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Fostering Our Children

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I meet so many people who praise me for fostering children. This is even though what I have done is so very minor compared to many of the foster carers in the ACT.

Fostering is something I do for myself, my family, the children in care and their family. If I wasn’t doing it for myself and my family first, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s challenging in a positive way. It makes me revisit my learning on parenting and keeps me aware of what works and doesn’t for different children of different ages and with different experiences. It shakes me from the complacency of a middle class Canberra existence.

So what is fostering? From the DOCS brochure on fostering: “Fostering is a unique and special service to children by caring indivisuals and families. When children are not able to live at home for various reasons, the first choice of permanent placement is with relatives or someone they know. When this isn’t possible, fostering agencies rely on individuals and families to open their homes to these children.”

“There are different types of care as some children need emergency care for a few days, others need care for a few weeks and some may need long term care. Often it is not known when the child is placed, how long the care will be required for.”

The impression I get from people who ask me about fostering is that they expect all the kids to be naughty, rather difficult kids. That’s not the case at all. Sometimes parents are unable to care for their children due to physical or mental illness, drug and alcohol dependance, domestic violence or imprisonment. Sometimes there’s a crisis in the familly and no-one else can care for the children while the grandparents come from interstate. None of these circumstances make the kids bad kids!

That’s not to say that there aren’t challenging children in foster care. In fact, some carers only take the challenging ones. Those carers win my respect. They work hand in hand with the health services to provide a loving home and support for a steady stream of children.

Some foster carers specialise in caring for babies, others for teenagers. Whatever their focus, they are assisted by their agency and numerous government departments. They receive some financial assistance and some extra costs are reimbursed on a case by case basis. But I am sure that not one of them would be doing it for the money!

If you have a love of children, are single or married or in a de-facto relationhip, are over 18 years old, rent or own a home and have space in your life to care for a child (or a few), please contact one of the local agencies that matches carers with children and find out about their information sessions and training programmes.

More information about foster care is available here: http://www.dhcs.act.gov.au/ocyfs/foster_care.htm

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