Common foster care mythsSeptember 3, 2020
Right this minute, hundreds of children in New South Wales can’t live at home with their families and therefore require foster care. But we are hundreds of foster care homes short. This is a callout for more carers, for more families and individuals that can provide the love, care, stability, and sense of belonging that children need to thrive.
Becoming a foster carer is not an easy decision, and many Australians have unclear ideas of what’s required and what’s involved. As part of Foster Care Week, we’ll debunk some of the most common myths surrounding foster care.
According to one study by the University of Sydney, 89 per cent of Australians believe that they have an understanding of what foster care is. Despite this, many have preconceived notions about the processes involved and children in need.
Three of the most common foster care myths are:
- Being a foster carer means adopting a child or committing to care full-time.
- Children in foster care are disruptive and prone to misbehaviour.
- Only established households with children of their own can become foster families.
It’s time to debunk these myths and show that becoming a foster carer is a very real option for hundreds of thousands of Aussies.
Myth 1: I have to commit to full-time care
Foster care is not the same as adoption. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you must commit to full-time or long-term care. There are many different types of foster care that you can help with including:
- Emergency care. This ensures children and young people in immediate danger get the support they need when they need it. These types of placements can occur at any time, including after hours, on weekends, and at short notice.
- Short- and medium-term care. Sometimes, kids need a safe place to live while their parents make arrangements, work, or change their lifestyle. The goal of short- and medium-term care is to reunite foster children with their parents or family within two years.
- Long-term care. Placements for more than two years occur when children cannot be returned to their parents, and adoption is not an option. Sometimes, foster carers may become legal guardians or adopt children in their care.
- Respite care. If you cannot commit to full-time care, respite is an option. As a respite carer, your home becomes a safe space for children on an occasional basis, such as on weekends or during the school holidays.
Find out more about the types of care here.
Myth 2: The children in foster care are disruptive and difficult to handle
Participants in the same study by the University of Sydney had concerns surrounding problematic behaviour, especially among children over 9. They believed that specialised experience would be required by carers to adequately respond to disruptive children.
While it is true that some children in foster care have experienced trauma, support is available to carers to help them overcome these challenges. All foster carers are allocated a case manager, who can then provide practical advice. For example, your case manager can connect you to psychologists, speech pathologists, and other healthcare professionals.
You can also access training on relevant topics such as therapeutic parenting and understanding trauma.
Myth 3: Only established, ‘conventional’ families can become foster carers
Same-sex couples, single individuals, and unmarried partners without children can all become carers.
Foster carers come from all walks of life. Busy professionals only available on weekends, empty nesters, or married couples with kids of their own all find a way to support children in need.
The gift of support and stability must not be underestimated, yet we are experiencing a serious undersupply of foster families. If you can help in any way, there’s no better time than Foster Care Week to take the leap and start your journey.
P: (02) 4320 777
Image credit: @portraitofsan on Unsplash