Friday, October 29, 2010

The Chemical Use in Pregnancy Service - CUPS Clinic Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick

If it were not for a stroke of luck, I would never have known about this service. Dr John Feller has been our family Paediatrician for some time. We were visiting him in his rooms with our 6 year old biological son, and our baby foster son when Dr Feller remarked that he hadn't known that we were planning on having any more children. He was probably a bit confused that he hadn't been called to the hospital following the birth as he knows that we definitely would have arranged that!

We told him the story of how this baby had some into our care and he immediately booked us into the magic clinic that has been our one consistent care team. The Chemical Use in Pregnancy Service at Sydney Childrens Hospital in Randwick. The staff are amazing. Non judgemental. Completely respectful. And they genuinely care for these babies and are committed to following through on their progress.

If you find yourself caring for a baby who has been exposed to substance use in pregnancy, and you are in the Sydney area, know that there is help. I am looking into services in other areas to add also.

Chemical Use in Pregnancy (CUPS) Central Network

Chemical Use in Pregnancy Service - Fact Sheet

Caring for your baby if you drink or use substances in pregnancy - Fact Sheet

"For the Children's Sake" - Four Corners Transcript 23/07/07

Early Intervention Services in Sydney

Most of us at some point will find ourselves with a little one who requires that little bit of extra help. And most of us will be our foster child's only advocate and will have to seek out the appropriate services to assist the child. We have used some of these services personally for our foster son - the first four in particular. If you know of services in any other areas that you think I should add, please get in contact or comment below.

Cerebral Palsy - The Spastic Centre

Annie's Centre

Learning Links

Lifestart Early Childhood Intervention and School Age Services Sydney

Quirky Kid Clinic

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gay and Lesbian Foster Carers

Victorian Lesbian and Gay Carer Support Group - Rainbow Families Council

Options for Prospective Lesbian Parents - Rainbow Families Council

Options for Prospective Gay Male Parents - Rainbow Families Council

Fostering - Gay Dads Alliance

Fostering Options - Gay Dads Australia

NSW Same Sex Adoption: DOCS Minister in Support - Australian Gay and Lesbian Law Blog

Fostering Families - Out In Perth

Gay Foster Carers: The Guys - samesame

Home is where the heart is: Gay Foster Parents - Gay News Network

(Ice) Methamphetamine Abuse in Pregnancy

Maternal methamphetamine use during pregnancy and child outcome: what do we know? - The New Zealand Medical Journal

Prenatal Methamphetamine Exposure Linked To Abnormal Brain Development - Science Daily

Methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy leads to structural abnormalities in brain of children - The Medical News

Meth Babies - Methamphetamine Treatment

They Opened Their Hearts—and Home—to Babies Born of Meth-addicted Moms - People

"drug babies" Parenting Meth Exposed Babies via Adoption or Foster Care - Adoptive Parenting

Meth use harms the unborn - Illinois Attorney General

Australian Foster Care Articles and Studies

Children in Care: Resource Sheet - Australian Institute of Family Studies

An Investigation of Foster Care in Australia - Australian Foster Care Association

For Children and Young People in Foster Care

For Kids: Foster Families - Australian Government Initiative

Real Australian Foster Carers

Reflections on Foster Care Blog

Deborah and Cedric Lee - Foster Carers and authors of "Mixed Blessings"

Birth Families, Restoration and Reunification


Family Inclusion Network NSW

Is you child in care? - Department of Human Services, Community Services

Your rights as a birth parent - Department of Human Services, Community Services

Parents and Carers: Participation in Planning - Department of Human Services, Community Services

