Uni students fundraise for OzChild’s kids
Two local university students are forgoing presents to raise much-needed money for vulnerable and at-risk children and young people. Alysse Cruz and Erick de la Paz from Leopold raised a total of $1,085 to support foster care, kinship care, family services, educational support and disability.
Deakin University occupational therapy student Alysse Cruz turned 21 in late 2016, but parties were the last thing on her mind - she wanted to fundraise instead. And instead of receiving gifts on Christmas, Alysse and her boyfriend Erick - who is studying commerce - asked friends, family and community in Leopold to dig deep for OzChild’s kids.
“Every year, my boyfriend Erick and I ask ourselves, ‘What do I want for Christmas?’ and we always realise that we don't need any more than what we already have,” Alysse says.
“We realised that there are a lot of kids who aren't as fortunate as us. We wanted to get the message out that we want kids to spend Christmas in the way they deserve.”
Over the two months leading up to Christmas, Alysse and Erick launched The Christmas Project to raise funds for OzChild who have the biggest foster care program in Victoria. The Christmas Project involved a Christmas Market, a board games night, and an Everyday Hero page.
“It was hard at first, we were worried about what people would think and things were slow,” Alysse says.
“But we started printing collateral about OzChild and explained why it was important. It’s not us they’re helping - it’s going to kids who need it. That’s when things started picking up. It was good to talk to people and raise awareness.”
Making a difference in her community is important to Alysse who wants to work with at-risk kids and children with disabilities when she graduates. With a natural alignment to her career aspirations and selfless personal values, OzChild was an obvious choice.
CEO of OzChild Lisa J. Griffiths says, “We would like to thank Alysse and Erick for their generosity, initiative and for thinking of OzChild’s kids. Their funds will go towards therapeutic care, education support and intervention programs to heal and strengthen at-risk kids and families.”
Digital Content Producer Ellie Freeman
(03) 9695 2211
Madi and Lizzy
We're proud of our young women in foster care who have been accepted into university.
Madi has been in foster care with OzChild since she was seven years old. After many foster carer changes, Madi finally came to live with an OzChild carer. Madi settled well into this placement and became part of the carer’s family. She has always been a strong and resilient girl with great determination to succeed. Despite going through many challenges in her life and having to change schools in Year 12, Maddi has thrived at school and her teachers have commended her hard work and dedication.
In her final year of high school, Madi won the Endeavour Award for Physics, successfully completed her VCE and achieved an ATAR high enough to secure her place to study a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Victoria University. It's the first step towards her goal of becoming a medical researcher.
Lizzy has been with OzChild foster carers since she was five. Lizzy's carers have always encouraged and supported her to achieve her best. Lizzy is a focused and ambitious young girl, who is dedicated her goal of becoming a zoologist and travelling the world to work with big cats.
Thanks to the support of her carers, this dream is one step closer to becoming a reality for Lizzy. She successfully completed her VCE and has been accepted into a Bachelor of Science at Deakin University. Despite some challenges, Lizzy has worked really hard in school all year to secure her place and get closer to achieving her career ambitions. She will be the first person in her family to attend university and is extremely proud of herself.
PZ Cussons visits OzChild’s Valerie May House
This December, representatives from PZ Cussons delivered Christmas gifts from their staff to OzChild’s disability respite care facility, Valerie May House, as part of the Wishing Tree Gift Appeal. OzChild Valerie May House staff member Nathan showed them around the house. Brightly coloured photos of smiling kids at the beach, the park, play centres and meeting the Easter Bunny adorn the walls.
“We can go on outings every weekend now, thanks to you,” Nathan explained to PZ Cussons.
Earlier this year, international manufacturer PZ Cussons agreed to support OzChild’s Valerie May House, a respite care house for kids with disabilities.
Not only are there games, TV and an adventure playground for the kids to enjoy at the house, the OzChild staff also take them on outings to the places like the zoo and the beach. The staff, equipment, transport and ticketing required is costly so trips were limited. With PZ Cussons support, the team at Valerie May House were able to plan additional outings with more children participating. Luckily, PZ Cussons stepped in to support Valerie May House.
PZ Cussons brought a fantastic selection of gifts which Valerie May House guests will receive over the holiday season.
One very special Christmas present was from a PZ Cussons staff member’s nine-year-old daughter, Bethan. Bethan saw a gift tag for Summer, another nine-year-old girl like herself but with an intellectual disability. Something about Summer’s situation resonated with Bethan, so she filled a bag full of gifts for her.
Thank you PZ Cussons staff (and your kids) for your generosity this Christmas.
Eye on the Peninsula RPP FM: OzChild foster carer, Glenda talks foster care and TFCO
Glenda Quinn was interviewed on RPP FM's Eye on the Peninsula program to answer the hard questions about foster care, and what the new TFCO program will mean for foster care in Victoria.
