1. I have a new child in my care who seems to be constantly hungry and I have found food hidden in his bedroom. Why is he doing this?

It sounds as though this child has experienced neglect and knows what it is like to be deprived of food. The overeating and hoarding food is a survival skill he has developed to ensure he does not go hungry. In time, when he realises that there will always be food available, this should subside.

2. Can I take a Foster child or young person on a holiday outside the State or Territory?

As child protection is a State  and Teritory legislation, a child or young person in foster care is under the care of the State or Territory in which they live. Therefore approval from your State or Territory child protection office will be needed prior to taking them out of the State.

3. Who am I allowed to discuss the child’s story and circumstances with?

The children in your care and their family have a right to confidentiality. Circumstances can only be discussed on a ‘needs to know’ basis. This means professionals who are involved in that child’s growth and development.

For example the pediatrician needs to know the child was born to a substance abusing mother however there is no need for your next door neighbour to know that information.

4. Why are the birth parents allowed to have contact with the child or young person when they have abused or neglected them?

It is important for children and young people in care to maintain a sense of belonging and identity. Children and young people have the right to know where they come from and the opportunity to maintain and strengthen relationships with their family and contact can help with this. Children and young people are often attached to their Parents despite past abuse and/or neglect and still want to see them.  

Completing FCOTA’s course 'Contact with Significant Others' will further explain the benefits of contact.

5. Why is the child coming back from contact visits unsettled, upset, acting out or withdrawn? Should the contact visits be reduced as it is upsetting the child?

Contact visits can be a reminder to the child or young person that they are separated from their families. Rather than stop the contact, it is an important reminder to support the child through their grief and loss.

These behaviors are typical of children experiencing loss and grief. To reduce contact based on the child’s reaction to grief would be like punishing the child for his/her grief.

FCOTA's course "Caring for the grieving child or young person" will provide more information on grief and loss.

6. How do I prepare my own birth children for a placement coming to an end?

Honesty is always the best policy at a childs age and developmental understanding. You can tell your children how long each placement is expected to last and also be honest when you are unsure yourself. When a placement is coming to an end you can involve your birth children in writing letters, cards or drawing pictures for the foster childs life story work. Ensure you include your children in the transition of a placement ending . Support your child by listening to them, answering their questions and reflecting on the placement. Have a special celebration or outing towards the end of the placement to say goodbye.

7. If a child or young person receives long term orders does it mean I can definitely keep him/her until 18 years of age?

This is a possibility, if you are approved as a long term carer and assessed as appropriate for the childs long term care. However there is always the possibility the parents may appeal the decision and successfully regain custody of their child. It is also possible a suitable family member could be assessed to foster the child in a kinship placement. There is a lot to consider such as the long term suitability to care for the child’s changing needs.

8. Why do we need to have so much contact with our caseworker?

Each individual agency will have their own policy on the amount and type of contact caseworkers have with carers.

Caseworkers can be a great support for carers by sharing ideas, strategies and opportunities to reflect.

It is in the child or young persons best interest to have a positive relationship with the caseworker. If the child or young person changes placements the caseworker may be the only familiar person to help them transition between the two families.

The caseworker is responsible for coordinating new or existing services for the child, so it important they are kept up to date with the child or young persons changing needs.

9. Why do I feel so bad when I say no to a placement?

As carers you have empathy and want to help, however you need to consider the needs of your family and you know your family best and what will work for you and what wont. It is better to say no if you do not think it is going to work than disrupt a child by potentially having a placement breakdown.

10. One of the children in my care is very focussed on meeting his younger siblings emotional and physical needs. It worries me as he is only a child himself. Why would this be happening?

It sounds as though this child is a "Parentified Child" meaning there has been a role reversal in his household and he was inappropriately responsible for meeting the parents and siblings needs.

Parentification is usually found in families where the parent or caregiver has experienced a serious medical condition or mental health disorder. Alcohol and/or drug abuse is also common in families where parentification exists.

These frequently asked questions and answers are intended for general information only. For more specific information relating to the individual circumstances of the children and young people in your care please ensure you discuss with your caseworker.

© FCOTA 2016