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Top questions about foster care

General

Who can be a foster carer?

Types of foster care

Training and Support

Process

Placement

General

What does being a carer involve?

Being a foster carer means opening your home to children and young people who you are not related to biologically; children and young people who can't live in their own home because they have experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse or neglect, are at risk of experiencing one of these forms of harm, or cannot live at home for other reasons.

Children have different needs and require different types of care. The care you provide might be for a few nights, a few months, a few years, or longer. You might provide emergency care for children or give short breaks to other foster carers. You may have or develop special skills or preferences that will influence the type of care you provide. You choose the type of care that will suit you, your family and your lifestyle.

Where possible, children are reunited with their families as soon as possible. Carers are part of this process and help maintain ongoing relationships between children and their families.

What is the difference between kinship care and foster care?

Foster care is caring for children usually unknown to you who require care. Kinship care is caring for a child/children related or known to you and you are a significant person to the child.

Who can be a foster carer?

Do I have to be married? Can same sex couples apply?

Carers can be male, female, single, married or de facto, a same sex couple, working full or part time, and from any kind of cultural background. Anyone can apply to be a foster carer if they are committed to providing a safe, stable and supportive environment.

I work full time. Can I still be a foster carer?

You can work full time and be a foster carer. You would need to show how you are going to manage the additional responsibility of fostering and working full time. This will involve looking at any meetings that need to take place, contact for the child, sickness and other child-related events that may impact on your work commitments.

Is there an age limit in terms of being a mature person?

In Queensland you need to be over 18 to be assessed as a carer. There is no age limit but you do need to consider any health implications that may be affected by becoming a foster carer. You will need to complete a health and wellbeing form and identify any health issues. Child Safety will also seek medical clearance from your general practitioner.

Does my child have to be a certain age before I can consider fostering?

No your child does not need to be a specific age before you can consider fostering. If you do have young children you would need to consider the additional responsibilities placed on you as a family having a foster child, and how this would impact on the household.

I don't have a big house – can I still be a foster carer?

No matter the size of your house we are looking for people who are able to care for children in a safe, stable and supportive environment. The number of children you are able to care for is a consideration we will make together as part of any carer assessment and much more than just the size of your house.

Do I need a car?

You are not required to have a car to be approved as a foster carer, but you would need to consider the additional responsibilities and the need to travel to appointments that the child may require, for example medical appointments, education, contact and meetings that take place.

Do I have to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident?

No, you do not have to be an Australian citizen or obtain residency to be able to apply to be a foster carer.

Can I become a carer if I have a history of mental illness?

Any assessment of a potential foster carer is on an individual basis, and this includes mental health issues. Having a history of mental illness does not mean someone is automatically excluded from becoming a foster carer.

Types of foster care

If I can't be a full-time carer, what can I do to help?

There are a number of different options for foster care and some people may consider short break care as an option when they have commitments during the week but they are able to offer weekend and school holiday care for children who are currently in primary placements with other carers.

If I commit to short term care, can I change to other types of care later on?

Once you are approved you can change what type of care you would like to provide unless there are any restrictions on your certificate.

Training and support

What training and support is provided?

Before becoming a foster carer, you'll need to complete training which will equip you with the skills and knowledge to become a carer.

The training covers topics that will help you prepare to support a child or young person who has experienced trauma and ways to promote positive behaviours. Your foster care agency will provide support as you navigate the ups and downs of fostering.

This may include 24/7 support, support groups with other carers and ongoing training in how to manage and positively influence the behaviour of children and young people who may have suffered significant trauma in their lives.

Do you need to study or have a degree to become a carer?

There are no education requirements to become a foster carer. Foster carers are everyday people from all walks of life who are able to care for children in a safe, stable and supportive environment. As part of their approval process, all foster carers will complete pre-service training provided by their foster and kinship care support agency.

Is financial support provided?

To offset the cost of fostering, carers receive financial assistance that is tailored to the age of the child and the complexity of their needs. Allowances may cover items such as food, clothing, household provisions, gifts, pocket money, entertainment and other everyday costs of caring for a child.

Process

How long does it take to become a foster carer?

To ensure that applicants meet all the requirements set out in the Child Protection Act 1999, the process may take 3 to 6 months.

