One third of children living in out-of-home care in South Australia are aged 12-17 years. Finding them homes can be difficult because of the perception they are less at risk than babies and toddlers and are more demanding to care for. But children and young people of all ages need a safe place to live and belong.
While the number of children in state care has grown recently, there are now fewer families coming forward to help them.
When foster carers do open their hearts and homes, they often limit themselves to babies and toddlers. Young people are equally as vulnerable. They too need a safe place to develop positive relationships to assist them to heal and move forward in life.
Why do we need foster carers?
Children are being removed from homes at a faster rate than carers are approved. This creates a gap in which children then reside in residential care facilities with rotational carers because there are no available family-based options.
We need more carers to step forward and, when they do, to have an open mind about the ages of children they could potentially care for.
How is age a barrier to finding a young person a foster home?
A reoccurring challenge we see through our work at Centacare is foster families limiting themselves to the 0-4 year age group.
This makes it harder to find family-based placements for older children and adolescents, because of the reluctance of many carers to take on those age groups and the stigma associated with this.
There is a perception that babies and toddlers may be less demanding to care for, however this is a myth and every life stage has its challenges and benefits.
For example, an infant can be physically demanding and is completely dependent on a carer, whereas an older child can be more independent, attend school and may require more help with emotional regulation and role modelling.
There are children that are actively engaged in school from the age of five and up, who would thrive in a family home but unfortunately their age acts as a barrier for being able to source a home.
What are the core qualities we look for in a foster carer?
The core qualities we look for in foster carers are not determined by the age of the child they will be caring for. They apply across all age groups.
We look for carers who can provide safe homes, are able to build a relationship and connection with a child and are accepting, curious and empathetic.
Most importantly, they have a desire to make a difference in the life of a young person.
Many retired couples are able to fill the `empty nest’ by caring for children and young people in need and their wealth of life experience makes them fantastic mentors, especially for adolescents as they have lived experience with that age group, from parenting their own children.
How does Centacare support foster carers?
Carers are not alone. Centacare offers a 24/7 wrap-around on-call service, fortnightly in-home consults, therapeutic training and respite to provide carers with a break. Nobody’s perfect.
What counts is that you have a drive to make a change in a young person’s life and build a positive relationship with them.
We will work alongside you, offering guidance, support and training to develop your skills and knowledge and to assist you in your fostering journey.
What are the different types of foster care?
Short-term and respite carers are an integral part of the out-of-home care system so if you can’t commit to long-term care but want to make a difference, this may be the perfect solution.
Short-term carers support children while we find them a more permanent home; respite carers give permanent carers a break and act as another positive influence in children’s lives.
We welcome carers from all backgrounds, cultures and experiences. All families are different and Centacare recognises this and embraces diversity.
For more information about becoming a foster carer, phone our team on 8159 1400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org