More support of New South Wales’ most vulnerable children
13 September 2018
The NSW Government has committed to an innovative program to improve the lives of the New South Wales’ most at risk children and young people.
Investment in Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) marks a new approach by the NSW Government in supporting children with the most complex needs.
The evidence-based program will be delivered by national provider of children, young people and family support services OzChild. It aims to reduce the number of placement breakdowns for children and young people in foster and kinship care and prevent the escalation of children from foster care to residential care.
OzChild Chief Executive Officer Lisa Griffiths said OzChild was thrilled to be part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of the children, young people and families of New South Wales through Their Futures Matter reforms.
“We are excited we now have the opportunity to support the children and young people within Western Sydney and get them back into a stable, family life,” Ms Griffiths said.
“TFCO has been proven to improve the outcomes for child and young people internationally, with them spending more time living with their families and attending school than those who don’t complete the program.
The program will be based in Campbelltown and Blacktown from December 2018 and receive referrals from the Sydney metropolitan FACS Districts for children aged 7-17 who meet the eligibility criteria.
Minister for Family and Community Services (FACS) Pru Goward said the NSW Government was committed to achieving better outcomes for children in out-of-home care.
“Through our landmark child protection reform, Their Futures Matter (TFM), we are creating a system which delivers strong, evidence-based programs and services based on the needs of children and their families,’’ Ms Goward said.
“This new approach to child protection and wellbeing ensures the right support for children to give them a strong foundation for a better life.
“This government is committed to breaking the cycle of neglect and abuse to help children and young people reach their full potential and thrive.”
TFCO has been successfully delivered for more than 30 years in countries such as the UK, US and New Zealand. It is an intensive program in which children are placed with highly-trained carers supported by a team of professionals for 9-12 months with the goal of reuniting them with their birth families or long-term carers who receive continued support.
TFCO carers require specialised skills and are provided with a generous tax-free reimbursement to allow the carer to provide continuous support to the child or young person.
OzChild is currently recruiting TFCO foster carers in Victoria, Queensland and NSW. To find out more visit https://www.ozchild.org.au/foster-care/tfco/
New app for children in out-of-home care launched
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
Unique art work designed to highlight the urgent need for foster carers
7 September 2018
On the eve of Foster Care Week leading provider OzChild is taking the call for more foster carers to the streets of Melbourne.
Hosier Lane on Tuesday 11 September will be the unique back drop in raising awareness of the need for more foster carers.
With the number of Victorian children and young people in out-of-home care at an all-time high there is no better time.
OzChild’s Chief Executive Officer Lisa Griffiths said these high numbers are very distressing, right in our back yard.
“Currently there are over 10,000 children and young people in care. And sadly, the sector cannot keep up with the demand, requiring a big increase in foster carers,” Ms. Griffiths said.
“There also appears to be a perception in the community that to be a foster carer you need to have had children or retired; but in actual fact nearly 50 per cent of Victorian carers are under 46.”
By focusing on its millennial foster carers during the week, OzChild hopes to encourage more young people to consider the idea of becoming foster carers. Age, career and lifestyle is no barrier.
During Foster Care Week OzChild has engaged emerging street artist Kenz. Known for his playful and positive artworks, Kenz will be creating his live street art mural in Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane that will demonstrate families come in all shapes and sizes.
“Kenz is an amazing artist, and along with our young carers we want to connect people to the rising issue and build a young community that cares about our most vulnerable children,” Ms Griffiths said.
Kenz will be creating his colourful piece on Tuesday 11 September in Hosier Lane near the corner of Rutledge Lane in the CBD between 8.00am- 4.00pm.
Meet our young carers: Zoe
Taking her first placement just a couple of weeks after accreditation came as a shock to millennial foster carer Zoe.
During her accreditation Zoe had indicated she would be happy to care for a child between the ages of three and seven, so when the call came and two boys eight and ten were needing a short-term home she said no at first.
“I wasn’t set up for two boys, I live in a small unit, so I wasn’t sure we could all happily live together,” Zoe said.