Getting my children back home: Information for parents about restoration

Birth family lingo buster - Guide to Foster Care terminology

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome



Alcohol: Effects on unborn children - Children, Youth and Women's Health Service

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome - Better Health Channel

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome -

Friday, October 22, 2010

Payments and Allowances for Foster and Kinship Carers - NSW

Carer Allowances - Department of Human Services, Community Services

Health Care Cards

Apportioning of Baby Bonus - FAHCSIA

Parenting Payment - Centrelink

Foster Care and Family Tax Benefit - Centrelink

Child Care Benefit Eligibility - Centrelink

Frequently asked questions for grandparents and carers - Centrelink

Abstudy - Centrelink

More flexible participation requirements for parents - Centrelink

Essential Items for Babies, Children and Young People in Care

Children and young people often go into care with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Some move from one placement to the next with no possessions at all. In our personal experience, our very first foster child - a baby of 10 weeks old - came to us with two shopping bags full of clothes and nappies that didn't fit, the wrong baby formula and no bottles. Our agency gave us a $75 gift card for Coles Myer and with this we needed to purchase clothing, nappies, formula, baby wipes, dummies, not to mention medications as he fell ill the night he arrived and had no Health Care Card. It was an eye opener! To think this baby had come from several other carers, yet had nothing suitable for wear or use. And what are foster carers telling foster children that they are worth when their belongings are kept in shopping bags?

The following organisations create bags which contain essentials for babies, children and young people in care. These bags represent so much to a person who has no personal effects of their own. To own a pair of underpants and a toothbrush is something most of us take for granted. Thankfully, the lovely people who provide these bags give some dignity and some pride to Australia's children in care.

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation

Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids

Project: Love and Care

The Pyjama Foundation

Foster Care Resources, Support, Information and Advocacy

Fostering NSW

Connecting Carers NSW

Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies

Australian Foster Care Association

START -Victoria

Foster Parents Support Network (Inc) NSW

Foster Care Queensland

Foster Care Victoria

Connecting Foster Carers South Australia

Foster Care Association of WA

Fostering WA

Foster Care NT

Foster Carers' Association of Tasmania

Foster Care Association of the ACT

Foster Care Agencies NSW


Government Agency

Department of Human Services - Community Services

Non Government Agencies



Benevolent Society

Care South

Catholic Care

Kari Aboriginal Resources Inc

Macarthur District Temporary Family Care

Phoenix Rising for Children


Uniting Care Burnside

Life Without Barriers

Youth Care UPA

Wesley Dalmar

For more info go to Fostering NSW

For Kinship Foster Carers


Raising Others Children and Grandparents As Parents

GRANDparents Raising Grandchildren NSW

Australian Foster and Kinship Carers Partnership

Mirabel Foundation

Family Relationships Services Australia

Are you a Grandparent or Relative Caring for Children - Family Assistance Office

Articles and Studies

Kinship Care in NSW - Finding a Way Forward

Kinship Care: A culturally appropriate practice framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Kinship Care Research and Policy Forum

For Young People Leaving Out Of Home Care

Post Placement Support Service (Victoria)

Care Leavers Australia Network

Create Foundation

Create Your Future

Ignition WA

Foster Care Forums and Online Communities

Adoptive and Foster Parents Forum - Raising Children Network

Grandparentsand Kinship Carers - Raising Children Network

Foster Parenting Forum - 

Guardian Parents Forum -

Fostering Forum -

Foster Care and Child Protection Forums -

Foster Care News Week 1

 Quiet building of a better deal for all Victorians - Sydney Morning Herald 24/10/10

 Foster Care System Shy by $200M - The Age 23/10/10

How to eat well when cash is tight - Courier Mail 23/10/10

Rocky carer has quit in disgust - The Bulletin 23/10/10

NT child poverty, abuse still prevalent - Bigpond News 22/10/10

We Failed Them - Katherine Times 22/10/10

A failure to protect - The Age 22/10/10

Snipping child abuse in the bud - Herald Sun 22/10/10

Maccas 'used to calm care kids' - The Australian 21/10/10

Bad parents should be sterilised, say former Victorian ombudsman Norman Geschke - Herald Sun 21/10/10

