What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary care of a child/young person (birth to 17 years) within a nurturing home environment during a time when they can't live safely at home. It can be for a few days, a weekend a month, a few weeks or for much longer.
Foster care is for children who have experienced trauma and various forms of abuse.
Wherever possible, the plan is to reunify children with their birth families eventually, providing this is in the best interests of the child. Where it is in the best interests of the child, the plan will be to support the birth family so that the child can be safely returned home.
Foster care is required when there isn’t an extended family member or members of a child’s social network available to provide a home (known as kinship care).
Could I be a foster carer?
At Berry Street, our foster carers are wonderfully diverse in terms of age, background, sexual orientation, relationship status and experience. If you are over 21 and can offer a child or young person their own room in a safe and nurturing home environment, we will welcome your application.
We welcome carers from all backgrounds, cultures and experiences - married, single, or same-sex couples, with or without children, divorced or de facto.
Learn more about your eligibility to become a foster carer by reading our frequently asked questions below or register for an information session.
What will I receive?
As a foster carer, you will receive:
- a dedicated case worker
- 24-hour support and practical help from experienced Berry Street staff
- financial support in the form of a fortnightly, tax-free reimbursement
- ongoing training and access to support programs to help develop skills you will use as a foster carer
- social opportunities to network with other carers.
Learn more about financial and other support you will receive, check out our frequently asked questions below or register for an information session.
Can I choose the type of foster care that I provide?
We are seeking carers to provide:
- respite care (one or two weekends a month)
- emergency care (for children who require an immediate placement)
- short-term care (a few weeks to six months)
- long-term care (more than six months).
You can nominate the type of care you would like to provide and, as part of the application process, Berry Street will work with you to help you make a final decision on the option that best suits you.
Learn more about types of foster care available, read our frequently asked questions below or register for an information session.
Continue reading: In-depth Foster Care FAQs
Foster care gives children who cannot live with their own families the opportunity to live within a safe and nurturing home environment. Children and young people in foster care are aged from 0 to 17 years.
Depending on their circumstances, a child may be in foster care for a few days, a few weeks or for many years.
The first step is to register for an information session. Following the information session, you can submit your application and begin the assessment and training process. Assessment and training can take between four to six months.
Established in 1877, Berry Street is Victoria’s largest independent child and welfare organisation in Victoria, with offices across Victoria.
We are an inclusive organisation and we welcome carers from all backgrounds, cultures and experiences.
Our extensive experience means we understand the needs of our carers and the importance of providing both practical help and professional support. Each carer works closely with an experienced Berry Street case manager and support for carers is available 24 hours a day.
Berry Street is a thought leader in childhood and parenting and we use this experience to inform our support to our carers.
We offer ongoing training to our carers to help develop skills.
If you are over 21 years of age and can offer a child a safe and secure home environment, you are eligible to apply to become a foster carer.
Yes. Carers might be single or married, in a same sex or de facto relationship.
Yes. Berry Street encourages members of the LGBTIQ community to consider foster care and to come along to an information session.
Yes. Berry Street will work with you to ensure that the placements offered to you are suitable given your employment conditions and other commitments.
Carers might work full-time, part-time, or on a voluntary basis. Carers might be retired or unemployed. Carers might also be full-time or part-time students.
Yes. We need people who can care for and relate to children and provide a secure and nurturing home environment. These people might be parents or might not be parents.
Yes. Renters or people living in units or apartments can apply to be a foster carer. We will work with you to ensure your home meets the home and environment standards for foster care (e.g. childproofing).
Children and young people in foster care need a home where they feel like they belong, where they are cared for and safe and where they have their own space. As part of this, foster children need to have their own bedroom. Sibling groups can share a bedroom but we ask that children who aren’t related have their own room.
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There are several placement types available. We will work with you to identify the placement types that would best suit you. Foster carers can apply to provide one or more of the following types of care:
- Respite - Gives full-time foster carers, parents or guardians a regular break, often for one or two weekends a month.
- Emergency - For children who require a placement immediately due to concerns for their safety. Due to the urgency of these placements there is usually very little notice before a child is placed with the foster carer.
- Short term - For children who may require a placement for a couple of weeks up to approximately six months. Children requiring short-term care are often able to be reunited with their birth parents or extended family at the end of the foster care placement.
- Long term - For children who cannot return to their biological family for an extended period or when it is anticipated that the child will be unable to be reunited.
Berry Street will work closely with you to ensure you receive the support you need.
A dedicated case manager will provide both professional support and practical help through regular phone calls and home visits.
We provide 24 hour support, seven days a week including an on-call service for emergency situations.
We offer education and training regarding therapeutic care, behavioural management and other topics that might be relevant (e.g. drug and alcohol awareness).
To support you in meeting the needs of the specific child in your care, you will be invited to attend “care team” meetings on a regular basis. These meetings provide an opportunity for all parties involved in a child’s life to come together to discuss the child’s needs and develop a plan to meet these needs.
Peer mentoring facilitates support from other carers in your local area.
In addition to the support provided by Berry Street, you will also have access to the Foster Care Association of Victoria which operates a Carer Information and Support Service.
You will receive financial support in the form of a caregiver reimbursement. The reimbursement is paid fortnightly by the Department of Human Services. The reimbursement is not considered to be a payment and, as such, is not treated as income by Centrelink or for taxation purposes.
The fortnightly reimbursement rate is based on the age of the child and the complexity of the child’s care needs.
In addition to the fortnightly reimbursement, you will also receive a quarterly payment for educational and medical expenses.
You can find more detailed information on reimbursement rates on the Foster Care Association of Victoria website.
Berry Street receives voluntary and statutory foster care referrals for children aged from 0 to 17 years.
Voluntary foster care referrals are initiated by the child’s biological family. The family may be under significant stress and needing time to work towards goals that will enable them to resume full time care of their children.
Statutory referrals are initiated by the Department of Human Services. The court system will determine if children should be removed from the care of their biological family. These children may have suffered various forms of abuse and require protection.
Any contact you have with the child’s biological parents will be carefully coordinated and managed by Berry Street. The nature of the contact will depend on the circumstances surrounding the child going into care.
Your Berry Street case manager will develop a relationship with the biological family before you have any contact with the family.
Your initial contact with the biological family might be at the regular meetings held to discuss the child’s care (these meetings are not held in your home).
Berry Street will coordinate and provide transport to any visits the child has with his/her biological family.
Many Berry Street long-term carers have developed very positive relationships with the biological families of children in their care and this is hugely beneficial for all involved, especially the children.
The aim of foster care is to help children return to their biological family, provided this is in the best interests of the child. This is not always possible. If children are unable to return home, they will enter long-term or permanent care.
We know that the support of family and friends can be important when you are considering becoming a foster carer. Your family and friends may be highly supportive or you might encounter some resistance.
If you do encounter resistance, here are three tips that might help:
- Listen to concerns. Ask questions and take an interest in the reasons behind the resistance. Avoid judging the person who has concerns. You might like to encourage the person to attend an information session with you as this is a small commitment of time and will provide an opportunity for him/her to raise questions with people experienced in foster care.
- Give the person time and space to consider the idea. When he or she is ready, share information that addresses concerns. For example, it might help the person to learn more about the support provided to foster carers or the different types of foster care placement available.
- Talk to foster carers for their advice on discussing foster care with family and friends. You might even like to arrange for your family member or friend to talk to a foster carer directly. If you register your interest with us, we can help coordinate a discussion with a current foster carer.
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