Disclosures of child abuse

September 28, 2007 at 11:53 am | Posted in Articles, Resources, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I have just come across a useful article made available by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (Child Protection Clearing House) that looks at how children make disclosures, and how best to respond.  The information is particularly suited to carers, although may also be helpful for kinship carers, family members, and professionals who work with children.  The article describes disclosure as a process, with the potential for children and young people to retract their statements as a potential stage in the process.   Click here for a PDF of the article.

A child, not a folder full of notes

September 28, 2007 at 10:27 am | Posted in Around the Nation, Issues for Fostering | Leave a comment

On Wednesday 26th September, this article was posted on the ABC news website.  The article includes testimonials from two young adults who have grown up in care.   Both were clear that they did not want to be considered a number, or a folder full of notes, but rather to be heard and listened to as individuals.  I think this is a message to be shouted out loud for the system.  In the end,  budgets, balancing programatic demands, managing legal requirements and endless constraints all take their toll on maintaining the centrality of the ‘individual child’. 

The second part of the article outlines a review of residential services.  It seems that one of the options being explored is the potential for longer term residential care placements with family links, in recognition that some children or young people may fare bettter without the pressures of being part of a family full time.

Foster Carer Training

September 27, 2007 at 10:03 am | Posted in About Fostering, Issues for Fostering | 2 Comments
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There have been many questions lately about what training as a foster carer involves, so I thought I would address it here.

This year, new packages for the training and assessment of foster carers have been rolled out across Victoria. They follow the NSW models Shared Stories, Shared Lives and Step By Step but have been adapted for use in Victoria. It is now legally required that all new foster carers in Victoria are trained using Shared Stories, Shared Lives and assessed using Step By Step.

The training involves 8 modules, each approximately 2 to 2.5 hours in length. These modules are:

1) Foster Care In Context (including why children need care, statutory processes, myths and realities of fostering)

2) Bonding And Attachment (including attachment problems, strategies for helping children with attachment problems, hearing the chlid’s voice, confidentiality)

3) Grief And Loss (including grief process, life story work, understanding)

4) Maintaining Connections (including experiences of the parent, importance of contact, mixed feelings around contact, ongoing tasks in foster care)

5) Experience Of Abuse (including what is child abuse, why does abuse happen, effects of abuse, background to child sexual abuse, responding to disclosures, indicators of abuse)

6) Responding To Challenging Behaviours (including inappropriate behaviours, reasons for difference, understanding challenging behaviour, managing challenging behaviours, allegations against foster carers, safe house rules)

7) Team Work (including working as a team, impact on family and friends, relationship with CSO)

8) Moving On (including saying goodbye, stresses and rewards for carers, evaluation)

All modules use real case studies to highlight issues which may arise in care, and aim to arm potential carers with the knowledge and understanding they will require to provide quality care for children and young people.

The assessment process, Step By Step, is quite comprehensive. It requires applicants to provide referees, pass a police check and a medical check, obtain a Working With Children Card as a volunteer, and write a detailed life history. This information is then complemented by a series of interviews at the end of which the assessors need to complete a report. If the assessors can show in their report that the applicant(s) can meet the four competency requirements laid down in Step By Step, then the applicant(s) will be approved as a foster carer by an accreditation panel. The applicant has to be able to:

A) Demonstrate personal readiness to become a foster carer

B) Work effectively as part of a team

C) Promote the positive development of children and young people in foster care

D) Provide a safe environment that is free of abuse

When accrediting an applicant as a carer, the assessors and accreditation panel take into account the applicant(s) desires in regard to the type of child they believe they could provide care for, as well as their own assessment of what kind of care an applicant would be able to provide. The applicant(s) will then be accredited specifically for one kind of care, or multiple kinds, as appropriate.

Fostering babies

September 25, 2007 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Around the Nation, Articles, Issues for Fostering | 2 Comments

This article appeared in The Australian on the 21st of September concerning the coroner’s findings about the tragic death of Elizabeth Rose Edwards from South Australia in 2004. The story highlights issues affecting foster care, not all of which are pertinent to the coroner’s findings concerning the cause of Elizabeth’s death. 

Firstly, the article charts Elizabeth’s journey through four foster care placements in two months prior to being placed with her final carers.  While undesirable, placement changes are sometimes unavoidable.  There is no question that frequent changes in placement may further compound the trauma of separation from a birth parent, but must be considered  in context. 

