Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We've put together some questions and answers below based on the information Carers wanted to know before they started, the types of calls and enquiries we receive and the feedback from events and other communications. If you have other questions or feedback about foster and kinship care, please send through to us.
There are varied motivations - including caring for a relative or maintaining community connections, starting a family, growing a family and wanting to help a child or young person in need.
The following personal qualities are sought in prospective Carers to offer children and young people a high quality care experience:
Patience, kindness and understanding
Many children and young people that enter the child protection system will experience complex emotional issues. These can result in behaviours that are challenging for a Carer to deal with. Whilst there are behavioural management strategies that will help, above all else Carers need patience, kindness and understanding.
Children and young people in care are likely to experience many types of emotions, such as feeling rejected and uncertain about the future. They may blame themselves for the situation they find themselves in and/or want to return to their birth parents; all will experience some level of trauma. Carers who can respond sensitively to these needs are much more likely to achieve successful outcomes.
Respect for cultural awareness
Issues around 'identity' and 'belonging' are common for children and young people to experience when they have been separated from their birth parents. These issues may be heightened for a child placed with Carers from a different cultural heritage. It is therefore extremely important for Carers to not only respect cultural differences but also support children and young people to explore their cultural heritage.
Positive and effective communication
Carers have responsibilities to work together in partnership with various organisations and professionals, and may also have contact with members of the child or young person’s birth family. Being able to establish good working relationships with everyone in a child or young person’s life will make it easier for the best outcomes to be achieved.
Flexibility, resilience and commitment
Carers often deal with a wide range of demanding situations – the more flexible and resilient a Carer is, the better they can manage any associated stress. For example, where a child or young person is to be reunified with their birth family, a Carer will need to be able to support the transition; conversely, a child or young person in long-term care needs a Carer to be committed to supporting them through any challenges.
Lack of judgement
Leaving any pre-conceptions about the child and its family 'at the door' means Carers are able to actively support the child or young person’s connections or understanding of its family. This is crucial to each child or young person's wellbeing and development.
Willingness to learn
All Carers will be presented with learning opportunities to meet the needs of the children and young people in care, such as the effects of trauma and neglect.
Foster carers are required to undertake training and attend refresher sessions.
Kinship carers are related to a child or young person through family or have an existing relationship with the family or community. Kinship care helps the child or young person to maintain connections and is the first consideration when a child or young person enters the care system.
Kinship care is particularly important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as it maintains the child or young person’s cultural connections to family, language and community.
Any adult who is an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident can apply to become a foster carer including individuals and couples of any gender, whether or not they have children.
There are several steps involved in becoming an approved foster carer. While each application is considered on its own merits, the process often takes around *6 months and includes checks, assessments and training to ensure children and young people receive the highest standards of care.
*This time is flexible and can sometimes take longer depending on each person's individual circumstances.
A range of checks and screening are undertaken on all adults living in the home, including criminal history, *child protection screening, referee checks, medical checks and home safety assessments. These are updated regularly and required to be current at all times. Some of these checks are fast-tracked for kinship carers to ensure the child or young person’s safety, and then completed more fully at a later date.
(Several of these checks also apply to staff working in Government Departments, support agencies and other services.)
*DCSI screening can be delayed at times, taking 8 weeks or more. DCP advise Carers speak with their foster care agency or kinship care team, with a view towards asking the 'Requesting Officer' to contact DCSI to query any extended delays.
Information about kinship care is available through the Kinship Care program. Please contact the Department for Child Protection for more information.
Information sessions about foster care are held regularly. Please refer to the Child Protection website for more information.
Information about registered foster care agencies is available via the SA GOV website and prospective carers may contact any agency they choose. There are some limitations however, depending on geographical location and specific types of care. Foster care agencies hold information sessions regularly for people wanting more information about foster care.
It is important that every child or young person is given the best possible opportunity to fit in well with their Carer family/families.
Understanding a Carers’ preferences and capabilities is part of this important work – some families will be more suited to babies, while others more suited to caring for young people attending high school. Some families will have room and energy for large sibling groups and others for one child only. Foster care agencies are responsible for understanding what works for each family.
Cultural background is an important consideration, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
In any instance where information is not provided, it is important to follow up immediately with your foster care agency and/or child or young person's DCP case worker.
Kinship carers often have contact and maintain relationships with birth families, especially given around half of all kinship carers in SA are grandparents.
This is not a requirement of foster carers and foster carer details are not provided to birth families. The DCP case worker is responsible for arranging contact where required.
While this is not a requirement of foster carers, there are times where contact with birth parents, siblings and significant others can be developed and positive relationships are able to be maintained.
Being a Carer is a not a paid position, however there is a tax-free reimbursement to cover day-to-day expenses. Additional payments may be available to cover further expenses and some Carers may also be eligible for payments through Australian Government services, including Centrelink.
There are different levels and types of payments. Please refer to the Child Protection website for more information.
If you have a complaint about issues relating to foster and kinship care:
Wherever possible, issues will be raised and resolved at the local level with the child or young person’s DCP case worker, and/or with the Carer’s foster care agency support work or kinship care team support worker.
If issues cannot be resolved, it is recommended that Carers escalate issues to the supervisors and managers of local offices and/or agencies and kinship care teams.
Further escalation can involve contacting the DCP Chief Executive, before looking at outside options including the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner, the Ombudsman and/or the Minister’s office.
CFC-SA can help Carers to identify concerns, communicate issues, consider options, navigate systems and to propose resolutions through our individual advocacy services.
If you have a complaint about CFC-SA:
Please contact CFC-SA and tell us. We welcome all feedback and aim to resolve complaints about our service.
For children and young people attending school, there is an Education Grant paid to Carers per term to cover the fees and associated costs. If the Education Grant is not enough to cover the current fees or other costs incurred, Carers can seek additional financial assistance through their child or young person’s DCP case worker at the relevant DCP office. Additional assistance is considered on a case by case basis.
Yes – while there may be some limitations and occasional exceptions, all activities that include children and young people in the regular experiences of family life are encouraged.
Planning for independence is an important part of all young people’s transition to adulthood. Leaving care may mean some young people need assistance to access services and support.
For more information, please refer to the Department for Child Protection website.
OPG is the acronym for Other Person Guardianship – where a guardian is legally appointed to have the day-to-day parenting and decision making responsibility for a child or young person. Please visit the Department for Child Protection webpage for more information.
Adoption is a permanent legal arrangement and therefore has many requirements and considerations.
Please refer to the Department for Child Protection website for more information.
Each change in circumstance is different and needs to be reviewed on an individual basis and based on the changes and arrangements at that time.
A change in Carer circumstance may result in a modification of arrangements regarding living arrangements, Carer payments and other variations to previously held agreements.
Any changes affecting care arrangements should be advised to the foster care agency or kinship care team in the first instance, together with the DCP case worker.
“One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.” (Jim Rohn)