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These are frequently asked questions by church leaders and people thinking about foster or kinship care. Click on any question to see our response. We hope you find them helpful. If there you have a question that is not answered here, please send it through to us

Frequently asked questions

Should the church be involved in removing children?

This is a great question and one Fostering Hope and all our carers grapple with. It is never God’s design for children to not grow up with their families of birth. Unfortunately there are situations where parents cannot keep their children safe. When this happens, it is the Government that steps in, first to work with the families of birth so they can have the skills to be the best parents they can be, and if this is not possible, then to remove them. When they are removed, children are placed with people who are approved to provide care. It is never the church or Christian organisations removing children, and it shouldn’t be, it is the responsibility of the Government who work under the relevant state or territory legislation to ensure all children have safe childhoods.

There are no orphans in Australia?

There are very few orphans in Australia, but there are thousands of children who’s parents are unable to keep them safe. There are actually very few orphans internationally, with the majority of children put into orphanages actually having one parent still alive. Christians around the world are moving towards closing down orphanages and towards family-based care, which is what we have in Australia. Family-based care is placing children into families where they can attach, belong, and be nurtured with the love of a parent or parents. For more information on this, visit our partner, World Without Orphans.

Some state and territories in Australia have foster to adopt legislation, which means if it looks like children will not be reunified with their parents, their foster or kinship carers can adopt them. Other states and territories provide transfer of guardianship, which means the guardianship of the child moves from the Government to the foster or kinship carer.

What’s the difference between foster care, kinship care, and informal care?

You may notice throughout our website we try and talk about foster and kinship carers or carers. Foster carers are people who choose to become carers, so go through a process in their state to train and then be approved as carers. Kinship carers are people who are known to a child before they are removed from their families of birth, they are usually extended family members, but could be a teacher, teacher’s aide, youth group leader etc. Informal carers are usually extended family members who either see a child in their family is not safe or the parents may seek support from, and they look after the child without intervention from the Government. Fostering Hope’s work seeks to support foster, kinship, and informal carers. We also seek to encourage the church to reach out to all types of carers. Kinship and informal carers often do not ‘choose’ to step into the caring role, so do not receive the same training and support from the Government. They also often become isolated from their own family, as they are the ones stepping into care for a child, and this is messy. We would love churches to support all these carers and the children in their homes.

Foster children are disruptive to our programs and unsafe around other children?

One of the saddest things we see is carers feeling they cannot get to church because of their children. Foster, kinship, and informal carers have stepped into the broken to show God’s love and acceptance and it’s a time when they need their church family more than ever! We need our churches to be places of acceptance, healing, and understanding for all children. We encourage you to invite Fostering Hope to host a trauma-awareness training session for your church.

How can we make our churches safe for all children?

We encourage all churches and Christians to take child safe policies and procedures seriously. The church and Christians have messed up in the past, and we need to show the community, that churches are the safest places for children and the place that honours childhood the most. If your church does not have a child safe policy, we encourage you to check out ChildSafe and Safeguarding Children and the Australian Human Rights National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. In addition, it is important to understand complex developmental trauma and the way trauma impacts the fundamental development of a child, this will help you develop empathy and understanding for all children so you and your organisation can meet them where they are. Book in a trauma awareness training session with Fostering Hope.

What is out of home care?

Out of home care is the term used for children growing up away from their families of birth. It refers to children growing up in foster care, kinship care, informal care, and residential or group homes. In Australia the majority of children removed from their families of birth grow up in ‘family-based care’ which means in a family – foster or kinship care.

Why are so many Indigenous children growing up in care?

Tragically in Australia a higher proportion of Indigenous children grow up in care, than the proportion of Indigenous people in the population. This can trace its way back to the treatment of Indigenous people over the decades the erosion of their families, communities, and history. Nationally and in each state and territory the legislation requires Indigenous children to be placed with kin as a first option, unfortunately there are not enough indigenous foster and kinship carers, so sometimes children are placed with non-Indigenous carers. Fostering Hope supports carers to connect with their local Indigenous community group so Indigenous children in care can grow up connected to their community and culture.

Can I still practice my faith and be a foster or kinship carer?

Yes, through the assessment process to become a carer, we encourage you to be honest about your faith and how this motivates you and it supports you on the journey. Children enter care with a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds and as a carer it is never your place to impose your values on a child, but offer a hope that is loving and healing. During the placement process, it may be decided that placing a child with a different religious background in your home is not appropriate, but this should always be a discussion amongst you and the foster care agency.

All children in care are bad and damaged beyond repair?

This is one of the most harmful and inaccurate statements about children growing up in care. Childhood should be a time of fun, learning, growing, and dreaming. For children growing up in care their lives began with trauma, neglect, and maybe abuse, for some they were exposed to alcohol and drugs and stress in-utero. This fundamentally impacts the way a child’s brain and body grow impacting their development, emotions, mental health, and memory. But God’s design is for this to be healed through connection and attachments. Children are not damaged beyond repair, but their damage means they need attachment, safety, and a childhood. Churches can provide this.

Can you still work and be a carer?

