Foster care can take many different forms, each as valuable as the next. Foster carers can provide general or specialist care for immediate, respite, short-term and long-term periods from birth until adulthood. Becoming a foster carer is a life-changing experience, no matter what type of care you choose.
Immediate Care carers provide short term care in emergency situations, usually for a period of up to 2 weeks, however could extend to 3 months. This is to provide a child with a family-based and stable home in the immediacy, until a longer term option is sourced. An immediate care carer welcomes a child into their home with little notice and gets to be a part of many children’s journeys.
Respite carers are an essential part of the foster caring support network. They look after foster children for short-term, temporary periods like weekends or school holidays. These short breaks allow long-term foster families time to recharge and spend time together.
Respite arrangements also help foster children to develop connections and relationships with others, increasing their village of support. Some children can become anxious when their environment and the people in it change. Structured respite arrangements help them to learn how to manage changes and develop resilience in a safe and secure way.
Annie became a respite carer for foster families at 21 while working full time and studying. She spends one weekend a fortnight with young people whose foster families need a break. She says, “I know that I am providing time for the main carers… to have a break and rejuvenate”.
Respite Care is a flexible way to contribute to caring for foster children that help to ensure the stability of their long-term care arrangements.
Short-term carers are vital to ensure children have stability, whilst their case direction is being assessed and act as an extension of support for birth family. Children come into short-term care at a time of family crisis for various reasons. A short-term placement can last from two weeks to 18 months and either provides the birth family a chance to rebuild towards positive change for reunification to occur or time to scope a long term placement for the child.
Elisa and her husband became short-term foster carers for two young sisters to give their family “a chance to do what they need to do to come back together”. She explained that she sees herself as an aunty figure, taking care of the girls in the short term and helping them reach their developmental goals. “It’s such a good feeling”, she says.
Sometimes children cannot be reunified with their birth family, and this is where long-term care comes in. Foster children will be placed with a long-term foster family until they are 18 or reunified with their birth family.
A long-term foster family provides a safe, stable family environment for foster children to develop, grow and thrive. Special care is taken, during a through matching process, to find a foster family that is a good fit for the foster child as well as the family.
Long-term foster care is an enriching experience for the whole foster family, including parents, siblings, extended family, and the young person in need .
Foster carers can be approved to provide care for general or specialist placements. Specialist carers either provide care for children and young people with complex emotional and behavioural needs or children with an intensive reunification plan. Specialist carers undergo training to equip them with therapeutic tools and knowledge to support these children. If there is an active reunification plan, they also support children through the transition to being reunified with their birth family using the program’s model.
There are many ways to care in the foster care network. Find out more at one of our information sessions or contact our friendly team for an informal chat.