A SHORTAGE of foster carers in the Gladstone region has reached crisis point, according to central Queensland's largest foster care provider.
Leanne Montgomery, Anglicare Gladstone's coordinator of foster, kinship and intensive care programs, said she had worked in child protection for a long time but the situation now was as bad as she had seen it.
"We have always needed carers, that hasn't changed, but we're probably more at a crisis point than we've been for a long time," she said.
There are only 51 carers in the Gladstone region taking care of about 90 children in the Anglicare service.
Twenty-three of those are kinship carers with pre-existing relationships, who cannot take general placements.
The shortage means children are either placed outside the region they know, or have to share placements with large numbers of other children.
Some foster families in the Gladstone region are looking after more than five children.
"Not placing a child is not an option," Leanne said.
GLADSTONE'S FOSTER CRISIS | Carers needed as shortage peaks
The carer shortage is accompanied by increased demand for foster services, which Leanne said was a result of a change in the community dynamics of the Gladstone region during the last few years.
"People are leaving town, not just carers but also extended family members who provide a lot of support to carers," she said.
"There's also an influx of people who have come to Gladstone for cheaper rent.
"The amount of people able to provide care has decreased... the amount of children that may be needing care has increased."
Potential foster carers go through a lengthy training and assessment process to become qualified.
"We have high expectations," Leanne said.
"It can be quite challenging, but obviously it needs to be to ensure we assess all the right areas."
The process can take up to three months and includes home visits from an assessor, who interviews potential carers and their families to see how the household functions.
The final decision is made by a panel, which includes the assessor, the agency coordinator and the manager of child safety.
Leanne said many people believed they had to be married with children to qualify as foster carers.
"We take anyone who feels they are able to provide good quality care for children," she said.
"Single parents, couples, people with and without children - there is no set dynamic.
"It needs someone with a lot of compassion, patience, and understanding of the trauma these children have been through."
Foster carers can take on a permanent placement, which can last for anything from a few weeks to many years, or provide short break care for weekends or holidays to give permanent carers some respite.
Anyone interested in taking the first step to become a foster carer can go to www.anglicarecq.org.au
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