Could you be a foster parent?

Looking after someone else’s child. But it can also be incredibly rewarding to know that you have been able to transform a young person’s life.

It takes a very special person to be a foster carer.

Looking after someone else’s child – who may have emotional and behavioural issues – is a lot of hard work. But it can also be incredibly rewarding to know that you have been able to transform a child’s life.

Foster carers are always needed. At the end of last year, there were 5139 children and young people in care in New Zealand.

Fostering doesn’t necessarily mean having a child living with you full-time or long-term. You can choose to provide short-term or emergency care for children who are waiting to be placed with carers, or you can offer respite care for other foster parents – for example, looking after a child one weekend a month.

All Black Liam Messam has recently spoken to TV3’s Story about his parents, who adopted him after becoming his foster parents as a child.

“Eight people applied for him and we won. It was meant to be,” his mum, Wanda Messam, said.

If fostering is something you are considering, here’s some information you need to know:

Carers come from all walks of life and don’t necessarily have to be married couples or families.

The important qualities to have are:

• A stable home life

• A willingness to help change a child or young person’s life for the better

• Patience and perseverance

• Consistency, flexibility, reliability and resilience

• A big heart.

Your role as a carer is to give a child a loving and stable home. You will work with a team of people, including social workers and the child’s family, to provide for their needs. This means making them a part of your family and treating them as if they were your child.

Applying to be a foster carer is done through Child, Youth and Family and can take a couple of months. Prospective carers undergo police and medical checks and are interviewed twice. You’ll also need to provide two referees.

Once accepted, you’ll undergo an induction course. CYFS and organisation Fostering Kids run the national caregiver training programme, which offers modules on subjects

from attachment and resilience, through to maltreatment and family violence, and identity and belonging.

You are not paid to be a caregiver, but you will receive financial help to cover the cost of the day-to-day needs of children in your care, such as their board, food, personal items and pocket money. You may also be given money towards clothing, school expenses and other costs.

Many children who end up in foster care are there because of very difficult family life and may have emotional or behavioural problems. You will get lots of support, but you and your family are the people who will need to deal with these. It can take a lot of commitment and perseverance.

You will need to consider the effect bringing another child into the household may have on your children. Make sure fostering is a family decision, and talk to your children about why you have decided to share your time and attention with another child.

Remember that your foster child already has a family and even if they have been in an abusive situation, they are likely to have a huge loyalty to their parents. Keep in mind that they may feel very divided, and caught between you and their natural family. Assure them that you are not trying to replace their family.

Don’t expect to see results overnight. You might not feel you are getting anywhere with the child you are fostering, but rest assured that everything you do has an impact on them.

For more information about fostering, go to

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