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People learn about the need for foster care in various ways. Some have lived experience of out-of-home care, growing up in foster or kinship care. Others may learn about it through family or friends who are carers or through community involvement. Many become aware of the challenges children face only after becoming parents themselves.

But how can we ensure our children understand that not all kids grow up in safe and secure homes?

While many parents possess the skills and experience to care for children in need, they may hesitate to make such a significant decision alone, recognising that it impacts the entire family.

Before deciding to become foster carers, it's crucial to discuss it with your own children and consider the potential impact on them and your family. Here are four tips for discussing the possibility of becoming a foster family.

1. Don’t expect a big reaction

During the foster care recruitment process, you'll likely be asked if you've discussed fostering with your children. Many people have, and they're either surprised by the lack of a big reaction or amused by their children's responses. Some might receive the typical teenage nodding and grunting, while younger children may simply focus on sharing their favourite toys. Just like with other significant family decisions, children need time to process potential changes and understand what they'll mean for them.

2. Consider the age of the children you wish to foster and the age of your own children

When considering fostering, it's important to think about both the ages of the children you wish to foster and those of your own children. Prospective foster carers often have a preferred age range for the children they'll care for. Additionally, you might consider whether you'd like the foster child to be of a similar age to, older than, or younger than your biological children. Throughout the accreditation process, you'll receive recommendations for the type of care that best suits your family. Your accreditation can evolve and is reviewed annually.

3. Talk about why foster care is so important

Statistics show that approximately one in every 32 children in Victoria will be referred to Child Protection at some point. This means nearly every classroom includes a child facing these challenges, regardless of community, socioeconomic status, or geographical location. Understandably, this reality can be difficult for parents who want the best for their children and their community. It's important to discuss with your child the diversity of families and the challenges some face. Emphasise the importance of helping others and how your family can make a difference.

4. Talk about what it might mean for your child, both the fun stuff and the hard stuff

Children in foster care often have experienced developmental trauma and may lack feelings of safety and security. Consequently, they may display behaviours requiring support from their carers. The impact of fostering will likely be felt by the entire household, including other children. Parents should consider how fostering may affect their children, as they know them best. With support, guidance, patience, and love, many carers can navigate the challenges and enjoy the rewards of fostering.

There is no typical Berry Street carer

While this blog focuses on talking with your children about foster care, it's important to note that Berry Street foster carers come from diverse backgrounds. Some of our carers do not have their own children, others became first-time parents while fostering, and others began their caring journey once their own children have grown up and left home.

We simply need people who can care for and relate to children and provide a secure and nurturing home environment. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Berry Street foster carer, please get in touch.