11 September 2018
A new online platform and app designed to connect the lives of children in out-of-home care has been launched by the Victorian Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos.
The platform, CaringLife, is the brain-child of OzChild foster parents, Anthony Denahy and Emma Stirling, who realised that children in out-of-home care need a way to keep all their photos, videos and other important mementos from their time in care, safe and secure.
Until now, children have been given their photos in a photo album or on a USB stick, which can be lost or damaged. Other important documents like artwork, sporting certificates and school reports can also easily be lost.
With support from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Anthony and Emma developed the software, which has also been enthusiastically supported by their foster agency, OzChild, and the Foster Care Association of Victoria.
CaringLife co-founder, Anthony Denahy said they had really wanted to create a fun and easy way for children and carers to be able to upload and share memories and documents, so that none of these moments could be lost if children were moved to another foster family or were able to return home.
“We know from our own experience that we’ve taken hundreds of photos and videos of our foster children, and we haven’t had a place to put them so the kids can see them easily in a private and secure way,” he said.
“As foster parents, we can’t put images of children in our care on social media, so the only way to let them have the photos is by printing them off or putting them on a USB stick. As you can imagine, these are easily lost by young children.”
The CaringLife app will be administered by foster agencies who can connect the child and carer profiles, so that carers can upload the content, and the children can see it straight away. Children are also able to upload their own content.
If a child moves to another foster family, the new carers can easily be connected to the child’s account. Carers can only see what they’ve uploaded, to ensure privacy for the child.
The child’s case manager is able to see the content uploaded by both the carer and child, and moderate it if it is deemed inappropriate or culturally insensitive.
The system is designed to be highly flexible, so if a child moves to another foster agency, it is easy to transfer the child’s CaringLife account, so they have a continuous life story and can see all of their life moments in one app.
OzChild Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Griffiths, has been an ardent supporter of CaringLife and OzChild is spearheading the pilot program, which is currently underway.
“Having access to childhood memories is something parents in everyday life take for granted, so ensuring our children in foster care have their own private access to memories they create through this safe and private platform is an incredible innovation and an absolute right for all children and young people in the care system,” Ms Griffiths said.
The CaringLife system is available for all foster agencies to use.
The app is available on both iOS and Android.
Image: OzChild Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Griffiths (right) with CaringLife co-founders Anthony Denahy and Emma Stirling