What is Fostering?

Foster care provides safe and supportive homes for children and teenagers when they are unable to live with their own families. The aim of foster care is to reunite children with their own families where possible.

In Victoria, foster care is provided by members of the community who are involved with a community service organisation, or CSO, which is commissioned by the Department of Human Services to provide these services.  Some children who are unable to live with their parents may live with extended family members.  This is known as ‘Kinship Care’.  Kinship carers are usually supported by the Department of Human Services.

There are several types of foster care programs in Victoria. Some CSOs provide a variety of programs, and some provide only one or two. Some of these programs are:

* General Foster Care – for children aged 0-18 years. 
* Disability – respite & full-time foster care for children & young people 0-18 with a disability or developmental delay
* Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) – for children & young people with complex needs
* Adolescent Community Placement (ACP) – for young people aged 13-17 years

There are a range of reasons why children come in to care, including poverty, lack of support, disability, mental illness or medical issues, homelessness, family crisis, abandonment, neglect, drug or alcohol issues, or emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

All children in foster care live in different circumstances, and therefore have different needs. Children can require safe, loving & supportive care:

* immediately
* in a few weeks
* overnight
* one weekend a month  (for more information our post ‘What is Respite Foster Care?’)
* for a few months
* for several years

Foster carers may choose the length of care they are willing to provide, and may even specify the age or gender of children they are willing to provide care for.

Foster carers are people from the community who are:

* from all backgrounds & cultures
* single, married or in a de facto relationship
* working full time, part time, studying, or not in paid employment
* living alone, with family, or in a shared household or rented property
* childless or have children
* aged between 20 – 80 years

Foster carers are able to decide what best suits them, and are able to go on hold at any stage for any length of time, although potential carers are asked to think carefully before they commit to a placement, as stability is extremely important to children in care.

Foster carers are volunteers.  However, foster carers receive a fortnightly non-taxable allowance for each night that they have a child in their care. This is to help meet the costs of food, clothing, & general living expenses for the child. The actual amount of reimbursement varies depending on a number of factors. You can read more about the training and assessment of foster carers in our post on Foster Care Training.

Intensive foster carers (who care for children & young people with intensive needs) receive a higher rate of reimbursement than do general foster carers, as well as extra training. This includes children & young people in the Disability program (who have an intellectual disability or developmental delay), with additional physical, emotional or behavioural needs.

Complex foster carers receive the highest rate of reimbursement & training. These carers usually provide one-to-one care for children & young people aged 7-18 years who have extremely high, complex needs, and require specialised care and support. This includes young people in Enhanced Adolescent Community Placements and children who supported through Therapeutic Foster Care programs.

To find out more, call 1800 013 088 or click on one of the agencies listed down the right hand side of this blog under the heading ‘Where can I foster?’.  You can also view our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page.


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  1. I was looking at fostering once before but started to work for the disabled DHS I have hurt my cartlidge and now have to wait for an operation to correct it. I would like to look at fostering again untill I get my knee fixed. Is this possible? Please ring me on Swan Hill 03 50321627. I was being interview, before I started working with DHS. I am hopeing that this is what I am ment to do. Please contact me if I can be of use to you. I would like to end up in community wellfare

    Yours Truely Rhonda Burge.

    • Hi Rhonda, I would recommend filling out an online enquiry. You can find a link at the top of this page on the right hand side. Once you have filled out an enquiry you will be contacted by the agency that covers your area.

  2. Hi, I would love to know more information on how to foster children 5years to 8years old. My husband and children have talked about this and it is something we would like to do together to bring a child happiness in a loving family. I was told it is very hard to foster? Are you able to give me any information if I was to foster how soon would I be able to do this?

    Thankyou kindly – have a lovely day

    • Hi Anne,
      Every foster carer I have ever spoken to says fostering is challenging but also incredibly rewarding.
      In terms of the process of becomming a foster carer most states in Australia would operate in a similar way, although my knowledge is very Victorian based. After contacting the right organisation (in Victoria just call 1300 889 335) you will be sent an information pack about foster care and often be invited to an information session where you will be abl to ask all your burning questions. Usually from there you’ll be asked to fill in a number of background checks including a Criminal History Check, a Working With Children Check etc. You would then need to attend training which is usually free of charge. Follow this you will probably need to participate in an assessment process in which you will be interviewed by social workers who are experienced in the field.

      It’s important to understand that the assessment is not so much a test as a way for you to discuss your abilities and strengths as well as to dicuss any issues which might make foster care difficult for you. The assessors’ job is to make sure that foster care applicants have the ability, insight and personal qualities which will enable them to be able to provide a safe and caring environment for children and young people.