RPP FM: This week we speak to Glenda of Berwick who’s been a foster carer for 21 years. Glenda speaks about the exciting new program called, Treatment Foster Care Oregon which OzChild will launch next April. Deborah asks, why take on the work of a foster carer?
GLENDA QUINN: Originally, we were only in our mid 20s and we just got married. We knew we wanted to have children, but not yet. We enjoyed having nieces and nephews come around for the weekend, so we decided to be respite carers because we worked full time. And it really grew from there. One of our placements ended up staying for seven months – a 13 year old boy who we still think about, 21 years later. We’ve had such joy from the placements we’ve had. We’ve been so privileged and lucky to have been part of it.
RPP FM: Some of the most frequently asked questions about being a foster carer are…
GLENDA: Isn’t it really hard to give them back? Do the parents come back and bang on your door? Are you scared of their safety?
My experience is that the birth parents are grateful that you’re giving the time to care for their child. If you can have a good relationship with the birth family, that’s better for the child because they can see that everyone’s working together, and the main person we wanna help is that child.
In the foster care program, there are a lot of supports in place, in that if you work full time and can’t get the child to school, there’s support. But with TFCO, what they’re asking is to be a lot more available. It’s really wrapping that support around the child on a greater level. It’s about being the holistic parent for that child.
For the type of care we do, emergency care, although we’re providing a safe and nurturing home for a week or two weeks or a night… we’re not trying to become Mum and Dad. Whereas with TFCO, you’re really being a parent in every aspect of the child’s life for the time that you’re with them.
RPP FM: What about discipline in the home? Do you apply the same discipline to a foster child as your own children?
GLENDA: I guess I hold a higher standard to foster children than I would with my own children. No smacking – I would never raise my hand to a child in care because of what that means to them and where they’ve come from. I’ve learned a lot of alternative ways of parenting and reprimanding children if they’re doing something dangerous or naughty.
RPP FM: So you treat the foster child a little differently to your own?
GLENDA: You’ve gotta deal with all the different personalities in the house. I explain to my children regularly, "they’ve come from a really difficult position, we need to give them a break sometimes." I’m a little bit more flexible.
RPP FM: It’s quite interesting to look at the dynamics of a family who has taken on a foster child because you’ve got the siblings to consider how they’re going to react, your role and your partner’s role to keep the family happy and harmoniously working together. The worst thing you can do is put the foster child in a situation where your kids are going to play up.
GLENDA: I must have amazing children, because they’ve never taken advantage of the fact that we foster.
RPP FM: Is becoming a foster carer rewarding?
GLENDA: It’s hard to put into words sometimes because I get very emotional about it! We’ve had some amazing stories that we’ve experienced in our 21 years. And I’ve also heard amazing stories from our foster carer friends. It’s a tough job. The kids can push all your buttons. But we do it because of the rewards. It’s not all the fault of the birth parents. They’re not all abusive. There’s mental health, poverty, all kinds of other issues why kids come into foster care. It’s really a village that raises a child. The rewards are so evident, it’s incredible.
RPP FM: What processes are involved to match a foster child with a foster family?
GLENDA: When you go through the assessment process, all of that is nutted out – your family dynamics, your pets, all come into the equation. And OzChild and Anglicare will have all their available carer list. Even if you only want to care for males or only females, you can specify that as well. In the intake process, they go through all of those qualities and they match as well as they can.
RPP FM: Glenda explains TFCO.
GLENDA: It’s to get kids out of residential and into a family home. It’s time-limited, so six to nine months. Within that time, the courts will either send that child back into their family or into permanent care. It is time-limited and specific for great results. It’s proven to work in other countries, some of which I think are worse than Melbourne. Because I wonder where they’re going with this. How can we get more foster carers in a climate where the number of children going into care is doubling? This might be the answer. It’s a proven program that’s worked in America and the UK with social issues like us, and it’s managed to halve their number of referrals because of their program. It’s quite different.
If you’re not right for TFCO, they can refer you to the regular foster care program which I’m a part of. I work at OzChild and I’m actually part of the recruitment team, so I support other carers.
Eye on the Peninsula RPP FM: OzChild CEO Lisa J. Griffiths and Anglicare’s Paul McDonald talk about TFCO foster care
RPP FM's program Eye on the Peninsula interviewed OzChild CEO Lisa J. Griffiths and Anglicare's Paul McDonald ahead of launching the Treatment Foster Care Oregon trial, an intensive foster care model. Lisa explained the context of foster care in Australia, Victoria, and the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula area.
RPP FM: To help us better understand the foster care system and the implementation of a new program called Treatment Foster Care Oregon, which is set to slash residential care numbers in local areas, Eye on the Peninsula invited CEO of OzChild Lisa J. Griffiths to explain.
