Foster Care Week reminds us we always need more foster carers
20 September 2021 at 5:50 pm
On an average day, there are up to 1,700 children and young people in foster care across Victoria. Foster Care Week in September is an opportunity to recognise why foster carers are so important to our community and why we need more, writes Deb Tsorbaris.
In September, we celebrate Foster Care Week and recognise the invaluable contributions of foster carers. Foster carers are a crucial part of our out-of-home care system, supporting Victoria’s families by opening their homes to children and young people on a temporary basis. With the number of children in care in out-of-home care growing at an average rate of 11 per cent per year, the need for foster carers continues to increase at a significant rate. While there are over 1,000 accredited fosters in Victoria today, these aren’t enough to meet current demand.
In a COVID and post-COVID world, the need for foster carers is perhaps greater than ever. In addition to current trends, the recent Keeping Families Together report suggests that the impact of COVID-19 on Victorian families could push as many as 4,500 additional children into out-of-home care by 2026, a 20 per cent increase on current figures. This will disproportionately affect Victoria’s Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander children, one in 18 of whom are already in out-of-home care, making up 26 per cent of all children in out-of-home care in Victoria.
While achieving sustained investment in early intervention is crucial for managing the impact of COVID on the health and wellbeing of children, young people and families, growing our current pool of foster carers is equally necessary. Foster carers offer a safety net for children and young people in our community when they can’t live with their family, stepping in to provide a caring home until families can be safely reunited.
In recognition of our ongoing need for foster carers, Victoria’s Foster Care agencies came together in 2016 to form Fostering Connections. Fostering Connections is Victoria’s state-wide foster care attraction service. It offers a centralised website and enquiry line that provides information about foster care and helps Victorians apply to become carers. The service is supported by a state-wide advertising campaign aimed at attracting more Victorians to become foster carers and increase foster care awareness.
The message that supports Fostering Connections is a simple one; foster carers of all types and from all communities are needed today. It is something anyone over the age of 21 who cares about children, families and their community should consider. There is no one type of foster carer, nor is it necessarily a full-time commitment. According to the 2021 Carer Victorian carer census, 30 per cent of the 518 carers surveyed reported working full-time, and a further 27 per cent reported working part time. Foster carers live in both regional and metropolitan Victoria and come from a variety of backgrounds, incomes and households.
Victoria’s diverse foster carers have offered particularly crucial support to children, young people and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether helping children and young people navigate the challenges of homeschooling, helping them stay connected to their birth families through lockdowns, or helping them access appropriate supports under difficult and challenging circumstances, foster carers have been a major support to children and young people in Victoria who can’t live with their family. Foster care agency staff have also played a critical role, meeting and training current and prospective foster carers online so they can access the advice and support they need when they can’t meet in person.
While we continue to advocate for early intervention for Victoria’s families, foster carers remain a crucial link in our out-of-home care system. This September, we thank Victoria’s carers for opening their homes and for everything they do to help children, young people and families in our community and foster care workers for their tireless efforts in assisting both current and future foster carers.
We also call on those interested in foster care to contact Fostering Connections or a local foster care agency. With your help, Victorian children and young people will be better placed to access safe, secure homes in their community until they can safely return to their family.
Visit the Fostering Connections website or call their enquiry line on 1800 013 088 for further information.