What role do foster care agencies play?

Foster care agencies play an important role in supporting children, families and foster carers through their placement. In Victoria, there are 25 foster care agencies that support foster carers from the beginning to the end of their foster care placement. When you enquire about becoming a foster carer Fostering Connections connects you with a suitable agency in your area. 

During the recruitment process  

Your agency will guide you through the process of becoming a foster carer from beginning to end and provide you with training and support you need to become accredited. The steps to becoming a carer are the same with each agency and include information sessions, trainings, and assessment prior to the accreditation panel.  

If you are planning to foster an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or young person, you will work directly with an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or 'ACCO'. You will work together to make sure that a child in your care remains connected to their family, culture, community and their identity. When working with an ACCO, carers receive support from Aboriginal staff to keep their children’s connection to Country, culture and Community strong for the duration of their court order and beyond. 

When you begin your foster care journey and submit an enquiry, you will be contacted by a worker from a foster care agency servicing your local area. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and provide the agency with information about your household and why you are interested in becoming a foster carer.  

“The most important thing is the information [carers] need to make the decision. We try to give them a really good sense of what it would be like to have a placement, what support you would get, that your not alone when you have a placement. They may be nervous, and we want them to be comfortable and know that no question is silly. We just open with that from the start.” 

Jenny, Recruitment and Carer Support Worker at Anchor 

Your agency will deliver the training you need to become an accredited carer. Your training will provide you with foundational knowledge about the foster care system, your role and responsibilities as a carer, as well as practical tips on how to support children and young people in your care.  If you are caring for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, you will have additional training to ensure you can provide a safe and secure placement that meets their cultural needs and allows them to thrive.  

“We value building meaningful relationships with our carers so we can have open and honest communication and share our knowledge about culture and identity so that carers understand what it means to that child.”   

Jippa, Acting Program Manager at Njernda 

Agencies are flexible with information sessions and training due to COVID-19 and this may mean your training is either online or face-to-face. Once you become an accredited foster carer you will have continued access to training from your agency to ensure you are able to keep learning. 

“For [prospective carers], the biggest challenge at times is the wait [to become a foster carer]... but we make it known, we are open and transparent, and we do our best. There are lots of opportunities for discussion and feedback, and all the things that are important to support... especially for new carers.” 

Sarah, Team Leader at Anglicare Victoria 

Once you move onto the assessment stage, your agency will schedule one on one assessment visits and explain the process to you. This will include discussing what leg you to become a foster carer, the strengths and needs of your household, and identifying what placement preferences would be best suited for you. Any adults in your household who will provide a caring role will also be assessed.    

The assessment also includes a home visit from your agency to ensure your household is safe and appropriate to care for a child. Your agency will be honest and transparent about your assessment and keep you informed every step of the way so that there are no surprises.  

“When we do recruitment, I tell potential carers that we treat our carers as part of the MASP family and part of the team. You aren't just a volunteer at our agency, you are one of the most valued part of our agency.”  

Sam, Recruitment and Support Worker at Mallee Accommodation and Support Program 

When you begin your relevant paperwork such as medical checks, reference checks, police checks, your agency will guide you through this process and these checks are provided at no additional cost.  

During your foster care placement 

Once you have become an accredited foster carer, your agency will work with you to organise your foster care placements. You will be assigned an agency case worker who will support and supervise your foster care placements. They will be your day-to-day contact for support regarding care of the child, and they will coordinate the care team. Many carers feel highly supported by their foster care agency and are able to share the highs and lows of their day-to-day caring experiences. 

“We are a small agency – everyone in our Team has heard of every carer.” 

Jenny, Recruitment and Carer Support Worker at Anchor 

When a child is placed in your home, your agency worker will regularly communicate with you so that you can update them on your progress or ask any questions that you need. They will keep you informed of any known needs of the child or young person, the reason they are in care, any relevant support plans, their family contact schedule, and the status of their court or legal proceedings.   

Many agencies also have mentoring or buddy programs where foster carers can connect with other carers who have similar experiences and may further build on their network of support. If you are a respite carer, you join the care team of the child or young person and may also expand your support network to the long-term carer as well. Your agency is always available for a call for emotional support or advice as well.  

 “We started a local central carer advisory group where a number of foster and kinship carers can all get together and find out what worked and hasn’t worked well… there’s always someone out there they can talk to.” 

Sarah, Team Leader at Anglicare Victoria 

Your agency will also schedule one on one time with you so that you have a space to share how things are going or what you may need, celebrate your achievements, and seek support. This is your time as a carer to develop your skills and identify anything you need support with or vice versa.  

When a placement ends, your agency will also support you through this process. 

“I witnessed a young boy of 9 years return to his family and be reunified successfully. His carers, plus the MASP staff made this a celebration. Although his carers were sad due to growing very fond of him they ensured that he could celebrate, and the agency ensured the carers were okay.” 

Sam, Recruitment and Support Worker at Mallee Accommodation and Support Program 

What support do agencies provide to children in foster care? 

As well as providing support to foster carers, agencies also support the children and young people in your care. This includes supporting their education, health, emotional, behavioural, cultural, identity needs, facilitating family contact, and helping them develop independent living skills. You and your agency worker work together as a team to support these needs together.  

“We cater our supports to what the child’s needs and interests are, for example, one-on-one painting sessions or we are in a new building now where we will be able to hold future groups where kids can learn new skills such as cooking, art, life skills, meet Elders and other kids from our community.” 

Jippa, Acting Program Manager at Njernda 

The agency will meet with the child or young person at least once per month, and also meet regularly with the care team, educational provider, and any other relevant professionals. When children are old enough and it is appropriate, it is recommended that they also participate in these meetings to allow them to use their voice and participate in important life decisions.  

The agency and Child Protection are also responsible for any relevant plans needed to support the child’s needs and keeping up to speed with the legal proceedings. As a carer, you remain informed every step of the way and may also inform the process yourself by providing updates to the foster agency.  

It is important to know that as a foster carer, you are part of a team that is ensuring the child or young person in your care is able to thrive. Being a foster carer can be challenging but you are supported in this journey every step of the way.  

Interested in how foster care might work for you?

Start your journey by connecting with an agency to answer your questions and guide you through the next steps.

Connect with an agency