      I hope this answers your question.

  3. We are very interested in fostering the children of a lifelong friend whose 2 children have been in foster care for many years. Our situation is slightly particular, as we know the children we would like to foster. In the past we had a close relationship with the father of the children who is now unfortunately unfit to parent.

    We believe we may be able to provide the children with the care and stability they have been unable to get, while also having a a link with their birthparents which may be beneficial for them.

    I have contacted the case manager at DHS responsible for the children and have set out our commitment to this matter. However I am unsure what the correct process is in order to be assessed as an eligible family to foster these children.


  4. Hi Caroline,
    The circumstances you have outlined are indeed quite complex but it seems that the children involved are very fortunate to have caring family friends to help out.

    You have done the right thing by involving DHS. You should also ask them about any support you would be able to access in your local area.

    The other organisation to contact is the Mirabel Foundation who support family caring for children and young people from within their extended family for friends network (Kinship Carers) http://www.mirabelfoundation.org.au/.

    I wish you all the best and hope that you are able to access the supports you need.

  5. Hi,
    My husband and I have previously been approved for permanent care approx 2.5 yrs ago in vic, after waiting for a few years we decided not to keep trying but are interested in foster care. Do we have to go through the whole process again or can you be fast tracked for foster care.

    • Hi Rebecca,
      Yes it is a government requirement that every foster carer must participate in training and assessment and complete the appropriate background checks.

      Some of your checks may be able to be carried over and you’ll only need to update your life-history.

      I know it seems like a waste of time but families I’ve met in your situation have all reported a very positive experience of going through the process of training and assessment for foster care and were surprised at how much they got out of it.

      I wish you all the best!

  6. Hi,
    I have a 5 month old daughter, but have been recently thinking about fostering a baby. I can’t bear the thought of a child not having a home! I do not work at the moment, but my husband does, and I figure now would be the time to help, while I have the time to do it.

    However, we only have a two bedroom house, and if I foster a baby, it would have to share a room with my daughter.
    Is this allowed? Or will the child require her/his own room?

    Thanks for your help!

    Kind Regards,


    • Hi Tarryn,
      Thanks for your question. Decisions about children sharing rooms is usually decided on a case by case basis but it is often suitable for young children to share. I would certainly encourage you to contact your local agency to discuss your interest in becomming foster carers further. Call the foster care hotline on 1800 013 088.
      Good Luck!

  7. Hello
    I am interested in becoming a foster carer however I must be honest and say I have a mental illness.It is managed and I feel good within myself.I also that I would make a good foster carer as I feel I can provide the care a child may needed with the appropriate training. My question is What do you think my chances are. Terry

  8. Hello
    I am interested in becoming a foster carer however I must be honest and say I have a mental illness.It is managed and I feel good within myself.I also feel that I would make a good foster carer as I feel I can provide the care a child may needed with the appropriate training. My question is What do you think my chances are. Terry

  9. Hi Terry,
    It’s great to hear that you’re interested in becomming a foster carer.
    To be a foster carer in Victoria you will need to do a medical check with your doctor which considers your mental and physical health, just to make sure that fostering isn’t going to have a negative impact on your health (processes may differ from state to state). This is the primary way of understanding if fostering is right for you.

    You should also be prepared to have honest conversations with your assessors about your illness, especially your understanding of any triggers and your self-care and management. They are likely to ask you about how you think you might cope with the stresses of foster care and it’s always best to answer as honestly as you can.

    To be a great foster carer you need to be able to provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, enjoy interacting with children, open to learning, be flexible and have a sense of humour.

    So although I don’t have all the information if someone is managing their mental health well, can identify the supports around them, and can explain how they would manage any situations that might arise in order to keep children safe then I see no reason why this person couldn’t be a fantastic carer.

    I would certainly encourage you to make an enquiry (in Victoria call 1800 013 088) and have a really open conversation with your local agency.

    All the best!

  10. Hi, just wondering if anyone can provide a link for me that shows the exact allowance rates for being a foster carer? I can’t seem to find it on the Human Services website? Thank you, Lisa

  11. I would like to become a foster carer in about a yr or two but for now i would like to do some courses in child services things like this as id like to work in this feild, would anyone know what courses would help me ? I thinkstudying and working in this feild would help me have a better understanding when i do apply to be a carer, i have 3 kids one of them has ADHD suffers axiety and is being accessed for autism, everything we do is rutine for him so im sure once im ready i could provide a safe inviroment here for a child

  12. of course like your web-site but you have to take a look at the
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    and I find it very troublesome to tell the reality however I will certainly come again again.

  13. Sorry forgot to mention we are in Dallas, TX.

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