What are the costs related to the assessment process?

There are no costs relating to the assessment process for the applicants.

Is the delivery of the training available online?

The pre-service quality training is undertaken face-to-face and would generally be with a group of people who are also undertaking the assessment process. This will provide you with the opportunity to meet other people who may also become carers.

If I am pregnant, can I still go through the fostering process?

You can go through the assessment process if you are pregnant. You would need to consider the impact of having a newborn child and a child in placement if you were approved and how you would manage the additional responsibilities. You may choose to become a short-term carer while you have a baby.

I am moving in three months' time. Do I start the process now or wait until I move?

If you start the assessment process straight away, the property you are currently residing in would need to meet the requirements for you to provide care within the home.

This is due to the household safety check being undertaken quite early on in the application process and to provide you with the opportunity to make relevant changes to the home if required.

If you move during the assessment process, you will need to take another household safety check and depending on the location of the new property, you may need to change agencies as your current agency may not cover your location. All of your information will be provided to the new agency if required.

If I was a carer previously do I need to undertake the assessment process again or just return to being a carer?

If you have previously been a foster carer and want to become one again you may be eligible to participate in a streamlined assessment process and you may begin caring again in as little as 6 weeks.

Depending upon the period of time since you completed carer training, we will provide tailored advice to inform you about changes you need to be aware of since you stopped being a foster carer.

It is unlikely that you will have to attend training you have previously completed, and we will talk to you about a tailored approach to your application, taking into account any changes to your household since you were last an approved carer.

If I was a carer interstate do I need to undertake the assessment process again?

If you have been a foster carer in a different state and moved to Queensland you will need to undertake the assessment process to be approved as a Queensland carer.

I want to foster but I think it would be too hard to see the child leave my care?

Once child protection concerns are addressed, children are reunited with their families as soon as possible. Carers are part of this process and help maintain ongoing relationships between children and their families. While it can be challenging to say goodbye to children when they return to their families, many carers say the rewards of sharing your life with a foster child far outweigh this and any other challenges.

Placement

How do you match children with placements?

During the assessment process you will be asked a number of questions in regards to what type of care you would like to provide, an age group that you may prefer to care for, behaviours that you feel may not match your skills, or your own home situation.

The assessor will gather enough information to determine what type of care you could provide, and if you are approved, this will also form part of a foster carer agreement that will provide Child Safety with enough information to match a child/children with you. It's up to you to accept or decline the placement when you are provided with the relevant information.

What kind of behaviours do the children come with?

Some children coming into care are in poor health—they may have developmental and mental health issues. They may need assessments, regular visits and check-ups from doctors and other health professionals.

Sometimes a child may have challenging behaviour that will require a range of support strategies for the child and the carers.

Can I determine an age, gender and behaviours that I would like to be placed in my care?

As part of the assessment process you can determine the age, gender and behaviours of a child that you would like to be placed with you if you are approved.

Can I see the child first before making the decision to have the child placed with me?

In most cases you will not meet the child prior to agreeing to the placement. You will be provided with all the relevant information about the child and their needs prior to accepting the placement.

Do I have to have an empty room or can my children share with foster children?

To be approved as a foster carer you are not required to have an empty room. Foster children can share rooms with your own children if capacity is available, but you would need to consider the impact of room sharing.

A child may start to display behaviours that you could find difficult to manage when room sharing is occurring. It is beneficial for the child to feel a sense of their own space and privacy.

Will the child change schools?

When it comes to school locations, a child or young person entering care may not always attend a school in the carer's local area. It may not be in the child's best interest to move to another school closer to the carer's home as school may provide a place of consistency and stability for a child during a difficult time of entering care.

However, where a child is not attending a school in a carer's local area, the department may be able to provide support to the carer to assist with transporting a child or young person to school.

If I would like to adopt my foster child, can this take place?

When children first come into care, every effort is made to assist the parent/s to resume care of the child.  Where it is necessary for long term options to be explored for the child, the first preference is given to kin (extended family or community members known to the child).

Long term orders may be made with foster carers. More information on the types of care orders is available under Types of Childrens Court orders. Long-term orders are preferred over adoption as they provide the child with a permanent home while also preserving the child's identity, relationships with their birth family and connection to their culture of origin.