We need foster and kinship carers to be regular people, living regular lives. Many carers continue to work and juggle family life, just like most families. The Australian Government supports foster and kinship families with childcare, school fees, and other supports so that carers can manage family life. Just like when a child enters a family from birth, it may be good to take time out to allow a child to adjust to your family.

How much does it cost to be a foster or kinship carer?

In Australia most foster and kinship carers are volunteer carers, this means they are not paid to be a carer, but they are reimbursed for the costs of raising a child. This will vary in each state and territory and based on the age and needs of the child. Children with high needs may also be eligible for extra supports such as NDIS and Centrelink carer payments.

Do I need to have stable finances and housing to be a carer?

Carers can be at any stage of life. During the assessment process to become a carer, you will work out what extra things you may need to be ready for a child.

What’s the purpose of out of home care?

The purpose of out of home care is to remove a child who is unsafe, at-risk of being abused or neglected or suffering from abuse of neglect so that their parents can address the safety concerns.

The first priority is to work with the family of birth to address the concerns. If parents are unable to address the safety concerns within a reasonable time (taking into account a child growing and attaching to a new family) then a child may remain in care. When a child is removed and in care, all decisions are made according to what is in the ‘best interests of the child’ and based on the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child.

What about getting too attached and then having to let children go home?

The purpose of being a foster or kinship carer is to be a family for a child who needs one. One of the biggest thing a child needs is to attach, belong, and feel safe so they can grow and develop. Carers need to attach to a child, because it’s what the child needs. As decisions about where a child lives is based on the ‘best interest of the child’ decisions about reunification/restoration and remaining in care will be made on what is best for the child in each situation.

Foster and kinship carers are key to shaping a child’s attachment, identity, and relationship with birth family. One of the roles of Fostering Hope and connecting with other carers is to support carers through all parts of the care journey.

How does fostering impact my biological children? Can I foster with biological children?

Fostering is about offering a family to a child that needs one. Fostering with your own children makes ‘family’ really normal for children who enter your family. Fostering can be really positive for your own children and they can grow lots from it. Just like any ‘mission’, stepping out for God means stepping into hard and you need prayer and protection over your family. Connecting with other foster and kinship care families allows you to normalise your journey for all your children.

Is there a minimum or maximum age to be a carer?

Anyone above the age of 18 or 21 can apply to become a carer and there is no maximum age for carers. Sometimes younger or older carers can be awesome ‘respite’ carers for full time carers, offering a natural extended family.

What are the different types of foster/kinship care?

The different types of care are – Foster carers are people who choose to become carers, so go through a process in their state to train and then be approved as carers. Kinship carers are people who are known to a child before they are removed from their families of birth, they are usually extended family members, but could be a teacher, teacher’s aide, youth group leader etc. Informal carers are usually extended family members who either see a child in their family is not safe or the parents may seek support from, and they look after the child without intervention from the Government.

Within this, there are emergency, respite, and full time carers. Emergency carers are people who take children as soon as they are removed until a longer-term placement is found. Emergency care is generally for two weeks or less. Respite carers are people that provide respite to full time carers, usually this is with the same child/dren on a regular basis and you can become extended family and on the team around the child. Full-time carers are carers that have children day to day for two weeks or longer. In some cases this can lead to adoption or transfer of guardianship.

What happens if I can’t keep caring for a child?

Carers are regular people with regular lives and lives change. If you are in a situation where you can’t continue caring for a child, you will work with your agency and the child to work out what is best. This will be dependent on what type of legal order the child is on and their other relationships. Sometimes a child’s trauma is just too hard for a family, we need to trust that even for the time is with you, you showed them love and care. Working with the child and other adults in their life you can help make the best transition for a child. These transitions for children in care and their carers are really hard and it’s a place where Fostering Hope and other carers can support you.

Can you choose who you care for?

During the assessment process to become a carer you will work out what is best for your situation. You won’t get to choose the child who you care for, but you will work out what age and gender suits your family and if there are any other extra needs.

What happens to sibling groups who enter care?

When siblings enter care the aim is to keep siblings together. In some states and territories there are foster care situations where carers move into a house that accommodate larger sibling groups. During the assessment process you will work out how many children you can take. Sometimes siblings may be placed in different homes, but the carers can connect so the siblings can grow up knowing one another.

Do children in care have to see their birth families?

This will depend on safety and what type of order a child is on and what a child wishes. When a child is first removed and restoration/reunification is the aim, then children may see parents more frequently. If a child is a long-term order to stay in care, then visits with birth family will based on safety and what a child desires.

One of the roles of a carer is to journey a child’s story, so they always know their identity, belonging, and story and be willing to answer children’s questions as they grow and develop. Visits will happen based on safety, so visits will be in safe locations and may be supervised by social workers. As children grow, their views on seeing their family and what kinds of activities they want to do with their families will be part of what visits look like.

Can people who are single be carers?

Yes, single people can be carers. Single carers can offer family to a child and this is what a child needs.

Can you be a carer if you don’t have your own children?

Yes, single people and couples with no children can become carers. Just like all carers, you need to go into the process to be a family for a child and work within the system and with birth families for what is best for the child.