- Are you interested in being a foster carer and want to know more about what it involves?
- Below are commonly asked questions about being a foster carer.
- If you have any questions that are not covered below, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone one of our team members on 1800 732 522.
What is foster care?
Foster Care or Family Based Care gives children and young people a safe place to live in a family home when they are unable to live with their own families. It provides children with a family environment for as long as needed until they can return to their families or until they exit care, generally at 18 years of age.
Am I eligible to be a carer?
You need to be an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident to be a foster carer.
Our foster care community is made up of lots of different people from all areas of Tasmania.
We welcome and encourage carers to join us who may:
- be single or have a partner
- have parented their own children or not
- own or be renting their home
- have full or part time work, stay at home, study or are retired
- be from any culture or religion
- identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- have any sexual or gender orientation.
Just as there are many different children and young people needing care, we need lots of different people to meet their needs.
In short – it takes a village and we are building a community to care for Tasmanian children who are unable to live at home.
We can assist people where English is not their first language and in situations where communication can be difficult, by providing access to government approved and accredited Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS) to help them through the process.
No matter what your circumstances, fostering is a big step and we encourage you to talk to your friends and family to make sure it is right for you.
Why do children need foster care?
There are a range of reasons why children or young people cannot safely, or securely, live with their own family.
This does not mean that children will always be removed from their family and enter Out of Home Care (OoHC). We want children and young people to be safe, secure and able to develop to their full potential. Every effort is made to support families to address any issues of concern so that children can remain at home. For more information please refer to the Strong Families Safe Kids website
Where the child or young person remains at risk and is not able to safely live at home, the Child Safety Service may need to intervene and apply to the court for a legal order. This legal order is to protect the child and provide them with a safe place outside the home until it is safe for them to live with their family.
DECYP is a statutory organisation. This means that it works under legislation, in this case the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997. The Child Safety Service cannot place a child with a foster carer unless there is a legal status allowing this to happen.
Sometimes children are placed in care voluntarily, following a crisis where families are not able to care for their children for a short time.
Children are more likely to enter care on emergency orders. An Assessment Order then enables us to investigate any harm that may have occurred. If children need to stay in foster care for longer, we use Care and Protection Orders that can extend to 18 years.
What is the difference between foster and kinship care?
Foster care is where the care of a child or young person is with a family they are not related to.
We are committed to maintaining children within their natural families where it is safe to do so. If that cannot occur and a child or young person needs to enter care their protection, a kinship care placement will be sought with a family member or relative. If no family placement is available, children may be placed with a foster carer.
What is restoration?
Restoration is when a child or young person returns home to their birth family after being in Out of Home Care. Children belong with their families and the goal is to return children back to their birth families as soon as possible when it is safe to do so. Restoration can be a challenging and emotional time for foster carers as they form a close bond with the child or young person and worry about what will happen to them after they leave. Successful restoration relies on the support of carers helping the child to feel safe to transition back to their families.
Why foster? Is it right for our family?
Caring for children or young people who have experienced abuse and trauma can have its challenges. But lots of carers say they are rewarded by being able to make a difference in the life of a child or young person, by helping them reach their full potential. Research shows that the expected developmental, health and education outcomes for children and young people who are placed with quality foster carers are greatly improved.
Foster carers often report that their lives and those of family members, are changed for the better by helping children or young people. Making the decision and commitment to care for a child and to become a foster carer can have far reaching benefits for all involved.
We will support you to understand the Out of Home Care system and expectations of carers by providing training and support before and after you agree to become a carer.
Are there age or health requirements for carers?
Carers need to be over 21 years of age to begin fostering.
Whatever your age, the most important thing is that you have the energy to be able to care for active children and young people. This includes learning what children and young people are interested in and using contemporary parenting strategies.
If you have any health issues this will be discussed at the time of application and a medical review requested as part of your assessment.
Your age and capacity to meet the needs of a child or young person will form part of the matching process before a child or young person is placed in your care.
Can I be single and foster? Can I have a partner and foster?
You can be a carer if you are a single, of any gender, have a partner or identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We value diversity.
Caring for children who have experienced developmental trauma can be hard work and we need you to work as part of a team when you are fostering.
If you are married or in a defacto relationship, we ask that the relationship is of at least two years duration and that you and your partner are both committed to fostering.
Both you and your partner or spouse will need to attend foster care training and take part in the Step by Step foster care assessment. The Step by Step process is the assessment process for everyone who wants to become a foster carer. We strongly suggest that adult children still living in the home attend all or part of the training as well.
Do I need a Working with Vulnerable People Check to be a carer?
It is a requirement for any person over the age of 16 years, working in a regulated activity to hold or be eligible for current Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) Registration. Without WWVP registration you are not able to be a foster carer.
Foster carers are required to provide proof of registration and renewal to the Department for Education, Children and Young People.
Experience with children and young people
Carer applicants do not need to have raised their own family or to have their own children. However, it helps if you have had some experience with children and young people, e.g. through extended family or work settings.
Children and young people of all ages need carers who are fun loving and can help them learn through indoor and outdoor play that is suitable for their age group.
If you have a family of your own, we prefer to place children with you who are slightly younger than your youngest family member. Because we know that babies need lots of bonding and attachment in the first year, we will not place children in a household where there is already an infant or where a child is expected. This is a time when we encourage you to prepare for the approaching birth and focus on bonding and attaching with your newborn.
Can I be a carer if I rent my home?
To be a great foster carer, you don’t need to own your home. You do however need to have safe and stable accommodation and the space for a child or young person.
Do children and young people need their own room?
It is essential that a bedroom is available, although this can be shared if children are of the same age and the same gender. Children need their own space to store their belongings or to display personal items, photos or toys. Some children and young people need their own space and will need a separate bedroom.
