Frequently Asked Questions about becoming a Foster Carer
What are the main criteria for becoming a foster carer?
Foster carers are individuals, couples, and same-sex couples generally aged between 25 and 70 years, either with or without other children. A willingness to contribute to a child’s life and make an important difference to his or her upbringing is paramount, whether it be for long-term care, respite care or supporting the process of reuniting the child with their birth family.
* Spare bedroom (for children aged 2+)
* Safe and secure housing (home owner or rental)
* Driver's licence and roadworthy vehicle
* Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident
What is the process of becoming a Centacare foster carer?
Upon your initial enquiry to our foster care team, an Information Pack will be forwarded to you. After reading through the information, if you are interested in proceeding, you are encouraged to register for and attend one of Centacare's Foster Care Information Sessions.
After attendance at an information session, an Information Exchange session can be arranged in your home with two of our Centacare Foster Care Support Workers to discuss becoming a foster carer in more detail.
If you and your household meet the criteria during the Information Exchange, you will be invited to attend the Shared Lives training. Upon successful completion of the Shared Lives training you may then be invited to submit an application form.
Potential carers then participate in further training and a series of assessment interviews. The assessor will explore your experiences, knowledge, skills, and attitudes to gather evidence in meeting the competencies. This process has been designed to be open and transparent and if an assessor feels they have not gained sufficient evidence in meeting a particular competency, this will be shared and discussed during the visits.
Once your training and assessment is complete, including CRES DHS clearances and all other checks, your assessor will complete your assessment reports and recommendations and a copy will be provided to you, to ensure the information is accurate and reflective.
Centacare will review the final assessment report with recommendations and submit it for approval by the Carer Approval Review Unit (CARU) that operates within the Department for Child Protection in South Australia.
What types of foster care does Centacare provide?
Centacare Foster Care provides short-term, long-term and respite care for children from birth until adulthood. Many children within the program are cared for by foster families in short-term arrangements under a Custody Order of the Chief Executive, for placements of 6 to 12 months, as part of a planned reunification with their birth family. For children on long-term Custody Orders, Centacare foster carers can provide care until the child or young person reaches the age of 18.
The assessment process, including the training during this stage, is the same regardless of the type of foster care you wish to provide. For approved carers, training requirements can vary, depending on the type of care they are approved for (general or specialist) and training will be tailored to the carers needs.
What training is provided?
Training and development is an ongoing commitment, which begins during the assessment process and continues for approved carers. The assessment training including “Shared Lives”, “Provide First Aid”, “Infant Safety” (for carers wanting to care for infants) and “Safe Environments for Children for Children and Young People” are mandatory training as part of the assessment process. Centacare is a child-safe and culturally aware agency and therefore have agency mandated training for applicants including “Child Sex Offender Awareness” and “Aboriginal Cultural Awareness” training.
Once you are an approved carer, Centacare also provides ongoing training to support you. "SpACE" (Safety, Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity & Empathy based on Dan Hughes PACE model), "Therapeutic Crisis Intervention for Families" (TCI-F), Managing Actual or Perceived Aggression (MAPA) and Logbook training are all available to our carers.
Please note that applicants do not pay the fees attached to the Department of Human Services (DHS) clearances or any cost in relation to any of the training programs.
If you have already completed any of the following training programs and your accreditation is up to date, Centacare will need to sight original certificates for copying and secure storing.
What checks are carried out?
There are several checks that potential foster carers need to satisfy, these include:
A criminal history check and background screening by Department of Human Services (DHS) to obtain the Child Related Employment Screening (CRES) clearance (formerly known as the DCSI Working with Children check).
A health check, comprising a health self-assessment to be completed by the applicant(s) and signed off by the applicant(s) general practitioner. This process certifies that you are in reasonable health and not suffering from a medical condition that would hinder your ability to care for the child(ren) in your home.
A home safety check, with requirements depending on the age of the child(ren) in your care. Time is allowed for you to prepare your home and identify any risks in line with the home safety checklist that is provided at the beginning of your assessment. A final home safety check is conducted by your assessor at the end of your assessment and prior to the submission of your application for final approval.
Personal references are undertaken to assess your suitability and capabilities of caring for children. Members of your identified support network will also be contacted.
Where children are involved from a previous relationship and there is a shared care arrangement, ex-partners are required to provide their consent to the foster care application process. Children will be interviewed by the assessor, to ensure their voice is heard and their views incorporated in the assessment.
If you and your family already have current CRES DHS checks we will simply require you to provide the original for Centacare to copy and keep securely on file.
What support is available to foster families?
Foster carers are regularly assisted by a Centacare foster carer support worker. In the Reunification program, this is at least weekly in the first two months of caring for a child, then every fortnight, or as required. For general foster care, this is every 2-6 weeks depending on the needs of the child and the carer. Each placement support plan is tailored to the specific needs of the child and that household. In the case of reunification placements, foster care support workers assist in the completion of daily and monthly logs relating to the child.
In addition, all foster carers in the program have access to Centacare’s 24/7 after hours phone support and have the opportunity to attend regular training and support meetings with other carers. Centacare’s carers are able to debrief with their support workers, consult with the Psychiatrist in residence during the therapeutic training refreshers or access Centacare’s EAP counselling service (up to 3 sessions), if needed.
Foster carers supported by Centacare are assisted through the challenges of fostering and reunification through inclusion in a care team, which contributes to case planning and ensures that the child in their care enjoys a stable out-of-home environment.
Respite care is provided for the child and is specific to the child’s, and the carer’s, individual needs. Respite care is important in providing a full-time carer with time to recharge, as well as providing the child with the opportunity to share other experiences with the support of another adult and/or their family.
Will there be contact with the birth family?
Most children in care have ongoing contact with their birth families. The frequency varies and the level of contact is based on the child’s case plan. Applicants need to understand the importance of a child’s origins and culture and the commitment to maintaining relationships between the child and birth family, and therefore be willing to facilitate contact. Maintaining contact with birth family is important for a child’s identity formation and the regulatory of contact will be determined by the Department for Child Protection, which is documented in the case plan.
What choice do carers have in the children being placed?
The reasons for a child needing foster care can be varied and every child’s experience is unique. Ensuring the right fit for the carer household and the child is vitally important and Centacare strives to create a positive experience for both parties, through a thorough matching process and consultation.
Foster carers can discuss with Centacare what type of care they think may be suited to their family.
Preferences about the age and gender of a child they think would fit best with their family and lifestyle can be given too.
Workers will always discuss potential placements in detail with carers to ensure the placement is appropriate to the carer's and child's needs.
What foster care payments or financial assistance is available?
Foster carers receive a tax-free allowance, school card, and health care card for the child in order to assist in the day to day costs of caring for a foster child. Reunification and Specialist carers receive an enhanced allowance to cover additional costs required whilst the child is in their care.
The payment is not classed as income and does not need to be listed in tax returns, on applications for Commonwealth benefits or when applying for a loan.
In addition to this allowance, additional benefits such as Family Tax Benefit or Parenting Payment from Centrelink may be available depending on your circumstances. Please contact us for further information.
What about pets?
Most children respond positively to animals and pets can also provide therapeutic benefits to children in out of home care. Your assessment will consider the individual needs of your pets and any child being placed in your care.
It is essential that children have access to a smoke-free environment. Potential carers will be required to provide a smoke-free living environment.