The 5 ways we support our foster and kinship carers
Churches of Christ provides training and support for just over 1430 foster and kinship carers, who themselves look after 2845 children and young people.
We’re always looking for more foster carers as the numbers of children at risk continues to increase, year on year, with the state government reporting a 4% increase over the 12 months to March 2022.
People who open their homes and hearts to foster children and young people do it for all the right reasons. So how do we care for our carers?
Learning and development
New foster and kinship carers need a lot of support and training to understand their roles and responsibilities, and the laws pertaining to caring for children and young people in care.
Foster carers are required to do mandatory training prior to becoming carers and receive a lot of information about their roles and responsibilities.
However, kinship carers don’t need to undertake mandatory training. That said they get home visits where support workers are guided through the child safety system, legislation and compliance requirements, as well as how to care for children and young people who have experienced trauma.
But all training has been designed to equip foster and kinship carers in how to care for children and young people who are not naturally their own children. We know most children in care come from unsafe situations and need support to heal from their trauma. Due to that trauma, they may have developmental needs and display challenging behaviours, which need to be managed appropriately. It’s critical that carers are provided with opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills to make sure they’re equipped to provide high-quality care that children and young people need to thrive.
Training is provided to carers in either a group setting or individually, but group training has the added bonus of being able to meet other carers that may be having similar experiences and create peer support networks.
When a foster or kinship carer identifies a specific problem or need of a child or young person in their care, we try to provide support and guidance to them. For example, a child might be stealing food and hiding it under their bed. We help the carer understand why this might be happening and how to support the child so they don’t feel the need to hoard or hide food.
Supporting a carer while they work through the individual needs of a child helps the carer understand the problem and providing options to support the child, but it also provides the child with a safe space to process their experiences and learn how to manage their emotions and behaviours.
Sometimes after a particularly hard day or week, our carers just need to debrief. We like to provide foster and kinship carers with a safe space to talk about what’s happening for them or the young person they’re caring for. Debriefing is a powerful support tool on so many levels: from reducing stress, offering a chance to reflect and provide clarity around situations, and being able to share information they may not be able to share with others.
We also encourage our carers to practice self-care and stress management, and sometimes they need help managing their feelings as well as the situation.
Practical support can come in many different forms such as helping a carer find someone to mow their lawn or help them complete paperwork needed for reporting and compliance. A good example of this is the Blue Card process is completely online now, and we offer assistance doing that. We also assist carers find information online or support them when they advocate on behalf of the child or young person they’re caring for.
Being able to offer practical support helps ease some of the stress they may experience and supports them develop their own skills and knowledge.
Perhaps one of the most important roles we have in supporting our carers is advocacy. When a carer takes on a child or young person, there are a number of new agencies that come into their lives and this can be overwhelming. Our staff work hard to advocate on behalf of our foster and kinship carers for necessary support and recognition from various departments and agencies. This may mean chasing payments or speaking on a carer or child’s behalf in meetings if they don’t feel comfortable doing so themselves.
Our case workers are all qualified and highly trained. They also have experience working alongside multiple agencies. We encourage our case workers and support staff to empower carers and upskill them so they can advocate for themselves and the children and young people they care for.
If you are interested in becoming a carer, or finding out more, please visit Foster Care & Kinship Care | Churches of Christ (cofc.com.au)