What is foster care?

Foster care is a frequent response to children and young people who are unable to live with their own families. As a carer, you will provide them a safe and secure home for as long as they need.

Often children can be reunited with their families or parents as circumstances change, so foster and kinship carers assist with the care of the child until this can be achieved. In other cases, some children and young people will remain in foster care until they reach the legal, independent age of 18.

Foster care can range from a weekend to months or years, depending on the circumstances of the child and your own preference in providing care. However, no matter what the length of time is, the positive impact you can have in a child or young person’s life is immeasurable.

If you have the ability and desire to become a foster or kinship carer, learn more about how to become a foster carer.

What is kinship care?

Unlike foster care, where the foster parent may not be known to the child, a kinship carer may be related to the child, considered to be part of the family, or a close friend.

What does a foster carer do?

As a foster or kinship carer, you will provide a safe and supportive home for children or young people. The role may include:

  • Communicating and listening.
  • Advocating on behalf of the child.
  • Supporting their education, extra-curricular activities such as sports, health, and social wellbeing.
  • Managing sometimes challenging behaviour.
  • Keeping up with paperwork and attending meetings.
  • Working as part of a team, including with UnitingCare’s social workers, educators, coaches, friends, parents of the child’s friends, health professionals and the child’s birth family.

Types of foster and kinship care

Children and their families have different needs and come from many different situations. UnitingCare works with foster carers to ensure children and carers have a match for the type of care that works best for them.

  • Short-term care

    Short-term carers provide ongoing, day-to-day care to children and young people for up to two years while Child Safety works towards reunifying the child with their family. Carers also work closely with Child Safety to help maintain regular contact between the child and their family.

  • Long-term care

    Long-term care gives children a safe and stable home until they are 18 when they can’t return to live with their family.

  • Short breaks

    Some carers provide short breaks for long-term foster and kinship carers. These carers choose when they provide care, such as on weekends or holidays. Often, new carers start out providing short breaks and become full-time foster carers after gaining some experience. Some short-term or long-term carers may also choose to provide short breaks for other carers and children.

  • Emergency care

    Emergency carers provide short-term care at short notice for children who urgently need a place to stay. This may be needed when a child first comes into care while a suitable longer-term carer is identified, or if they need a home while waiting to move to long-term care. Emergency carers often are skilled in helping children who have experienced abuse and trauma. Some short-term or long-term carers may choose to also provide emergency care placements.

  • Intensive foster care

    Children may be placed with carers who provide intensive foster care if they require support for complex and special needs. Support for these carers includes additional training, financial support and short breaks.

A lady in a park smiling at a younger boy

Foster care training and support

At UnitingCare, we’re committed to supporting all foster carers throughout their journey in changing the life of a child or young person, with information sessions, training, and ongoing support.

Why foster a child?

Becoming a foster carer can be very rewarding. Here are some of the things you may experience while on your journey to changing the life of a child:

  • Developing a new and valued relationship.
  • Providing a safe home for a child.
  • Using your skills and life experiences for the benefit of others.
  • Helping children to reach their full potential.
  • Helping parents to develop new ways of relating to their children.
  • Enhancing your own skills and knowledge.
  • Expanding your social and personal contacts.
  • Enriching your life.

Experienced carers say the rewards far outweigh the challenges and are most often found in the day-to-day moments that they experience through sharing their lives with children.

Multicultural family walking together through park and smiling

Frequently asked questions

Many people have questions about the requirements to be a foster parent, or kinship care requirements. Read our Frequently Asked Questions about foster and kinship care.

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Enquire now

If you have any questions, require further information, or would like to discuss how you can become a life-changer, call us on 1300 554 240. Or fill out the form below and one of our team members will be in touch with you.

Become a life-changer

Say yes to foster care and see how you can change the life of a child or young person in need. Discover the types of foster care, the steps to becoming a foster carer, how we support you, and browse our frequently asked questions.