The coroner also questioned the agency’s capacity to assess carers, and suggested assessments are not rigourous because of the overwhelming demand for carers to provide placements.  The assessment process in Victoria, as it no doubt is in the rest of Australia, is viewed with great seriousness.  Yes, the demand for placements is great.  But this does not lessen the importance of careful and thorough assessment – for the safety of foster children and their carers. 

The coroner does highlight the need for specific training for infant carers.  I imagine that practices in this area varies between states, and possibly between agencies.  SIDS information is widely available and in my experience is routinely given out to carers who take baby placements.  Views on infant safety undergo changes over time.  What is considered unsafe parenting now may well have been considered appropriate ten or twenty years ago.  This story highlights the importance for agencies, carers, and indeed all parents, to regularly seek out current information concerning infant safety.   

Pillow warning

September 24, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Posted in Around the Nation | Leave a comment

On the 20th of September the ABC news site posted this article about a 9 month old baby who died in care in 2004 in South Australia.  The baby was lying on a u-shaped pillow and choked.  The coroner’s report concluded that U-shaped pillows are dangerous.  This tragedy highlights the importance of parents, carers and agencies keeping up to date with the safety needs of infants.

“Saving the kids from parents”

September 24, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Media | 3 Comments

This is the provocative title of an opinion piece in today’s Herald Sun, by Jan Vuk.  Vuk picks up on a topic that has had considerable media exposure this year – parental substance abuse and the impact on young children.  Vuk poses the questions – how many times should a drug-addicted parent relapse before being considered incapable of parenting?  And how long should a child wait?  Vuk links these issues to the numbers of carers leaving the system, reportedly because of the increasing behavioural difficulties of children with substance addicted parents.  This article raises some important issues, from the support needs and demands placed on carers, to the systemic and societal factors associated with substance abuse that must be considered alongside the experiences and protective needs of children with substance addicted parents.  These issues are emotive and complicated, and cross the personal, societal  and economic/political arenas.  I suspect that the solutions must do likewise, to genuinely “save the kids”.

Foster Care Week

September 19, 2007 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Events | Leave a comment

“Foster Care Week” is an awareness raising campaign facilitated by the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare.  It concludes this Saturday.  Look out for show bags in your local community.  If you happen to live in the Mount Evelyn area, you can collect one (and find out a bit more about fostering) from the Library on Thursday night (20th September) at 7.30pm.  Click here for more details.  

Gone to a good home

September 19, 2007 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Media | Leave a comment

This article was written by one of my colleagues concerning this documentary, aired on SBS last week: An Australian documentary aired on Friday last week on SBS offered a retrospective view of the social attitudes towards family and morality.

Called “Gone to a Good Home” together with the by-line, “Australia’s other Stolen Generation”, the film encapsulated the 1960s-1970s through the eyes of women who had lost their children during this era, most notably the wonderful and courageous Lily Arthur. It also included the perspectives of adoptees a selection of ‘experts’.

‘Gone to a Good Home’ really highlighted the rollercoaster ride the family services system has undergone over the past few decades; from going to extraordinary lengths to remove children from single mothers solely based on their perceived immorality, to where we are today (wherever that is!). It was also a poignant reminder of just how crucial a person’s biological family is in the formation of identity; aspect that Victoria’s approach to foster care values highly in contemporary settings.

But just as we have learnt and evolved in the practices of child welfare, I felt it revealed yet another layer to the complicated web of anxiety and confusion about the issues surrounding foster care in Australian society: our present so called ‘knowledge’ could not exist without an understanding of our well intentioned but devastating past. Of course, foster care very different to adoption, but some of the themes and ideas in this production was certainly interesting and relevant to issues around foster care.

Child protection: 2005-2006 statistics

September 18, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Around the Nation | Leave a comment

Click here for an interesting presentation by the National Child Protection Clearinghouse including recent statistics for the numbers of children who are subject to substantiated notifications, and the numbers of children in care.  The data shows an increase in children requiring protective interventions, with a disproportionate representation of indiginous children in all areas.  It seems that children under one year of age are most at risk.  There are also some interesting international comparisons.

Updates on abandoned toddler

September 18, 2007 at 9:50 am | Posted in Media | 1 Comment

The toddler known as ‘Pumpkin’ has been identified as Qianxun Xue, and she is reportedly faring well in foster care.  Her parents have been identified, but not located.  You can read more of the article from the ABC website here.  This article on www.news.com.au provides some further information, including the fact that the family were known to protective services in New Zealand.

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