Commissioner wants child protection case investigated - ABC News 20/10/10

Kids in crisis slip through cracks - The Australian 20/10/10

Charity 'preys on weak, addicted' - The Age 20/10/10

Just one day at a time - The Young Witness 20/10/10

Drunk, unlicensed ... and three kids in the boot - The Age 18/10/10

Child abuse figures on the rise - Sunshine Coast News 18/10/10

Foster mother's decades of caring - Sunshine Coast Daily 18/10/10

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How did we get here?: Deciding to become foster carers

I'm not sure when exactly the subject of becoming foster carers came up. It must have been very early on, probably within the first few months of meeting, because I knew it was something that I wanted to do and I would not have continued with our relationship if he didn't also want to be a foster parent. By the time we were talking about living together we were definitely in discussion about it. It was just a matter of when.

As it became a regular topic of conversation, we agreed that our own biological children had to be old enough to accept and understand the circumstances of foster care. This is not easy to comprehend for an adult let alone a child. So simplifying the whole process was important. Now how to do that? Nothing about children living away from their birth family is simple. It's messy. There's no way around it. But... you can help your biological children to come to terms with the different facets that come into the picture. We decided to feed the children information about foster care slowly and to limit the children's involvement in the application/training/assessment and counselling processes to "as required" basis. Of course we always left the door open for the kids to ask our case manager questions (and they have). In fact, our 10 year old daughter spoke with our case manager on the phone during my first conversation with the agency. Of course we've involved them heavily in the big stuff such as preparing our home, the emotional and physical realities of care, as well as the different reasons children will need us to be their family for a little while.

Years passed, babies were born and sprouted into children and teenagers. I looked into overseas adoption. The chinese adoption option looked great, but something about it unnerved me. Adoption seemed so final. Being the daughter of an adopted mother, I've seen first hand that there is nothing simple about adoption. There is something unnatural to me as a Mother about being a tie being so severely cut in every sense - legally, emotionally, physically, culturally. I knew adoption was not for us. I do commend those who are brave enough to go through the hoops between our government and the government of your adoptive child's country. We just could not do that. It isn't comfortable territory for me.

When our youngest child started school at age 6, and our eldest daughter commenced full time work, we felt that our nest had some more room and that we still had something to offer children in need. I'd contacted DOCS in April 2009 in preparation for the application process. However their slow response and lack of support set off alarm bells and I gave up pursuing the application.

In February 2010, a week after Jack started school, I was standing at his school assembly when the principal mentioned that our area (Sydney Eastern Suburbs) was in dire need of carers and that the school is a regular host to children in care. I phoned the school principal as soon as I arrived at home and spoke with her and she recommended an agency that I had not known offered foster care. I filled in the contact form on their website and received a call from a case worker the next day.

We had several conversations on the phone, including some between our children and the caseworker. I've never asked so many questions in my life. I felt like such a pain in the arse!Our caseworker was great. She responded to all of my phone calls and emails immediately and has never once made us feel as though we're wasting her time. We booked into an information session, but got stuck in traffic and couldn't go. We were already booked into our training so the caseworker came out to our home and gave the information session in our loungeroom. We filled in our applications and then went on a road trip to Alice Springs while it was being processed.

Our Foster Care Application process timeline:

8 Feb: Made initial enquiry
9 Feb: Spoke with caseworker
feb-March: Phone calls, emails, visit from caseworker for info session at home
April 2: Filled in application, wrote our life stories, medical histories etc and sent away
April 28: Police checks and references cleared
May 1: First training session (cheesy stuff about bonding - complete with Stevie Wonder songs)
May 6: First assessment interview (traumatic recollections of our childhoods)
May 8: Second training session
May 13: Second assessment interview and home environment check
May 18: Third assessment interview (all household members to be interviewed alone)
May 20: Fourth assessment interview
May 22: Third training session
May 27: Fifth and final assessment interview
June 3: 10 page profile submitted to DOCS and selection panel
June 8: Received the call that our first foster child - a baby aged 7-8 weeks would be arriving on June 11
June 10: Panel approval date
June 10: APPROVED! Another Home environment check, contracts signed and insurance paperwork finalised
June 11: "The Winter Baby" arrives