About why Australia urgently needs more foster carers

Before I became a foster carer, I always imagined I would adopt a child at some point in my life.  I have met many adoption families throughout my life and because I didn’t feel I had to give birth to a child to love and care for a child, this idea has always made sense to me. I was also clueless about fostering for a long time.

After my daughter was born, I broached adopting with my then partner. I outlined my case (many children need a loving home, good for sustainable population growth and I did not feel I had to ‘birth’ a child to love a child and our daughter would have a sibling). At the time, he was open to this pathway so I started researching. Of course, as soon as I started researching. the world of fostering became very visible and compelling.

I really could write so much in this post as a big part of what I am trying to do here is to raise awareness about the need for foster carers and hopefully spark more conversations about becoming a foster carer.

Whilst I realise there are many pressing issues in the world to deal with, I do not understand why there is no ‘national conversation’ about fostering children and young people and how we as a society could do so much better in this space.

Below are some of the key reasons that Australia needs more foster carers:

– Every time a child enters into ‘care’, efforts should focus on keeping each child with their own family and supporting parent/s to get the children back home. Often, there will be a period of time while agencies search for additional family. Carers are needed to look after the children during this period. Often carers who are already caring for other foster children are accepting these children due to the shortage of carers.

– On any given day in Australia, there are children and young people ‘living’ in motel style accommodation with 24 hours paid staff caring for them. They are not in this environment because they are high needs in any way. It is because we do not have enough foster carers (note this includes emergency, short term carers and longer term carers) to provide care in a loving home environment.

– There are children and young people across Australia living in residential group homes (different to motels). Why? Because there are not enough foster carers.

– There is a heart breaking over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care and a very small proportion of Aboriginal foster carers available to care for them. When family cannot be found, Aboriginal children should then go to Aboriginal foster carers. Many are ending up in non-Aboriginal foster carer homes.

– There are foster carers under a lot of pressure (this may be because they are single carer households with little support, have multiple children or children with higher needs) who require a quality respite carer to support the children and themselves. When they do not get the respite, the risk of a carer ‘retiring’ increases.

– We need many more short and longer term carers who understand the importance of family for children in care and who are absolutely willing to go on their own journey to support children to have quality, natural connections.

– Where are the restoration carers? We need carers who are willing to work with parents to help get children back home. We need you to mentor parents and help them learn a different way of parenting (most likely much different to how they were parented). This is a big gap and the ideal is that a restoration carer will remain connected to the family and part of their lifetime network.

– Older children and young people are more likely to end up in residential or group home settings, not due to behaviour, but because many carers sign up to care for babies and young children. I have met many of these children and young people. They are great kids and they absolutely deserve somewhere safe and loving to live.

– Sibling groups are too often getting separated when they enter care due to a lack of foster carers to take siblings groups.

Whilst this is depressing and can cause despair for you to read, imagine it from the eyes of the child living in a motel or residential group home. Or a child who has been separated from siblings because no sibling group carers are available.

Only people who have capacity to care should care.

But this may be as little as just one child or one sibling group for one weekend per month.

If you are interested in learning more about foster caring, please read other blog posts at https://carer-hub.com/blog/ or contact me directly (note – I am not paid to do this but am happy to help provide direction).

*(out-of-home-care is a mix of foster care, in care with a relative/kin, group or residential home and relates to children who are unable to live with their primary care-givers mostly due to abuse or neglect issues)

To learn more:

Australian Institute of Family Studies 2018

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released March 2018

ABC News story 2018 – good story as looks at the need for better services to support at risk families so less children have to come into care – https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-16/australia-facing-an-epidemic-of-child-abuse-and-neglect/10233898

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