Foster care – frequently asked questions

What type of foster care can I provide?

There are many types of foster care people can undertake, including:

  • Emergency/overnight care, which provides accommodation and care for a child or young person in crisis
  • Weekend respite, looking after children and young people living with a foster family for occasional or regularly scheduled weekends
  • Short-term care, which ranges from a few days to a few months, depending on the child or young person’s needs, and
  • Long-term care, when the child or young person is not expected to return to their family.

Can I choose what type of care I provide?

Absolutely. You can choose the age group of children or young people in your care, as well as the length of care you can provide.

What type of children and young people require foster care?

We have children and young people aged from newborns up to 18 years of age who require foster care because they are unable to live at home. Depending on the situation, they can require care for any length of time – from overnight, to many years.

Children and young people requiring foster care come from homes where there has been one or a range of issues. Often, the children and young people that need our help have challenging behaviours due to the trauma and abuse they’ve experienced. In most cases, children referred to us are in the child protection system.

After a thorough assessment, we match the child to a foster family with consideration for the child’s behaviour, health and location.

What is the aim of foster care?

The ultimate aim of foster care is to reunite children and young people with their families wherever possible and appropriate. Sometimes, children and young people are in long term placements as it is not possible to return to their families. Foster care officially ceases when a young person turns 18, however, they can choose to remain with their foster family if everyone is in agreement.

Who can become a foster carer?

There is no ‘typical’ foster carer. If you can provide a safe, loving and nurturing home environment appropriate to care for children and young people, you can apply to become a foster carer.

Foster carers come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Race, gender, age, marital status, employment, sexuality and religion do not affect a person’s eligibility to be a carer. You also don’t need to have children of your own. It is essential however to have room to accommodate a child or young person in a safe environment.

I work full time – can I become a foster carer?

Absolutely! Many of our foster carers work full-time, and do a wonderful job providing emergency and respite care on weekends. We can discuss your work situation with you and determine the best foster care arrangement for you. Please speak to us.

I’m retired and wonder if I’m too old to be a foster carer?

If you want to help and make a difference to the lives of children and young people, then you are never too old to be a foster carer. Some of our current carers are in their 70s! Just like Jenny and Arthur.

In fact, people who are older often have more time to give, and may be in a good position to take on longer-term placements. Please speak to us about your interest in foster care.

Do carers receive support?

Yes, our foster carers are constantly supported in their role by Wesley staff including after hours and on weekends. We have a team of dedicated case managers, whose job is to support our valued carers every step of the way.

Children in foster care often exhibit challenging behaviour as a result of the trauma they’ve experienced. You’ll be provided with training and ongoing support to understand why children behave in certain ways and how to be patient and perceptive in dealing with their needs and behaviours.

We also provide a range of opportunities to share experiences and celebrate outcomes with other carers.

Is there any financial support?

Foster carers are volunteers – it’s not a paid job but it is an immensely rewarding one! However, a caregiver allowance is given towards everyday costs.

Often the biggest reward is making a real and lasting difference to the life of a child or young person. As a foster carer, you become the most important member of a caring team providing support for a child in need.

Who else is involved in a foster care situation?

A team consisting of the foster carer, Wesley Mission Victoria and Department of Health and Human Services case workers meet on a regular basis to ensure that the child, and their carer, are receiving the support they need.

What makes a good carer?

Being a foster carer is both a rewarding and challenging role. Key attributes are empathy, care, compassion, flexibility, being able to work as part of a team and having a good sense of humour. It’s important that you do have the time to commit to your caring role.

It’s important to have a passion to care for vulnerable children and young people whose families have experienced difficult times. Carers also need to understand why children and young people may behave in certain ways and to be patient and perceptive in dealing with their needs and behaviours.

Are there times carers don’t have children and young people in their care?

Yes, this can occur for a variety of reasons including placements unsuitable for the carer’s household. We match as carefully as possible to ensure the child or young person going into care is best suited to your household’s family structure and lifestyle.

How do I take the next step? What’s involved in becoming accredited?

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, please fill out our foster care enquiry form, or call (03) 9794 3000 to find out more.

Our team will answer any questions you have and discuss your suitability. We’ll send you an information pack with more details about the process to become a carer and organise an initial visit to your home.

If this part of the process is successful, we commence a careful screening process including police, referee and other checks that are all required as part of the application process.

This is followed by your participation in a mandatory comprehensive training course to help you prepare for a child or young person to be placed with you, and a meeting with other household members to complete the assessment and accreditation process.