Foster care in Australia

A snapshot of foster care in Queensland and Australia.

Decorative only

This is a snapshot of foster care in Queensland and Australia.

Kids in care · Nationally

  • The number of children in foster care is increasing.<superscript>1<superscript>
  • 30,000 children have been in care for more than 2 years.
  • 44% of children entering care are under 5 years of age.
  • Children in long-term care are likely to have 6 - 8 placements.<superscript>2<superscript>

Kids in care - Queensland

  • 9,000 children are in care in Queensland.
  • Nationally, 34% of children in care are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. This figure increases to 43% in Queensland.
  • Queensland's rate of placing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in kinship is higher than the national average.<superscript>1<superscript>

The typical foster child

  • The typical foster child is a girl
  • 31% of kids aged 0 - 9 experience more than one placement.
  • 15% of kids aged 10+ experience more than one placement.
  • 1/3 of kids in foster care are not meeting developmental milestones.
  • 60% do not have adequate skills to navigate the housing market.
  • 40% do not have adequate financial literacy skills.<superscript>3<superscript>
  • Children deeply understand when they have been placed with a well-matched family.<superscript>4<superscript>
  • Children develop a stronger sense of identity when placed with a family of the same cultural background.<superscript>5<superscript>

Foster children and the general population

Statistics amongst foster children vs (General population):

  • Obesity 14% (27%)
  • Physical activity 39% (19%)
  • Hospitalisation 11% (1%)
  • Smoking 27% (5%)
  • Illicit consumption 33% (18%)
  • Disabilities 19% (8%)
  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties 42% (10%)
  • Mental health professionals accessed 50% (3%)
  • Structured education 64% (98%)
  • Being bullied 31% (34%)
  • Screen time 24% (77%)
  • Completed higher education 35% (73%)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander participation in cultural activities 50% (75%).<superscript>3<superscript>

The typical carer

  • Carers are primarily female aged 35 - 50.<superscript>5<superscript>
  • 69% of carers are in long-term relationships of 10+ years
  • 66% of carers hold post-secondary qualifications.<superscript>1<superscript>
  • More than 50% of carers work outside of the home.
  • 41% of carers are employed as managers, professionals, administrators or para-professionals.
  • Most carers are financially stable (includes home ownership).
  • 42% of carers have been fostering for 1 -5 years and 25% for 6 - 10 years.
  • Infertility is increasingly becoming a primary reason for becoming a carer.<superscript>1<superscript>

Support for carers

  • 84% of carers rate support as absolutely essential.
  • 41% of carers report receiving “just enough support to get by."
  • 55% of carers feel that most support comes from family & friends, and not from official sources.<superscript>6<superscript><superscript>7<superscript>
  • The quality of "official support" was average according to 35% of carers, poor according to 12% of carers and extremely poor according to 4% of carers.
  • 35% of carers received no manual or guidebook.<superscript>6<superscript>

Carer experience

  • Almost all carers have a positive view of their role and the end benefit to children.

Carers report many positive experiences including:

  • Foster children reaching milestones
  • Bonding with their foster child
  • Contributing and making a difference
  • Seeing foster children part of their family unit

And some negative too though:

  • Approval wait times
  • Confronting experiences
  • Lack of community acceptance<superscript>8<superscript>

The primary reasons carers discontinue care:

  • Burnout
  • Lack of support
  • Bureaucracy
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Behavioural issues of the child<superscript>9<superscript>

What works for carer campaigns

Campaigns that are effective in increasing the number of foster carers have some defining characteristics:

  • Negative or "sad" imagery results in audience disengagement
  • "Positive associations" result in stronger reactions
  • Word-of-mouth is a strong motivator for action
  • Segmented campaigns result in more carer applications
  • Diversity of imagery, for example relationship status and diversity, is received positively
  • Messaging that breaks down misconceptions is received positively.<superscript>8<superscript> <superscript>10<superscript> <superscript>11<superscript>


1. Australian Institute of Family Studies, CFCA Resource Sheet, 2010.

2. Barnados - Adoption from Care.

3. Anglicare Victoria, Children in Care Report, 2016.

4. Practice: Social Work in Action - Through the Eyes of Ex-Foster Children: Placement Success and the Characteristics of Good Foster Carers, 2013.

5. British Journal of Social Work, Hope for the Future: Identifying the Individual Difference characteristics of People Who Are Interested In and Intend To Foster-Care, 2012.

6. Australian Foster Care Association, An Investigation into Foster Care in Australia.

7. Daily Telegraph, Figures expose the foster care crisis in Australia, (2016).

8. Anglicare Southern Queensland, Market Research Report, January 2018.

9. University of Queensland Business School, Using market segmentation to gain insight into reasons for not foster caring.

10.Journal of Advertising Research - Framing Advertisements to Elicit Positive Emotions andAttract Foster Carers, 2016.

11. Child & Family Social Work - The Science of Attracting Foster Carers, 2014.