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Becoming a foster carer - frequently asked questions

Becoming a foster carer is a big decision. If there are any questions that you have that aren’t covered here, please get in touch.

Becoming a foster carer
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What’s involved in becoming a foster carer for Youth Horizons?

Becoming a foster carer involves opening your own home and committing to care for one young person with challenging behaviours, for approximately one year.

To become a foster carer with us you will need to undergo Police and MSD (Ministry of Social Development) checks (for all those living in your home over the age of 17 years), two interviews, a home assessment, medical check, reference checks and complete our training. 

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How long does the application process take?

From initial application to signing of contract takes six to ten weeks during which time either you or Youth Horizons may choose to withdraw from the process at any time.

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What do I need to be a foster carer with Youth Horizons?
  • A spare room in your home for one young person
  • No other young children living at home*
  • A willingness to learn
  • A full and clean driver's licence and access to a registered and reliable vehicle with a current warrant of fitness
  • To complete a medical check
  • Formal qualifications are not necessary – life skills are!
  • A sense of humour


* This is assessed on a case-by-case basis. For more information, email us at fostercare@youthorizons.org.nz or call us on 0508 CARED 4.

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I don’t have a spare room – can I still be a foster carer?

Our treatment programme requires the young persons to have a separate room. However, we would encourage you to discuss your circumstances with us before making a decision.

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Is there a minimum or maximum age to being a foster carer?

There is no upper age limit as each applicant is screened on an individual basis. There is no minimum age however depending on the age of young people we may place with you, a significant age gap is required. If you are not sure if your age will be a barrier, please give us a call.

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Can a single person be a foster carer?

Yes - relationship status is not one of our criteria.

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Will a Police record stop me from being a foster carer?

Minor and historic criminal convictions will be discussed on a case by case basis. Any convictions involving violence against women and children or of a sexual nature will mean we cannot process the application.

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Can I retain my full-time job while being a foster carer?

Being a permanent foster carer is a busy role as the young person in your care will require close supervision. If you have questions about the time commitment involved, we would encourage you to discuss this with us.

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What remuneration is available?

Our payment to you is classified as a ‘reimbursement’ and is usually tax free. The payment covers all the usual expenses in raising a child such as food, electricity and water. It also recognises the significant amount of time you put into helping make changes in the young person’s life. All other expenses and items for the young person such as school fees, activities, medical costs and clothing are covered by Youth Horizons either directly or by reimbursing you.  In some cases your mileage can be paid.

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What does the training involve?

We provide you with comprehensive training including: recognising and reducing risk, first aid, suicide prevention training, policies and procedures to guide safe and professional foster caring, and training in evidence-based approaches to working with young people. All training is held at the nearest Youth Horizons office in your area.

Caring for a young person
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What kind of young person will be placed in my home?

A young person who needs help and guidance to learn life skills, who needs consistency and someone to take an interest in them. Usually the young people we place will have significant behaviour challenges. The intention of our foster care programme is to make positive changes in their behaviour so that they can return to either their own family/whānau or another less intensive fostering placement.

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Will I have a say in who the young person is that is placed with me?

Yes. We supply you with information about a young person being considered for placement with you which describes their history and the types of challenging behaviour they are facing. The Practice Leader is available to discuss it with you. You then make the decision if the young person is to be placed with you.

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How long will the young person stay with me?

Approximately one year for full-time foster carers, depending on the progress of the young person. Respite foster care is briefer, typically one day to two weeks.

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Will I get to meet the young person before they move in?

Yes. Meeting the young person prior to being placed with you can be helpful in order to build rapport. 

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What support will I receive from Youth Horizons?

We provide you with regular group support sessions with other foster carers and will have phone calls with you throughout the week. We also operate a 24/7 on-call system for clinical support should you need assistance (all calls go directly to someone qualified to assist).We have an organisation Kaumātua as well as Māori and Pasifika cultural advisors who will provide you and the young person placed in your care with cultural support as needed. Our organisation is on a bi-cultural journey so understanding or a willingness to learn tikanga is an important part of how we operate. You are also entitled to respite leave. This is usually one weekend a month and four weeks a year.

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Can I still attend religious services and can I take the young person with me?

You may be able to attend religious services if there is another person (who has had clearance from Youth Horizons) who is able to look after the young person while you attend. Requests for the young person to attend religious services with you is handled on a case by case basis.

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Does the young person visit their family/whānau of origin?

Family/whānau visits are organised by the young person’s Social Worker in consultation with Youth Horizons support staff and yourself (their social worker is usually an employee from Oranga Tamariki).

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What happens if there's an incident?

The training you receive will teach you about the appropriate action to take should an incident occur and how to report incidents. Depending on the level of severity, you are encouraged to contact the on-call clinical supervisor to problem-solve, or provide you with a friendly ear. There is always 24/7 on call support from senior staff and, where needed, staff will come out to support you.

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What happens if my home or belongings are damaged by the young person?

Foster carers are expected to be fully insured. It is advisable to inform your Insurance Company of added risk. We will cover the excess on most claims.

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What if I’m overwhelmed or I can’t handle my young person’s behaviour?

Our weekly supervision meetings, daily phone contact and on-call systems are in place to support you at every step of the journey. Decisions regarding next steps will be made in consultation with you as part of the treatment team.