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July 14th, 2018 by admin

‘Give us a family’: professional foster carers to care for most vulnerable kids

Foster carer Vicci Henderson. Photo: Simon SchluterWhen the call comes, often late at night, foster carer Vicci Henderson always reminds the social worker to pack nappies and bottles.
Nanjing Night Net

Make sure the kids are rugged up warm against the cold air, she says. Not just pyjamas, a dressing gown as well.

And when children arrive – anyone from a young baby to five siblings – Vicci knows they will be anxious, and very hungry. Food, warmth and reassurance are a start. But some of these children will need much more.

For the first time in Australia, Victoria will trial the use of “professional” foster carers to support some of the most traumatised children in the state’s out-of-home care system.

In a bid to reduce the number of young people in residential care, professional foster carers will look after a young person full time in their home for around nine months.

They will get intensive backing from the agencies taking part in the trial; OzChild, Anglicare Victoria and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency. This will include daily phone calls, case workers, and weekly training on dealing with trauma or behavioural issues.

The agencies will also work with the families of the young person to prepare them for the child’s return home (if it is safe and in the child’s best interest).

Over the next two years, about 14 professional foster carers will work with 28 young people in the $5.6 million trial in Melbourne’s south-east. If the approach is successful it will be broadened, says Jenny Mikakos, the Minister for Families, Children and Youth Affairs.

The trial is based on a model that began 30 years ago in Oregon, in the US, and is now used successfully in the UK and Europe.

“At the moment we have young people who are in residential care for years, and that’s unacceptable in my view,” Ms Mikakos says. “I have spoken to many young people and they all say ‘Give us a family, don’t give us a system’.”

Children do best in family-like placements but when these break down there are few options aside from residential care, says Lisa Griffith, the head of OzChild. “Professional foster care has the potential to completely change the way we support vulnerable children.”

The state faces a chronic shortage of foster carers, and launched a major recruitment push earlier this year.

Victoria’s Foster Care Association of Victoria has welcomed the trial, with head Leigh Hillman saying she hopes it will help carers who assume the long-term care of children after their time with a professional carer.

But the association will keep pushing for an $88-per-week boost to the allowances for ordinary foster carers so that they can meet day-to-day costs, she said.

Professional carers will get a greater allowance, about $65,000 a year, to reflect the high expectations of their role and training. They do not get housing assistance. Currently, the highest allowance for foster carers who look after the most complex young people is about $40,000.

With the state’s residential care system long-plagued by reports of serious physical and sexual exploitation, last year Mikakos announced $43 million to move vulnerable children out of residential care into foster care, or back with their families.

Since then, 235 kids have left residential care for home-based care.

Deft, experienced carers like Vicci will be recruited to the trial. A grandmother and former childcare business owner, Vicci is currently the carer for a 10-year old girl.

In her early days as a carer she was shocked to discover how much troubled children in out-of-home care were moved around: “They just can’t find a place where they fit.”

With a consistent, calm routine and proper health treatment, her 10-year-old’s behaviour has improved dramatically.

In late 2014 there were 7500 young Victorians living in out of home care, with about 500 of those (6.3 per cent) in residential care. In August this year there were 8800 in out-of-home care and about 430 (4.9 per cent) in residential care.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.