Becoming a foster parent

CHILDREN who are UNABLE to LIVE with their OWN families sometimes need to be cared for by others. This is known as foster care. There is a greater need in Australia for foster carers than there is for adoptive parents.

Friends of mine who already have a child have recently made the decision to foster a child, which I think is an amazing thing to do. There are so many children who need a safe and loving home and many lesbians can provide this. 

 

Who is a foster carer

A foster carer takes on the role of a parent to the child for a period of time to make sure a child has a safe and loving home. The child may have been removed from their family because they were abused or neglected or because the parent needed some time off. Older children, groups of siblings, and children with special needs are in greatest need of foster carers.

The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) encourages people interested in becoming foster carers to apply with an accredited non-government foster care agency (there are over 40 across NSW). 

Lesbians can become foster parents. You can be a foster parent regardless of whether you are single or in a same-sex relationship; it doesn’t matter what state or territory you live in. Whilst there are no legal restrictions or limitations on lesbians becoming foster parents, some non-government organisations do not accept lesbians as foster carers, including some religious organisations such as Wesley Mission[i]. CatholicCare now allows lesbians to foster children.[ii] Other non-government providers, such as Barnardos[iii], Uniting[iv], and the Benevolent Society[v] encourage lesbians to become foster carers. You can access each provider’s website for more specific details and an application form.

As a foster parent, you may have a child in your care for a short period (a few nights, weeks, or months) or for a long period of time (years).

 

The process

Once you make an application to be a foster carer, you will be assessed by Family & Community Services (FACS) which includes a background check. The background check includes a criminal record check and you may be required to give personal and medical references. If you have a criminal record, this doesn’t mean you will be excluded from becoming a foster carer. It just means it will be taken into account in your assessment.

Whilst foster care is seen as a short-term arrangement, with the aim of returning the child to their family of origin, some lesbians may provide long-term foster care for a child and go on to then adopt that child. You can also foster a child with the aim of eventually adopting them. 

For more information on becoming a foster carer, go to:

 

http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/parents,-carers-and-families/fostering,-guardianship-and-adoption/foster-care/become-a-foster-carer

 

The Fostering NSW website also has a list of providers:

 

http://www.fosteringnsw.com.au

 

 

Summary of Main Points:

 

  1. There is a greater need in Australia for foster carers than there is for adoptive parents.

  2. Whilst there are no legal restrictions or limitations on lesbians becoming foster parents, some non-government organisations do not accept lesbians as foster carers.

  3. Although seen as a short-term solution, foster care may be a path that leads to adoption in some cases.

Footnotes

 

[i]Public Interest Advocacy Centre: Same-sex discrimination: OV & OW (2016), viewed 4 October 2016, http://www.piac.asn.au/legal-help/public-interest-cases/same-sex-discrimination-ov-ow/same-sex-discrimination-ov-ow

[ii] Catholic Care child & family services (2014), viewed 4 October 2016,  http://fostercare.catholiccare.org.au/FosterCareChangingLives/WhoFosters.aspx

[iii] Barnardos Australia, “Barnardos Australia unveils new campaign to engage foster carers” (October 2014), viewed 4 October 2016, http://www.barnardos.org.au/media-centre/latest-news/barnardos-australia-unveils-new-campaign-to-engage-foster-carers/

[iv] Uniting: Who can foster (2016), viewed 4 October 2016, https://uniting.org/get-involved/foster-care/who-can-foster

[v] Benevolent Society: Becoming a foster carer (2015), viewed 4 October 2016, http://benevolent.org.au/connect/becoming--a--foster--carer

Note to readers: This information is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained here is as up to date and accurate as possible, the law is complex and constantly changing (particularly relating to same-sex parenting) and readers are advised to seek legal advice in relation to their situation.

If you need legal advice, please contact Nicole Evans from Nicole Evans Lawyers at nevans@nelawyers.com.au.

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