Scarborough WA 6019 Phone: (08) Fax: (08) Web: Wanslea is a community based, non-denominational, non-profit organisation which offers short-term emergency care for children from birth to 12 years. Placements vary in length from one or two nights to a few weeks. In partnership with Anglicare, Wanslea also provides an intensive foster care program targeted at children aged between eight and 12 years with complex needs. Yorganop Childcare Aboriginal Corporation (Metropolitan service only) 1320 Hay Street West Perth WA 6005 Phone: (08) Fax: (08) Web: Yorganup is an Aboriginal controlled and managed agency which aims to preserve the Aboriginal extended family and prevent family break up where possible. Extended family members are approached first when children, from birth to 15 years, need care. Foster Care Association of WA (Inc) Phone: (08) or (free call) Fax: (08) Web: The Foster Care Association is funded by the Department for Child Protection. It represents and supports foster carers, offering telephone support, workshops, a loan scheme for children s clothing and furniture, newsletters and the Foster Care Handbook. Department for Child Protection Fostering and Adoption Services Phone: Fax: (08) Web: 11

12 You won t always see where they go. But you can help them get there. Become a foster carer. DCP

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