News again!

April 30, 2008 at 10:46 am | Posted in Articles, Events, Issues for Fostering, Media | 1 Comment
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From the Herald Sun Website

*This photo belongs to the Herald Sun

Yesterday’s article, Hard Times Foster and Carer Crisisin the Herald Sun has sparked quite a response with many calls to the Centre for Excellence from people wanting to find out more which is fantastic news.

Although the online comments appear to show a) a misunderstanding in the community about foster care and how the system works, and b) some disgruntled past and potential carers frustrated at a lack of support and resources.

To the latter category of people, I hear you and I agree, though I think we should all raise our hats to both DHS workers and foster care workers alike for their perseverance in a thankless, stressful, under-paid, under-staffed, under-funded and under-resourced job. While I am sorry to hear of negative experiences of foster care all I can say is that we are all doing the best we can.

To the former category, removal of children is never an easy decision and is always a last resort. This issue is completely separate Apology made on February 13th which acknowledged the injustice of forced removal based on race, rather than on the safety and best interests of the child. Foster care is the temporary care of a child where the hope is always on reunification with the birth family. Foster carers are not expected to be perfect but it is a responsibility of those in the field to make sure that a child is safe from harm and provided with adequate care.

Although foster care is a challenging role at times, as Kylie will attest, it is also an immensely rewarding one.

Anyone interested should consider coming along to an information evening, check the events listing for details.

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In the News!!

April 28, 2008 at 5:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quite a few articles have been in the news recently celebrating our carers and putting the call out for more to become involved.

Call for Big Hearts: Progress press
Enriching Experience: Maroondah Leader
and
More Kids on the Brink: Oakleigh Monash Leader

ACP is life skills transfer

April 28, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Issues for Fostering, Media | Leave a comment
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Maroondah Leader had this report in last week’s paper.

Indeed, homelessness and “Teens sleep rough” are the hidden daily tragedies occurring throughout Melbourne’s East. Similarly, the daily miracles undertaken by foster carers everyday are just as hidden. With steadily declining numbers of carers available, foster care placements for children and young people of all ages are becoming increasingly difficult to make.

In the context of the Australia’s Homeless Youth report’s findings that “Young people with a ‘care background’ are over-represented in the youth homeless population”, carers involved in the Adolescent Care Program (ACP) focus on the transferal of life skills towards independence. In this way, each young person will hopefully see a string of opportunities in front of them as they venture into adulthood, rather than insurmountable obstacles leading to cycles of risk and harm.

The Australia’s Homeless Youth report was a timely reminder of why foster care is the responsibility of us all.

Anglicare Victoria invites anyone who would like to know more about foster care to an Information Evening or call 1300 889 335.

Adulthood after foster care

April 23, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Articles, Media | 1 Comment
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CREATE Foundation has released a report calling for supports for children with experience of State care, including foster care, to be extended past the current cut off of 18. The story was reported by ABC this morning.

Although there are carers who continue to offer their home to children past their 18th birthday, there are many, many cases where young people are left to their own devices to navigate difficult housing situations, fiances, employment, education and other major accomplishments in life. Reimbursements for carers cease, as well as funding for case workers and other agency supports.

The carers and worker in the Adolescent Community Placement program (ACP) are well aware of the challenges facing young people after their 18th birthday and in the years leading up place emphases on imparting independent life-skills on those in their care. Nevertheless, its a massive and often solitary leap.

According to the report:

A year after leaving care, half of the young people have had a period of homelessness. Almost half will be unemployed, nearly a third of women will have become pregnant, half would have considered or attempted suicide, and almost half will have committed a crime.

The story is not new though, The Age reported this story back in 2005, and it was also echoed in SBS’s Insight program.

  

Advanced Foster Care

April 23, 2008 at 10:29 am | Posted in Issues for Fostering, Media | 1 Comment
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This blog is becoming “Life Matters Watch” but I would like to begin by commending their coverage of the foster care issue over the past weeks/months.

This morning Joe Tucci of the Australian Childhood Foundation (you may remember his name from the Mandatory Reporting of Abuse debate we discussed a few weeks a ago) and Kate Cairns were the guests talking about Therapeutic foster care or “advanced” foster care as it was called on the program.

I’ve had quite a bit to do with AChFover the past few months and have found their knowledge not only interesting but a valuable resource for foster carers. I also know many of the carers who have done the Circle training in particular run by AChf and who are involved with the Circle program and all the reports I have heard have been fantastic. Carers say that the access to professional advice and supports, as well as the neurological understanding of trauma as explained in the training all combined to help their ability to care for children. But one of the most important aspects of this particular program has been the elevation of the status of the carer to where carers are included in discussion and consulted about their knowledge of the child to work towards more complete care plans. This process has been referred to the professionalisation of foster care.

