More education is needed for Tauranga foster parents as the number of babies affected by drugs and alcohol has increased.
With 194 children in foster care in the Western Bay of Plenty, Tauranga Foster Care Association is calling for more carers to be re-educated as children with complex issues leave foster carers unprepared.
Tauranga Foster Care Association chairperson Susan Heath said she had seen a change in the issues foster children had since she started as a carer 20 years ago.
"When I started we dealt with domestic violence and alcohol issues. Now we have got methamphetamine, we are dealing with P babies ... there is also a lot more learning to be done with ADHD," she said.
Children whose mothers used methamphetamine during pregnancy were having issues such as stress, anxiety, sleeping issues and learning difficulties. Training, which was currently voluntary through Fostering Kids, needed to be compulsory two to three times a year.
One baby foster carer in the Bay told the Bay of Plenty Times she felt "totally unprepared" when she received her foster child, who was three at the time.
"There were these explosions of behaviour that we did not quite understand."
Her foster child has since been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiance disorder.
The foster parent said the training and education through Fostering Kids had been invaluable. "It's like you are sitting there and a light bulb goes off ... it gives you reasons as to why your child is acting like that, and it's not just your bad parenting," she said.
Tommy Wilson, director of Te Tuinga Whanau Support services, also noticed this change in issues and sees it as a result of drug and alcohol addictions.
"In the past we just had alcohol to deal with, then we had alcohol and P to deal with, and now we have alcohol, P, and pyscho-active substances [legal highs]."
Mr Wilson said these addictions were directly affecting foster children as they were "at the end of the drug chain".
He believed education for carers was key because a lot of foster parents were ordinary people who had never been involved in drug culture.
Homes of Hope chief executive Hilary Price said methamphetamine was not the only issue foster children were facing. Children being placed in foster care were coming from homes where drug and alcohol abuse was common but also included domestic violence and poverty.
This meant children were presenting with a raft of issues, she said. "A lot of the kids are presenting with disorganised attachment, behavioural issues, they will find it hard to concentrate and they will be emotionally immature - they have had to survive, they have lived through that survival mode."
These children would often have developmental delays which meant they were then often misdiagnosed with inaccurate disorders too, she said.
Mrs Price said today foster care had to be a multi-disciplinary wrap-around approach.
"It's no longer good enough for us simply to say we are giving them a safe roof over their heads, regular meals and a home.
"It is imperative for foster carers to understand the nature of the needs of the children coming into care. But it can't simply be training, there needs to be a lot more.
"Awareness is critical, the training is critical and resourcing is critical."
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, please contact Child, Youth and Family on 0508 326 459.
If you are interested in funding to attend the National Fostering Kids Conference please email Andeana Pilalis firstname.lastname@example.org