Often when a child is placed in the foster system it is at short notice. The agency needs time to find an appropriate short-term family however the authorities cannot leave the child in their existing home. Emergency carers take a child at short notice, for anywhere between a night to 2 weeks – depending on how long it takes the agency to find an appropriate longer family placement. In this way, emergency care is the coalface of the foster care system. It can be a time where a child brand new to the system needs understanding, love, support and security in their first moments of not knowing what the future will hold.
We were called to take in a young girl who’d seen some significant trauma in her home. She had never met a foster care family before and had no idea what to expect. It is such a privilege to walk these first steps with a child and provide a safe place for them in those initial moments of uncertainty, and an assurance that we are on their side.
In short-term care the foster-carers, as well as the court, intend for the child to be either reunited with their family of origin, or placed permanently with a long-term family. Often if there is any possibility of building a well-functioning family unit and for reunification, carers will parent these kids while these issues are resolved.
Short-term care can range from a few weeks up to 2 years, while courts deliberate on the best future for a child. In that time, short-term carers make an extraordinary difference by provide stability, teaching life-skills to these kids, giving them a safe routine, and helping them cope and prepare for the future.
We took on 9 month old Sam. Within a few weeks of constant one-on-one attention he began to attach and learnt to trust us. It was such a joy for us to see that when a new person entered the room he ran to us for comfort. He went on to be able to attach well to his permanent family a few months later. Time invested in these kids makes a big difference to their futures
Long-Term/Permanent Care is a foster-care arrangement that is expected to last until the child is 18, and hopefully continue long after. Permanent care arrangements are usually sought after a child has spent up to 2 years in short-term foster homes, and after enough time has passed for a court decide reunification with their family of origin is no longer an option.
For families leaning toward adoption, permanent care is a legitimate alternative, as it is long-term, and a stable family environment is sought for these children so they can thrive. Permanent care also comes with agency support for both carers and kids.
I immediately felt love for this little person – just as I love my biological kids. It's incredible seeing my kids embrace their new sibling with joy, compassion and a maturity I didn’t know they possessed. It’s made us more resilient as a family. I can’t imagine our family being any different – we’ve all been challenged, but we’ve all benefited so, so much.
Respite carers help make long-term care sustainable.
Respite care is looking after a child on a regular basis for a weekend (or other agreed short time period) to give their care-giver a break. This kind of care suits those unable to do full-time care, households with busy schedules or empty-nesters who can fulfil a grandparent role in the life of a child.
Respite carers are trained, assessed and approved through an agency just like every other form of out-of-home care. The small sacrifice of time and energy will make a dramatic difference, not just to a foster child, but for a whole family.
We heard that families who were caring for at-risk kids full time, were overloaded. We give respite care for a couple of toddlers for a weekend a month. The routine has been great for the kids, as well as helping the carers get the rest they need so they can be better-equipped to parent. Respite care has been a great way for us to get involved without having to turn our lives completely upside-down
Adoption is rare in Australia. It does happen occasionally, but local adoption mostly happens through the Permanent Care system, meaning there are children in the foster system who will need a permanent family. It is rare that a parent place their child up for adoption at birth.
A general rule across the board in regard to adoption is that any biological children must be 2 years or older before any process of application will be considered, and your youngest existing child must be at least 2 years older than any child you adopt.
Inter-country adoption is available from a small number of countries, with various rules for Australians wishing to adopt. The adoption process itself requires much patience, as it will take between 3-10 years from application before a child from another country is placed with an Australian family.