What It Takes To Become A Foster Carer

In New South Wales alone, hundreds of carers are needed.

When Gabby and her partner first started thinking about becoming foster carers, she had a lot of doubts.

The 47-year-old lives in an apartment in Sydney's eastern suburbs and doesn't have kids of her own.

"Kids have always been a big part of our lives through friends and family, but I was second-guessing myself and whether I'd be able to do it," she told ten daily.

What if they didn't like us? Could I look after a child in an apartment? What about not having kids?
Gabby shared her experience on Studio 10.

Two years later, Gabby and her partner have cared for three children in their home. They've offered a mix of emergency, respite and short-term care, looking after one child for 18 months before he was returned to his family.

"Once a child comes into your home, they're just a child who wants to feel like they belong, that they're part of an everyday household," she said.

There is an urgent need for foster carers in Australia.

According to the latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 47,915 children were in out of home care across across the country in June 2017 -- about 32,600 of those for two years or more.

With over 18,000 children in out of home care in New South Wales alone, CEO of provider Adopt Change Renee Carter said "hundreds" of carers are urgently needed.

"There are kids right now who would be going into residential care -- not homes," she told Studio 10.

Adopt Change was commissioned by the state government in July to launch My Forever Family NSW, an initiative to engage new carers and provide training and support for existing ones.

Another initiative is now offering residents in western Sydney a $75,000 tax-free payment to become a carer and support the state's most vulnerable children.

Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward on Thursday announced a $5 million trial that would see specialist foster carers recruited and trained to help up to 17 children from across metropolitan Sydney showing "complex and challenging behaviours".

"These children often need intensive support so they can thrive through childhood and adolescence," she said.

Recipients would receive intensive training, daily monitoring and 24-hour support, and would be expected to offer support on a full-time basis.

Foster carers are in urgent demand in Australia. Image: Getty

Carter welcomed the initiative.

"There have been positive outcomes shown to happen from initiatives where a foster carer is able to give up their full time work, to stay at home with a child," she said.

"Anything that can help children to be raised in a family is positive."

But the guidelines for becoming a foster carer aren't always so intensive.  Carter said every day people with "some time, capacity and willingness to look after children" can help.

"I was surprised  at the types of care that were needed," said Gabby. "There are so many situations and opportunities for anyone who has some capacity in their life to take a child in and be there for them -- whether that be a couple of weekends of respite care, or choosing to look after a child long term.

"They are in a system and they haven't chosen to be there. They're just children."

Both Carter and Gabby agreed while carers move through difficult periods or challenging behaviours, there is ample help.

"Carers are coming in aware of a child's situation. They are trained prior to becoming a carer and offered training and support networks throughout," she said.

Contact the author: ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au