Everything you need to know about how to become a foster carer

foster care

Everything you need to know about how to become a foster carer

One of the most frequent questions we’re asked when we’re recruiting for foster carers at Uniting is, “Who can become a foster carer?”.

It seems that many people who would make great foster parents just aren’t sure if being single, or older (or younger), or in a same-sex relationship, or a renter, might disqualify them from opening their heart and their home to a child.

But you might be surprised to hear about the different sorts of people who can become foster carers. At Uniting, we welcome people regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religious beliefs. Of course, a commitment to respecting children and promoting their right to be heard is essential.

We’ve put together a checklist to help you consider whether fostering might be for you; but here’s the bottom line: if you’re kind and compassionate, single or a couple and 18 years or older, you can apply.

Who can become a foster carer?

To apply to become a foster carer with Uniting, you need to meet these general criteria:

  • You need to be over the age of 18
  • You can be a healthy older person
  • You can be single, de facto or a married couple
  • You can be heterosexual or LGBTI
  • You need to be in good health and able to keep up with the children both physically and mentally. If you have a health condition, we’ll need to know how it affects you and ensure it doesn’t affect your capacity to be there for the children in your care.
  • You need to be an Australian Citizen or permanent resident
  • You can work full-time, part time or not be employed – you just need to ensure you have the flexibility to meet the needs of the child in your care. This can be done through a team approach – especially if you have extended family to support you.
  • You must be renting or own your home.

Find out more about foster care

Here’s a checklist to consider before applying with Uniting:

If you meet the criteria above, it’s time to dig a little deeper on whether fostering is for you.

  1. Prepare your home
  • To become a foster carer, you must have a spare room that the child or children can call their own cosy space. Younger siblings may be able to share, but children going into adolescence need their own room.
  • Ensure your home is a safe environment. Get ready to pass a home compliance test by getting anything that’s broken or worn fixed.
  • Secure a Working with Children Check.
  1. Carefully consider the impact it will have on your life
  • Prepare other children in your care for a big change in your family. Foster children have often been exposed to different family norms and behaviours that could be confronting to youngsters.
  • Be prepared to be guided by experienced caseworkers on how to manage challenging behaviours.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. You may have lots of paediatric and counselling appointments, as well as birth family visits and other appointments to keep. You may also have frequent visits to the child’s school to chat with teachers, often without notice.
  • Get your extended family on board to help. If they will be playing an active part in supporting you, they’ll need to have some checks done also, but Uniting will organise and pay for these.
  1. Know you won’t be alone
  • Uniting provides foster carer training over a two-three-day course or as a series of evening sessions.  This essential training is open to anyone 16-years or older in the home.
  • Further training, including online, face-to-face, written content and sessions with your caseworker, is offered on a regular basis.
  • You will be visited by your Uniting support caseworker at least once a month and they are available on the phone when you need them. You will also have access to 24-hour helpline for times when you need immediate support.
  • It usually takes six to nine months from the time you submit your application to when you’ll be ready to take care of your first child. This timeframe includes mandatory criminal record check, community services check, reference checks and home safety and medical checks. There is a lot of paperwork because the children remain under the care of the Minister for Family and Community Services and we need to ensure their safety. Uniting can help with all of this.
  1. Know you’re enough
  • Prospective foster carers often worry they won’t be able to meet every need a child has or ‘fix’ things for them. The journey will allow you to realise this is not the task being asked of you. Your role is simple – to be a safe and stable presence in the child’s life and offer lots of love and connection.
  • People also worry about how the relationship with the child’s birth family will be managed. While you’ll never replace their birth family, you will play a significant and positive role in the life of the child in your care. Be assured that we will work with you to determine how to make this relationship work for you and the kids in your care. Uniting can offer soft introductions where case workers are present too. We’ll offer you training to understand the importance of birth family contact for a child’s self-identity and how you can support them with this. We also assess all birth family visits for safety concerns.

More: Debunking the myths: the many ways you can be a foster carer

Keen to know more?

Uniting is currently looking for short-term, long-term and respite foster carers. If you think you might have what it takes, get in touch with the team on 1800 864 846 to find out more about foster care with Uniting.

Read stories from our Uniting foster carers

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