Become a permanent care parent

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BoySometimes, for different reasons, children are no longer able to live with their birth families.

Children placed in permanent care come through child protection services. Unlike adoption, it is not a voluntary placement. The Department of Human Services makes decisions about the safety of children, and for a few this sometimes means that they are unable to return home to their birth parents or other relatives. In these cases the decision is made for permanent care.

These children often come from disrupted backgrounds. They may have brothers and sisters, and need to be placed together. Sometimes they’re children with a physical or intellectual disability.

Permanent care isn’t foster care, which is a temporary arrangement that aims to reunite children with their birth parents. For some children, this isn’t possible. In these instances, the child would spend some time in foster care before eventually being placed with a permanent care family.

Permanent care gives these children a stable environment in which to grow up. However, more than this, it gives them relationships for life, which are permanent, secure and nurturing. It legally comes about when a permanent care order is made by the Children’s Court, granting custody and guardianship to the permanent family. Legally this means that as a permanent care parent you’ll be responsible for day-to-day care of the child and also long term decisions about things like education, changes in residence, health and employment. In all other ways, it means you’ll be the child’s parents into the future, loving them, caring about them, giving them opportunities and, most of all, providing them with enduring relationships.

You would have financial responsibility for the child but financial assistance is available to help with some expenses. The permanent care order doesn’t automatically affect the child’s name, birth certificate or inheritance rights, although change of name is possible. The permanent care order expires when the child turns 18 years of age but the close relationships established between permanent parents and children last a lifetime.

See the Pathways into Permanent Care brochure and flow chart. These issues will be covered in great detail in the information sessions.

Permanent care has many rewards, but it’s also challenging

Children placed in permanent care come from difficult backgrounds, and many have experienced some degree of abuse and neglect. Their parents may have struggled with a mental illness, or alcohol or drug addiction. The children may have had many moves and caregivers. They range in age from babies up to about twelve. Some have additional needs as the result of a disability or developmental delay.

Many of these children have done it tough, and may behave in ways that test your patience. So you and your family need to consider the permanent care option carefully before making your commitment.

Contact with birth family

In most cases children will have contact with members of their birth family after they join your family. This can seem challenging at first, but it is very important for the child that comes into your family. It is very important for all children to know and understand their origins as this forms part of their identity.

Contact will be carefully controlled and supervised. Contact can be as simple as the provision of photos and information and/ or visits. Arrangements are organized and supported by a worker from the permanent care team. At first visits will be held in neutral places, usually for a couple of hours or so. Your worker will attend these visits with you and the child’s birth family to help build relationships between you all, until you and the birth family feel comfortable about managing the arrangements yourselves.

If children have no contact with their birth family, you’ll need to help them understand their background and help them deal with their feelings as they grow up and wonder about their backgrounds. These issues will be covered in great detail in the information sessions.

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