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The types of foster care you’ve probably never heard of

  • Learning
A new mother and father hold and smile at their new born in their kitchen.

Foster care is something that a lot of people know a little bit about. However, unless you’ve had direct experience with foster care in some way, chances are you have a broad view and aren’t aware of the very different types of care.  

Children and young people come into care for all kinds of reasons. To meet all of these needs, different types of care are needed too. Below we’re going to walk you through the various types of care provided by Mercy Community. 

Emergency care 

As the name suggests, emergency care is for children or young people who are in need of care immediately. This happens when there are concerns for their safety and they need to be removed from a dangerous situation straight away. 

If you’re keen to provide emergency care for a young person, keep in mind that you won’t have the chance to meet them beforehand and you need to be ready for the child when they arrive. You won’t have a lot of advance notice and may often be called upon to provide care after-hours, on weekends, and usually for short periods of time, such as a few days or weeks. 

As a provider of emergency care, you play an incredibly important role in the area of child safety. Children who are placed in emergency care can be distressed and confused. While you will be aware that their safety was at risk, they may not be. As an emergency carer, you need to be flexible, with bucketloads of understanding, warmth and care. 

Respite care 

Respite care gives foster carers a network of support when they need it most. It is an opportunity to have a rest, a short-term change of routine and the chance to recharge.  Ideally, respite care is planned for a weekend, or month, or part of the school holidays. However, if there is an emergency in a carer’s household, respite can be needed at short notice. 

Respite foster carers are also sometimes needed to provide support to foster carers where children have a high level of complex needs and need an increased level of specialised care.  

Respite care can broaden the community for the children or young people, by providing opportunities for positive experiences with other carers. When possible, we like to arrange respite care in a planned and carefully considered way so that it is not too disruptive for the child. What’s more, continuity in respite carers helps respite care to be a positive and valuable experience for everyone involved.  

Short-term care 

Children come into short-term care because of many different family situations 

Sometimes there are concerns for the child’s safety at home, sometimes serious illness in the family means the parents are unable to care for the child, or sometimes an existing placement breaks down and the child needs to be cared for elsewhere.  

Short-term care generally lasts for up to two years and has a strong focus on reuniting the child with their parents or extended family. Carers providing short-term care usually look after children and young people while the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs is working with their families with the aim of enabling the child or young person to return home. 

Longer-term care 

Longer-term care is needed when a child or young person is not expected to return to their family.  

Where possible, reunification of a child with their birth parents is always the goal. So, when longer-term care is arranged, it is because the prospects for the child being able to return home are very unlikely. 

Longer-term carers may make a commitment to caring for a child or young person until they reach 18 years of age or independence.  

We have many happy stories of carers helping to celebrate their foster child’s 18th birthday, seeing the young person through to adulthood with care, kindness, stability and a secure home life.  

Kinship care 

Kinship care is when a child or young person lives with a relative or someone they already know. While the requirements of kinship carers differ from those of foster carers, we also provide support and supervision for kinship care, where needed. 

Intensive foster care 

Intensive foster care is for children who have more challenging placement needs. They may have disabilities or complex emotional, behavioural or medical needs, and therefore may require more specialised and intensive level of care from the foster carer household. Specialist support from allied health professionals or in-home support may be part of the care package that is required for the child.  

For example, a youth worker might be called in to spend time with a young person on a regular basis, as part of intensive foster care. Intensive foster care placements may comprise of a multidisciplinary care team for the child or young person, depending on their needs. 

Alternatively, intensive foster care can often mean a helping hand for the carer when they need it most. A carer might become unwell and need some extra support, or need additional back-up to best look after the young person in their care.  

Moving between different types of care 

Once you’ve become an approved foster carer, it’s possible to move between different types of care. We are here to support you on your foster care journey, however that looks. Your life circumstances may change, and your foster care commitment may need to change too. By staying in good communication with your Mercy Community Foster Care Practitioner, we can work with you to anticipate any changes, and make the transition as smooth as possible. 

If you’d like to find out more about becoming a foster carer with Mercy Community, a great way to start is to take the quiz.