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Becoming a foster carer is one of the most powerful ways to help children and young people in need

Mercy Community is committed to helping connect vulnerable children and young people with supportive families and safe, caring home environments. We’ve worked with thousands of people, just like you, who want to make a difference but don’t know where to start.

Hear from real life foster carers

Being a foster carer can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. So why do it? We asked some of the carers from our community to tell us what inspired them to get involved and what motivates them day to day.

Different kinds of foster care, different ways you can help

Children and young people come into care for all kinds of reasons. To meet all of these needs, Mercy Community provides the following types of foster care:
  • Respite care
    Respite care is for short periods of time, often when children and their full-time carers need a break. Ideally, respite care is planned, for example, for a weekend or month, or as part of the school holidays. However, if there is an emergency in a carer’s household, respite can be needed at short notice.
  • Emergency care
    Emergency care is needed when children or young people need somewhere safe to stay at very short notice. Emergency carers often provide care after-hours or on weekends, and usually for short periods of time, such as a few days or weeks.
  • Short-term care
    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.
  • Long-term care
    Long term care is needed when a child or young person is not expected to return to their family. Longer-term carers make a commitment to caring for a child or young person until they reach adulthood and often beyond.

Who can foster?

  • Blue cards and exemption cards?
    It is a legal requirement that all foster and kinship carers and their adult household members (18+) hold a blue card or exemption card
  • Over 18 years of age?
    If you’re an adult, you’re able to become a foster carer and enrich the life of a child. You might suit some or all types of foster care, depending on your age.
  • Single, married or living with a partner?
    Your marital status, sexuality, gender, race or religion has no bearing on your eligibility to become a carer.
  • Working or staying at home?
    It doesn’t matter if you have a full-time or part-time job, or if you’re unemployed, there’s a type of foster care to suit your commitments.
  • Citizen or permanent resident?
    Citizens and residents are eligible, but even if you’re neither, you can still be considered.

Facts and myths

Here we dispel some of the most common myths about foster care.
  • 1
    I can’t be a foster carer because I’m single
    You don’t need to be in a relationship to be a foster carer. We take an inclusive approach to foster care and look at every person’s unique circumstances. Many of our foster carers are single. “It doesn’t matter if you’re single. I was a single parent when I first started fostering and I continue to foster as a single parent.” Fiona, Foster Carer with Mercy Community
  • 2
    I work full time so I couldn’t be a foster carer
    You can be a foster carer and work full-time (just ask our CEO!) However, you will need a degree of flexibility with your work in order to meet the needs of the child. The child you care for may need to see health professionals on a regular basis. Family contact as well as working closely with the care team will also be part of the child’s routine.
  • 3
    Every child in foster care has very challenging behaviours
    This isn’t true. Children come into foster care for a variety of reasons. Not all children have endured trauma—although of course, many have. Sometimes a child may present with a behaviour that will require a range of supports for the child and the foster carers. Other behaviours are just typical of childhood development.
  • 4
    Foster carers need to be perfect
    Definitely not true! In fact, having your own life experience is a good thing. What’s more, no carers or families are ever in this alone. You’re not expected to be perfect (whatever that is!) and this is why you will have all the support you need from our Mercy Community team.
  • 5
    You can’t be a foster carer if you’re renting
    This is certainly false. You need to be able to provide a stable home for a child, but that doesn’t mean you need to own your own home.
  • 6
    Same-sex couples can’t be foster carers
    Your sexuality does not affect your ability to foster. We welcome applications from people regardless of gender, sexuality, marital status, race or religion. We have foster carers with Mercy Community who are in same-sex relationships.
  • 7
    Foster carers get no support
    Foster carers have many different avenues for support. Firstly, there’s the training provided before you even begin. Then, with Mercy Community, you’ll be allocated your own Support Worker who is there for you as you walk through your experience of being a carer. Peer groups are also incredibly important, and events are organised where carers can connect with other carers. Queensland Foster and Kinship Care (QFKC) is another wonderful source of support. “If we’ve had an issue, we can honestly go back and we can talk about it and feel supported and feel listened to … they’re really helping us through this, because we’re composing while we’re singing, you know, we’re learning.” Louis, Foster Carer with Mercy Community
  • 8
    We won’t need to have any contact with the birth family of the child/children
    Working with birth families is part of supporting any child in your care, and you’ll play an important role in helping maintain these significant relationships. This is a process that is treated with great sensitivity. The care team will guide this process and support you throughout. You certainly won’t be asked to manage this on your own.
  • 9
    I won’t be strong enough to say goodbye
    This one is complicated. It’s never easy to say goodbye to a child you have cared for, but reunification is most often the goal. When there has been change for the parents and the child’s home life becomes safe, this is positive. Until they are in that position, most carers don’t realise the strength they have for the child, the child’s family, and for themselves. “A lot of people think they can’t do it, because they can’t let go. But you can let go, because you can see happy endings. You can see kids being placed with family members and going on to have beautiful lives. You don’t always get to see, down the track, how it happens, but when you see them have contact... and you see them reconnect, you know you’re making a difference.” Sandra, Foster Carer with Mercy Community
  • 10
    You need to be experienced to deal with challenging behaviours
    Foster parents aren't expected to be trained child specialists — that's what the professionals are for. As a carer, you’ll be trained to understand and respond to a variety of behaviours and if something new presents, you’ll have all the support from the care team to learn new strategies and support the development of the child.