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Australia is in the midst of a severe foster carer shortage as a generational change in attitudes and cost of living crisis threatens the country’s family support network for at-risk children.

“This is a crisis across the country – the number of carers is dwindling,” says Dale Rogers, Director of In Home Care, at independent not-for profit organisation, OzChild.

“In recent years in Victoria, more carers have exited the system than have come in. We anticipate this downward trend is going to continue so if we don't do something different in foster care over the next five to 10 years there may not be any foster carers left.”

There are approximately 46,000 kids in foster care but only 9,000 homes available, forcing more children to be housed in residential care and temporary housing such as hotels and motels.

“We think children should be in families – not in a house with a rotating set of workers and four other highly traumatized children. That doesn't lead to good outcomes,” he says.

The factors driving foster carers from the system are complex, with younger generations less drawn towards long-term care than Baby Boomers who would look after multiple generations of children.

“We find that people are not that keen to foster and the new foster carers that are coming into our system, they tend to prefer to look after a child for a couple of days or a week rather than make long-term commitments.”

Foster caring is a voluntary role that can create emotional, practical, and financial strains, which has been made worse by soaring housing and rental costs, as well as everyday expenses such as food and utilities.

“They're often out of pocket so they need to be fairly financially secure in order to be a foster carer as well.”

Thriving Families program bridging the gap with emotional, financial support

OzChild set up the Thriving Families program in 2020 to help support carers deliver positive outcomes for children and young people. Applications for support are often small in monetary terms – the average grant is around $1,200 – but makes a huge difference.

Dale says it has been life-changing for carers, who can apply for a wide range of services including practical support, such as minor home repairs or white goods, and emotional support, such as counselling services.

“Thriving Families is a lifeline,” Dale says. “It could be something as simple as a kinship carer whose car has broken down and they've got to get kids to school. For us to say, ‘We'll make an application for Thriving Families to have your car repaired’ – I just can't really put into words the gratitude that I hear coming back from carers.”

Practical and emotional support has formed the bulk of applications, however Thriving Families can also provide carer training (such as help dealing with trauma or managing challenging behaviours) and opportunities for carers to come together and support each other.

The program is completely funded by philanthropy, including support from the Equity Trustees-managed Collie Foundation, which helps underpin OzChild’s ability to continue delivering life-changing services.

The organisation has been operating for more than 170 years and employs more than 700 staff, carers and volunteers across Victoria, NSW, Queensland, SA and the ACT.

“ Thriving Families is a critical program – it can be the difference between carers taking another placement or stepping away from foster care.”

Thriving Families needs ongoing funds to support more families, foster and kinship carers. To become a Thriving Families partner, email for more information.

OzChild is supported by a number of Equity Trustees’ managed trusts and foundations