Older girls and boys don’t share rooms together. Younger children may share a bedroom if this is OK for them.
Children are not permitted to share rooms with adults.
Teenagers, 13 and up, need their own space and it is not recommended that carers ask their teenage children to share a room with a child coming into their care.
Does DECYP buy furniture or equipment for foster children?
Generally, carers will have all the furniture, toys and games that children and young people need. DECYP can help in some situations if extra or special items are needed. Your provider will talk to you about safety requirements, including household safety, supervision and permissions.
How are children and young people in foster care supported with their education?
The education of children and young people who come into care is often disrupted. Sometimes this means they may have difficulties with classroom concentration, participation, retaining information, or following direction. Some children are unable to attend school full time or need alternative programs to help them integrate back into the classroom, form healthy relationships and build friendship groups.
Foster carers play an important role in supporting children and young people in their care to attend school or the education program that best meets their needs.
Can we be carers if my partner and I both work?
Carers can work. It does help if you are able to be flexible, in times of need but there is no expectation that you be at home all day every day.
Some of our children may need a home where there is someone with them through the day, which means they may not be able to live with a carer who works full time, or you would need to take leave.
We are very supportive of childcare and will support you to make these arrangements if needed. Our focus will always be the needs of the child or young person and your work arrangements will form part of the matching that we do before a placement is made.
What is a Welcome Book?
Creating a “Welcome Book” about you/your family is an excellent way to introduce a child or young person to your home. You may be asked to do this as part of your assessment. The book provides a story about you and your home for the child/children you may have in your care to help them feel more comfortable. Remember this is a very scary time for children and young people and they need as much reassurance as possible.
A Welcome Book can be good preparation for children and young people coming to stay so they can learn about you and your family or networks (including extended family), what you like doing, what your home is like, any pets, toys and activities.
The Welcome Book may include a photo of the bedroom where they will sleep with a welcome teddy or toy to assist younger children to feel less worried, as well as outside play spaces and equipment. If you are intending to care for an older child or young person it may be good to include information about computer access, games machines and other activities.
The Welcome Book can be a fun activity for the people who are going to be involved in the care of the child or young person to put together!
Will I be paid?
Carers receive a tax-free allowance for caring for a child or young person, which is based on their age and needs. The allowance covers reasonable costs associated with caring for a child or young person. There is an expectation that any money received from DECYP is spent on the child or young person, including providing them with pocket money. Carers may also be eligible for payments from Centrelink, however some of these are means tested.
Will I have to meet the parents or family?
Foster care is an arrangement to secure the safety of children and young people when they are unable to live with their own families – which may be for a short or longer period of time. Contact with parents or families will happen and may be in many forms – not just face to face. The safety of everyone is a priority, and an assessment is made before face to face contact between parents or families and foster carers happens.
Children who are in Out of Home Care need to be supported by their carers to have an ongoing relationship with their parent and families. Carers, parents, families and workers play a vital role in the Care Team approach to supporting children and young people in care. Creating an environment where the parent’s role is recognised as important really helps. This may be through creating craft or cooking for the child or young person to share with the parent during contact visits, taking photos and sharing other information, where appropriate. Some carers get to know the child or young person’s parents, grandparents and other family members well, and create a really strong network for them.
Do I need to have a car?
Carers need to have access to a reliable vehicle. In most circumstances a foster carer, will need to be able to provide transport for children and young people to and from day-to-day activities, such as school, as well as visits with their families. A child or young person may also have extra needs and need transport to appointments, for example to meet their medical needs. Carers must provide and use appropriate car seat/restraints when transporting children and young people in their cars. Any vehicles must be registered and roadworthy.
Can I choose the child or young person I want to care for?
You can indicate a preference for an age range of children or young people that might fit best with your family, and we will discuss this with you during the assessment. We will do our best to match a child or young person to your family, but it is important that you are flexible. We will give you as much information as we can about the needs of the child or young person coming into your care, but sometimes we rely on you to help us build knowledge about them and their needs.
I have been a carer with another organisation – can I transfer?
If you are an approved (some states call it authorised) carer in Tasmania or in another state or territory, it may be possible for you to transfer to another provider.
Your current provider and the one you would like to move to can liaise to make this happen. They will make sure that all relevant checks are up to date and all certificates and information is exchanged. You may need to complete updated training, and in some circumstances, an updated assessment may need to be completed.
Can I apply to more than one foster care provider?
There are several providers of foster care in Tasmania and it is important that you find the right fit for you. It is important that you apply with only one provider and you will be asked at the point of enquiry if you have applied with any others.
Aboriginal children in care
Aboriginal children will be placed in accordance with the Aboriginal Placement Principles, see (Section 10 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997). These principles, aim to preserve and enhance the identification of Aboriginal children and young people and their experience of belonging to their family, community and culture. The removal of an Aboriginal child or young person from their family is an option of last resort and the Child Safety Service will endeavour to place them with extended family or with another member of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.
If Aboriginal children are placed in foster care, DECYP has a responsibility to ensure preservation and enhancement of cultural identity and a sense of connectedness to family and community. DECYP has a responsibility to collaborate with recognised Aboriginal agencies and will be guided by that organisation in regard to a cultural plan for the child or young person.
Non-Aboriginal carers are assessed to care for Aboriginal children and must be able to demonstrate understanding about the history and needs of the Aboriginal community and an ability to support Aboriginal children and young people.
What about caring for children from a different culture to my own?
For children and young people from diverse cultural backgrounds, DECYP will endeavour to place them within a kinship arrangement, with carers from their own cultural background. Where carers are from a different culture, we will help them to meet the child or young person’s cultural needs.
For more information about becoming a foster carer, please contact us on:
Phone: 1800 732 522