Fostering a child and providing them with a safe haven is a selfless and kindhearted act. Children that have been taken into foster care through no fault of their own, and are often placed into care due to abuse, neglect or abandonment by the people that were supposed to care for them.

Currently there are almost 20,000 children in NSW that are looking for a permanent home and a family that will support them and make them feel safe and loved.

However, there are a number of laws and eligibility criteria that need to be met and understood prior to adopting a child in NSW.  

Who can be a foster carer?

To register to become a foster carer in NSW, you must be:

  • Over the age of 25
  • An Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • In good health
  • Without a criminal record

Beyond these restrictions, most people are eligible to become a foster carer. Fostering NSW says they do not care if you are single, married, in a de-facto relationship or in a same-sex relationship. All that matters is that you have a big heart and lots of patience.

A common query is whether or not future foster parents need to own their home, or even have a big house to foster a child. Essentially, so long as the place of residence is safe and secure with a stable family life, it doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home. The important aspect is that the child has their own room, to allow them to have their own space and to feel secure.

What type of care is required?

There are many different types of care required from foster parents and when researching whether or not fostering is right for you, it is important to understand the levels of different care:

Emergency Care (12 hrs onwards) – Emergency carers provide a safe and supportive home for children who require immediate placement due to concerns for their safety. These types of placements are often arranged at very short notice, often after-hours or on weekends; and can last from several hours to a few months.

Respite Care (2 days to 3 weeks) – Respire foster carers enable long-term foster carers to have a break from their caring role. Respite care is organised far in advance, and is available for carers who would like a ‘trial’ of fostering a child.

Interim/Restoration Care (up to 12 months) – This type of care supports vulnerable families by fostering children while their birth family receives help and support to ensure they can care for the child in the future. Interim/Restoration carers also foster children while they are waiting to go into long-term care.

Guardianship (until the child is 18-years-old) – Guardianship is a court order that allows a child to be cared for by a relative or adult they know until the child turns 18. A guardianship order also allows a child to maintain contact with their birth family while living in the agreed upon supportive home.  

Open Adoption from care (life commitment) – This type of adoption preserves a child’s sense of who they are. It allows a child to maintain a relationship with their birth family, while still living in a safe and loving environment.

Long-term foster care (6 months & onwards) – Long-term foster carers are required when a child cannot return safely to their family; cannot be placed under a guardianship order; and when open adoption is not considered due to personal or cultural reasons.   

Financial Boost for adopting foster children

As an added incentive, the New South Wales government has recently introduced brand new financial incentives if foster carers adopt the children currently under their care. From July 2017, foster carers could receive annual payments of $25,000 if they have children up to four years old, or $37,000 if they look after older teenagers.   

To be eligible, the carers must qualify for the Family Tax Benefit (Part A) – a Federal Government payment that helps with the costs of raising children. There will be a strict government assessment in place that will apply to all foster parents. Each family will be judged on a case-by-case basis for adoption, with special attention paid to ensuring that the child will have a safe, supportive and permanent home.

To qualify for this financial support, you must satisfy an income test, fulfil all residence requirements, and be responsible for the care of the child at least 35% of the time. You can find out more about the eligibility criteria here.

For more information about adopting a child within New South Wales, please visit fosteringnsw.com.au or barnardos.org.au.

If you are looking to adopt a foster child, don’t hesitate to contact the Family Law experts at Owen Hodge Lawyers on 1800 770 780.