With images of global crises filling our TV screens, you may be surprised to learn that on our own doorstep in NSW there are 20,000 children at risk and in need of out-of-home care. These are children who have witnessed domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse or have experienced other traumatic events.
Reforms introduced by the NSW Government in October 2017 recognise that children and young people do better when they have continuity and stability in their home life. This is why the focus has shifted to giving children in need a permanent, safe home within 2 years of being placed in out-of-home care.
It’s more possible than you think to become a foster carer
Although the priority is still to return a child or young person to their family of origin, provided it is safe to do so, the reality is there are still thousands of children who will not be able to return to their family. We desperately need more foster carers to provide emergency, short-term and permanent care.
Foster carers come from all walks of life. They may be single or married and de facto couples, including same sex couples. They may have children already or have no parenting experience. If you’re not sure you have what it takes to be a foster carer, here are some personal qualities that will help you care for these vulnerable children and young people.
Compassion, patience and lots of love to give. Many children in care have never experienced the stability and routine of normal family life. They are often angry, anxious or scared through no fault of their own. This may cause them to lash out at you verbally or physically, or even blame you for their predicament. Just like caring for any child, you need to stay calm and have eternal patience. You also need to be able to provide plenty of compassion, understanding and boundless love.
The ability to bounce back. Being able to go with the flow, think positively and bounce back quickly will help you cope with challenging behaviour. This is known as resilience, or a ‘thick skin’. By not taking things personally, and by modelling how to solve problems, you will not only defuse the situation quicker, you will also be teaching the children and young people in your care how to become more resilient themselves.
Flexibility and an open mind. It’s impossible to guess what sort of personality a child or young person will have and how they will respond to you. A technique that works with one child may not work with another. Being open to learn, improve and change, rather than having a fixed mindset, will help you to provide the particular kind of care the child or young person needs. Known as a ‘growth mindset’ this flexible approach will also help the child or young person learn that it’s possible to change their behaviour and their life.
Are you ready to change the destiny of a child or young person in need?
Becoming a foster carer is a big step, but it’s one of the most rewarding life decisions you can make. There are many success stories of children and young people whose lives have been turned around by the loving nurture of their foster carers. As a carer, this is hugely rewarding and one of the greatest gifts you can give and receive.
The first step to becoming a foster carer is to talk it through with your family then contact Challenge Community Services who can explain the process to you. Once you are approved as a foster carer, we will support you all the way with special training, a dedicated case worker and 24-hour support.
Are you ready to become a foster carer? We will support all the way.