LISA J. GRIFFITHS: The foster care system is set out to provide voluntary support for children that are removed from their families by Child Protection. 95% of the time, those removals are involuntary; there have been notifications to Children Protection that the child or young person is at risk of abuse of neglect, or accumulative harm. The other 5% are voluntary relinquishments, where the parents can’t cope with looking after that child while they go through challenging circumstances.
In the Mornington Peninsula and Frankston area, 50% of the referrals are for children aged between newborns and five years of age. Clearly, those children won’t have had too much exposure to difficult sets of circumstances, but really what they’re fundamentally looking for is a loving parent or role model to help form an attachment with them so they can feel safe and secure.
The foster care system then kicks in as a support mechanism for those children to be placed either in an emergency situation or in a short or long term placement.
RPP FM: It’s a long process for a family or individual to become a foster carer.
LISA J. GRIFFITHS: The Department of Health and Human Services have the Placement Coordination unit who can contact a range of foster care providers. There’s 26 agencies in Victoria, including OzChild.
You’re not a foster carer just because you want to be. The Department requires agencies to recruit carers, train those carers, then accredit them and provide them with support. So that when the child or young person is removed from their parental care, the foster carer provides a safe, secure environment. There’ll be a phone call to OzChild who will call a carer and ask, “can we place a child in your care tonight?” and foster carers who have said “yes, that’s suitable for my circumstances and I’m available 24/7” will then take that child into care.
That’s where the court kicks in. The child protection worker will need to gather a range of evidence to discuss with the Magistrates court to discuss arrangements for the wellbeing of that child.
RPP FM: OzChild and foster care agencies are available across the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula.
LISA J. GRIFFITHS: Yes, that’s right. As children grow older and their developmental age changes, then the support and training these foster carers need might be different. If they’re a teenager for example, there might be a whole range of behavior that might be unsurprising to anyone who has had an adolescent. They might be acting out, refusing to go to school, having sexualized behaviours but also have self-esteem issues – it happens all around this developmental age of a child.
RPP FM: What numbers of foster children are there around this area?
LISA J. GRIFFITHS: There are a large number of children in foster care in the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula area. Across Victoria, there are just under 9000 children in what we call the out-of-home care system. About 450 are in residential care. And about 2500 are in foster care. We have the largest incidence in the Frankston area, which is one of the most disadvantaged postcodes in the whole of Australia. It’s not surprising then, that we’d have more referrals.
RPP FM: Australia will trial an international program called Treatment Foster Care Oregon. It’s been successful in other countries.
LISA J. GRIFFITHS: OzChild and Anglicare have been looking at some evidence from the US and other countries around the world at a program called TFCO. It started about 30 years ago and it’s been rolled out in 14 countries. Treatment foster care has been successful in working with very challenging children and adolescents who have complex behavior. It’s an intensive program which has specilaised care teams that support the foster carer, who is well trained, to help transition that child or young person to a more permanent outcome. For example, when a new child is in residential care, that’s often where they’ll stay until they turn 18. They might end up homeless, or having a job or going onto further education. Currently, evidence tells us that about 40% of children in residential care will actually end up going on become homeless, or part of the juvenile justice system. What we want to do is introduce a step-down model so it offers an alternative to children in residential care, to transition back home with their family permanently and successfully, or in permanent foster care.
RPP FM: Is the government funding this program?
LISA J. GRIFFITHS: Yes, they have totally agreed to fund this program. We have chosen to fund it ourselves. We’ve done all the research finding this particular program. We have used our own endowment funds to set it up for success. We’ve invested in all the training and set up, and the government has agreed to provide all the ongoing costs to trial this program in the Frankston and Mornington area in the next two years. It’s kicking off now and we’re recruiting our foster carers, then we’ll be receiving children aged 7-11, and with our partners VACCA and Anglicare we’ll be receiving children aged 12-18.
This particular program lasts six to nine months. Unlike foster carers that I mentioned earlier, the TFCO foster parent really is the champion for the young person. There’s a care team that surrounds the young person. Family therapists work with the family they’re returning to which could be a permanent foster family, biological family or their kin. They’ll work with that child or young person to ensure that they’re meeting all the milestones to help with their behavioural and cognitive development so they can re-assimilate into living permanently in a family environment as opposed to residential care.
RPP FM:What if you want to become a foster carer?
LISA J. GRIFFITHS: If you’ve got the capability to open your heart and open your home, we can provide you with all the support necessary to help you be successful at fostering a child or young person. Lots of people naturally who have children find they get to a stage in their life where they have a spare room, and they feel that they could do this quite easily. But there are all types of individuals and couples, same sex couples, single men and single women, who make amazing foster carers.