How to become a kinship carer
Some children and young people are unable to stay at home because their families are not able to look after them or because they may be at risk of harm.
Whenever possible, the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs (Child Safety) tries to ensure that children in care maintain close links with their families and communities. Often, we turn to extended family or someone the child knows to provide care. A kinship carer is a person related to the child, or is considered to be part of the family or a close friend.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, a kinship carer may also be another Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is a member of their community or language group, or compatible with the child’s community or language group.
In cases where kinship carers are looking after children who are related to them, they are supporting both the children and their parents. Caring for a relative’s children not only protects the children but also reassures their parents they are being well looked after while they rebuild their family. It can offer safety and security for both children and their parents while the issues affecting the family are being addressed.
Kinship carers can provide care in an emergency, for respite and for short, medium or long periods of time.
Before you begin
Becoming a kinship carer is a serious decision for any family. It is a commitment that should not be made without prior discussion and consideration of the change and challenge that are part of the experience. It is important that you take time to speak with your partner, your children and any other signiﬁcant people in your life to consider the impact that being a kinship carer may have.
How do I become a kinship carer?
You may be approached to become a kinship carer when it is assessed that a child is unable to live at home. Alternatively, you may express an interest in caring for a child from your immediate family or community who is already in care.
To become a kinship carer you must be:
- over 18 years of age, and
- eligible to obtain – or already have – a Blue Card which ensures that you are suitable to care for children.
You will need to lodge an expression of interest and provide proof of identity to Child Safety.
You will then participate in an assessment process to determine if you are suitable to care for the child. As part of this assessment process, personal history checks will be undertaken.
Child Safety is responsible for approving carers. If you are approved as a kinship carer, you will care for a speciﬁc child for a set period of time. Once the child leaves your care, you will no longer be a kinship carer.
To become a kinship carer, you will be assisted to complete the following forms and interviews:
- Application for approval form. This gives the Child Safety information to complete personal history checks for you and your adult household members. This includes consideration of criminal and child protection history, domestic violence and traffic history.
- Blue card application. This must be completed by you and any other adult members of the household. Child Safety can help with this process.
- Household safety study. This will be completed by the person making the assessment and includes mandatory safety requirements that must be met prior to you being approved as a carer.
- Health and wellbeing questionnaire. This questionnaire will be completed with the help of the person making the assessment. A medical check from your general practitioner (GP) is required as part of this process.
- Referee checks. Referee checks are a mandatory requirement and are conducted as part of the initial and renewal assessments, including employer referee checks if you are in child-related employment.
- Required interviews. These will be conducted by the person making the assessment. You, your children (depending on their age), any adult household members and significant others will be interviewed.
If your application is approved by Child Safety you will:
- receive a letter confirming that you have been approved as a kinship carer
- receive a Certificate of Approval as a kinship carer; this is for an initial 12 months and requires renewal every 2 years thereafter, upon application and approval
- work with Child Safety and your non-government kinship care service to develop a Kinship Carer Agreement detailing the support available to help you fulfil your role, ongoing training requirements and the types of placements you are willing to consider.
If your application is not approved by Child Safety you will receive a letter stating the reasons for the decision and your right of review.
If I am kin to the child, why do I need to be assessed?
When a child requires a placement in foster or kinship care, it is the responsibility of Child Safety to make certain the child is cared for in the most suitable environment.
Although you may have previously cared for the child informally on behalf of the family, it is now Child Safety’s responsibility to determine where the child will live.
In some circumstances, there may be a number of relatives who can provide care, or a child may have special needs and requires a carer with certain skills or training.
Assessments are conducted to identify who will be the most appropriate full time carer for the child.
Will I need to do training?
Training is not required for kinship carers, however you may choose to attend foster care training to assist you in your caring role.
Pre-service training (provided to foster carers) gives carers an understanding of the experiences of children in care and how this impacts on their care needs. It also helps new carers gain the knowledge and skills to better meet the needs of children and young people in their care.
Kinship carers are also encouraged to access other training opportunities offered by Child Safety and non-government foster and kinship care services.
What allowances do I receive?
Foster and kinship carers receive a fortnightly caring allowance for each child or young person placed with them by Child Safety.
It covers items such as food, clothing, household provisions, gifts, pocket money, entertainment and other everyday costs of caring for a child.
The allowance is not considered a ‘payment’ for caring and it is not a source of income. It is a reimbursement toward the real costs of providing care. Kinship and foster carers who provide respite also receive the fortnightly caring allowance for the period of time they provide care for a child or young person.
The caring allowance is not subject to tax and should not be cited as income for any purpose, such as yearly tax returns, applications for Commonwealth beneﬁts or when applying for loans from ﬁnancial institutions.
You may also be eligible for Commonwealth Government beneﬁts such as the Family Tax Beneﬁt A and/or B, Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing), Maternity Payment or Parenting Payment.
What support will I receive?
There are many people and places you can turn to for guidance and support. In addition to the Child Safety Service Centre (CSSC) in your area or your local non-government foster and kinship care service, there are networks of carers who meet to share experiences and support each other.
Carers can seek support from Queensland Foster and Kinship Care, a community organisation that supports and advocates for carers and children in their care.
Speciﬁc Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander foster and kinship care services also provide support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers.
What will I need to do as a kinship carer?
As a kinship carer, you will need to provide a safe, stable and supportive environment for the child or young person in your care and meet the emotional, educational and social needs of the child.
It is important that children maintain contact with their families and retain links with their past, so they can develop a sense of personal identity. You will need to support the involvement of the child’s family in their life, and respect the child’s cultural heritage and family background when making decisions about their care.
If you would like additional information or resources you can contact:
- the Foster Carer Recruitment Line on 1300 550 877
- your local Child Safety Service Centre
- Queensland Foster and Kinship Care (a non-government organisation for carers) on (07) 3256 6166.