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Foster families

families; fostered; children; foster; home; care; unsafe; abuse; family; parents; social worker;


What is a foster family?

foster familyA family that takes a kid into their home for a while and takes care of him or her is called a 'foster family'. 'Foster' means to take care of and to help to grow and develop – and that is what a foster family does for the kid.

Foster parents may or may not be relatives of the child, but they are acting as parents to that child while he or she is living with them.

Foster parents

People may want to become foster parents for many reasons.

Many people foster the children of a relative who cannot take care of them at that time.

foster family

  • Maybe mum or dad is sick.
  • Maybe something bad happened to the family.
  • Maybe the kids were being hurt when they were at home.
  • Maybe a parent had to work somewhere else.
  • Maybe the kid was 'unsafe' in his or her home.
  • Maybe the kid was not being properly looked after at home.

All people who become foster parents do it because they want to help kids.

  • Maybe they don't have kids of their own.
  • Maybe their kids are grown up.
  • Maybe they have their own kids but want to give a home to other kids who need help at that time.
  • Maybe they want to help kids who have a disability.
    foster family

Not everyone can become a foster parent.

The Government helps foster parents with money so that they can look after the kids in their care.

  • People who want to foster kids have to be checked out by the Department for Child Protection.
  • They make sure that foster parents are good, responsible people who haven't been in trouble with the police.
  • Their home will be inspected and they often have to have some special training and may have to pass a special test.

A foster parent can be young or old, married or single, employed or staying at home. The main thing is that they will look after the kids in their care as long as the kids need looking after.

Why kids are fostered

  • foster homeSome kids may be fostered for a short time until their mum or dad can take care of them again.
  • Some kids may be taken under the protection of the Government because they are in a bad situation at home or may have run away from home. Foster care can give them a chance at a normal life, where they can go to school, be looked after at home, have friends and feel safe.
  • Sometimes kids can move around between foster families, but other times they may stay with a foster family until their own family can look after them again.
  • Family services try to help families get back together so that the kid will be safe and looked after.

Living with a foster family

foster kidWhen a kid lives with a foster family, it can mean a lot of changes…

  • a different place to live
  • maybe a change of school, with new kids and new teachers to get to know
  • learning about the rules in that house
  • learning to get on with other kids in the house.

Sometimes it can be really hard, and the kid may also feel really worried or upset about his parents.

What is a social worker?

Each kid who goes into a foster home has a social worker who helps make up a special plan for the kid so that he or she knows what is happening.

The plan may show:

  • what kind of help the family needs for them to get back together
  • when the social worker will see the kid
  • visits with mum, dad or other brothers and sisters.

The social worker is someone who kids can talk to about:

  • their birth family
  • how they are getting on with the foster family
    foster parent
  • how they are getting on at school
  • what is happening with their parents
  • worries about being away from their family or maybe about having to return to their family
  • problems they may be having with the foster family.

Social workers are good people to talk to about all these worries, because they help the family court make decisions about when a kid can live with his or her own family again.

What about the birth family?

Social workers will help the birth parents of a child by making a plan with them too.

foster familyTheir plan may include:

  • visits with their children
  • help with fixing up the things that have gone wrong in their lives
  • maybe some training in managing a home or looking after kids.

If everything goes well, the family might get back together again.

Sometimes this is not possible, and the kid may stay with the same foster family or move to different foster families as she or he gets older.

Advice from fostered kids

" It's a good idea to learn the rules of the foster home and stick to them."

"Try to make friends in the class and in the foster home. It gets easier if you really try."

"Don't tell other kids about your problems. Some kids like to tease."

"Try to keep something you really like with you, like a teddy or a toy. Then you can feel not so lonely."

"Talk with your social worker if you are having troubles in the foster family."

"My mum was sick and had to go to hospital. I went to stay with foster parents because there was no one else to look after me. I was scared, but they were kind, the other kids were ok and mum got better so I'm home again now."

Dr Kate says:

Every kid has the right to a peaceful life, a safe place to live and food to eat. Some kids need to be away from their biological families and in a foster home so that they can have these rights. Biological (by-oh-log-i-kal) family means people who are related by blood or marriage.

If you are a foster child you can talk to your social worker if you are having problems fitting into your foster home.

You can also call the Kids Helpline at any time 1800 55 1800. It's a free call.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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