While these are all wonderful things, Sarah McDonald’s initial questions really went to the heart of the issue: Can we expect this of carers; that is, 24 hour, 7 day a week volunteers given only modest reimbursements? Its a huge job these amazing families are undertaking and we desperately need more to do the same. Victoria is leading the way with programs, hopefully Victoria can also lead Australia towards greater recognition of carers through funding and other crucial supports. Recognition and respect throughout our community of foster care as a valid and important role is key to getting more people involved, and in encouraging carers to continue.

As an aside for current carers in Melbourne’s East, AChF is running training again in June. Contact your caseworker or the Recruitment team in Bayswater if you would like more details.

A Carer’s perspective on reunification

April 22, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An Australian foster mum blogs about her experience and emotion about the reunification process between “Angel” and his grandmother. Her honest account shows the challenges of saying goodbye to a child in your care as well as the frustrations felt when decisions of the “best interests of the child” are out of a foster carer’s hands, while, despite this, beautifully summing up her very important and gratifying role.

Her blog is well worth a watch and it’s listed in our blogroll for future reference. We wish Angel, grandma, mum and foster mum all the best as they continue their journey together.

Grandparents

April 22, 2008 at 11:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ann Fraser and Anne McLeish are looking to set up a support group for grandparents caring for grandchildren in the eastern suburbs whose parents are struggling with alcohol, drugs or some other crisis. This is what’s called a kinship care arrangement and is usually a preferred option to foster care.

Often this is an informal set up which leaves the carers without finacial and other supports extended to foster carers such as reimbursements.

This issue was also raised on ABC’s Lifematters

Grandparents Victoria is the organisation to get in touch with for more information about supports and how to get involved.

Where is the debate for foster care in 2020?

April 21, 2008 at 10:57 am | Posted in Around the Nation, Issues for Fostering | 2 Comments
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Media this morning is buzzing with 2020 ideas and debates, but I’ve searched and searched and found very few reported debates about what the foster care system should look like in 2020.

Indigo of the previous post has been involved in quite an informed debate here.

I’ll keep watching and hoping that more of the ideas discussed will filter through and hopefully bring about change.

The positive aspect of the Summit though was a really strong focus on preventative supports, which is an important contributor to the wider community solutions, together with strong mechanisms to support the essential contributions of foster carers.

Willing carers

April 21, 2008 at 10:08 am | Posted in Around the Nation, Issues for Fostering | 1 Comment
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An interesting debate has been sparked here after this post:

Researcher Indigo Willing, who was adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage in 1972, will propose a way to tackle the twin problems of long waiting lists for couples seeking overseas adoptions, and the chronic shortage of foster parents for children in Australia. Ms Willing said that if parents waiting to adopt were automatically asked to become foster parents — either instead of or as well as adopting from overseas — both problems would abate.

Though this plan looks like it ticks all boxes, experience tells us that its probably not as easy that. Firstly, the understanding that foster care is temporary care of someone else’s child is a cornerstone of the provision of healthy relationships to develop between child and carer, and if possible, with the birth family. There are often emotional obstacles for carers if there is a confusion of this role with other roles such as adoptive parents, where the child becomes your own.

Secondly, our state has worked really hard to create a screening process to make sure prospective carers are motivated by a desire to care for children in need. I think it would be problematic to blur the boundaries of the motivations towards one where foster caring is a means to another desire, and I’m not convinced that people in this situation, that is, forced to care, would be able to provide adequate care for that child.

Having said that, I myself have spoken at an inter-country adoption information session about foster care, inviting people who already have broad views about what makes a family to consider this area with significant success.

What we should focus on, in my opinion, is improving the supports around carers, as well as our valuing of the foster caring role to encourage more people to willingly take responsibility for caring for our neighbours.

Caring for babies

April 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Recently there seems to have been an increase in the number of babies in out of home care which for the first time, possibly ever, has put a strain on the ability to make placements for very young children.

The reasons for this trend are probably most likely to be a combination many, many things; of changes in legislation meaning that notifications of risk can be made in-utero, increases in problems generally around homelessness, gambling, drugs and alcohol and mental health issues. This is also coinciding with two other significant trends; longer stays for children in care and a declining number of carers, particularly the types of people traditionally involved in looking after babies. When we consider demographic changes to women’s workforce participation and a later retirement its not hard to see why the supply of baby carers is one of the hardest hit areas.

It quite amazing when you sit down to think about all the pieces involved in changes like this. Our job is not impossible but we are certainly kept on our toes!

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