But with encouragement from her family, Zoe talked it through with OzChild’s Intake team.
“I thought the placement could actually be good, it could be better if there were two because they have each other. And I didn’t want to split up siblings,” Zoe said.
Being a young and single carer Zoe has found a great support network in her family, her boss and colleagues at work.
“My sisters, now they live here in Melbourne are a great asset,” Zoe said.
“They love the boys and the boys love them. I call on them whenever I need a babysitter.”
Her boss is also very supportive.
“I am lucky to have an understanding boss. I have taken him on the journey with me – I regularly shared updates with him as I went through the application process.”
“If I didn’t have a supportive work place it would be really hard for me to do this.”
Zoe has always thought that she would foster for a year then reassess to see how it is impacting on her personal life. Six months in she is loving it.
“I don’t feel I am missing out on anything. I left home when I was 15 so I have done a lot of the thing’s ‘young people’ do – held down a job, travelled overseas, moved interstate, been in relationships,” Zoe said.
“I feel I have done it all and was really at the point where I wanted a family and I have always wanted to foster.”
It hasn’t been without it challenges however, which Zoe mainly attributes to her age and life experiences.
“I think one of the challenges is that I haven’t parented before, so it was unknown territory and I think the kids might have picked up a bit on that initially,” Zoe said
“Because of my age they think of me as quite cool and someone they can relate to in some ways, but that is bittersweet.
“I am the parent figure here but that was a bit of a challenge at the start as they thought they could get away with a bit more or I would be a bit more relaxed about things. But they quickly learnt there were still rules.
“Now we are in a good space – we get along well in a cool way, but they do also have that respect for me and they appreciate me as the carer for them.”
When asked what advantages she saw for young people becoming foster carers, Zoe said the boys appreciated that she was up for doing things and getting out and about which older carers mightn’t be able to do due to more conflicting commitments.
“It is quite full on here, but that is just me as a person and the boys thrive off that. We are always out and about doing things,” Zoe said.
“I am quite social so when I have a quiet weekend the kids are asking ‘what are we doing today’. But they have actually adapted to my lifestyle and to socialising with my friends.
“I think when they first came I was worried that being single and living in small two-bedroom unit with no backyard they mightn’t like that or be happy here – I was really worried about that, but they actually love it.
“They love that I am on my own and they get all my attention and I do have the time – it is all about them so much so that they say that ‘it’s just you and me, or us’ and its really nice they actually appreciate me.
“And I thought it would be a negative effect, but it turned out to be a positive one.”
We're celebrating our amazing young carers as part of Foster Care Week 2018. Find out more here.
Meet our young carers: Hayden
At 21 years-old Hayden became a foster carer with his partner at the time, taking care of two sisters, five and nine years old. Later, and unexpectedly, their one-year-old baby sister came to live with Hayden.
As a gay couple, Hayden and his partner decided fostering was the best way to become parents. They weren’t interested in surrogacy and they wanted to care for kids who already needed help.
From the outset Hayden made it clear that he was most interested in long term placements because of their desire to create a family.
Hayden’s dad and step mother had been foster carers, so he had an insider’s view of what it would be like.
“I really looked up to them for being foster carers,” Hayden said.
It’s clear that Hayden loves being a foster parent to his three kids. When Hayden and his partner separated he did not hesitate to continue fostering as a single parent.
“It’s been very rewarding, I’ve found a real pleasure in it, that’s hard to describe in words. It’s such a warming experience. Also seeing the progress they’ve made, that their grades have gone up, and they’re making friends,” Hayden said.
How does a 21-year-old come to be a foster carer? For Hayden it was his maturity and the strong desire to do something to help change the lives of children. He felt like he was ready for the next stage of life.
“I felt like I’d done it all by 21. I had bought a house with my partner and we’d renovated it. And I’d got all the partying out of my system,’ he said.
“I don’t have any regrets. I have more self-worth doing something like this.”
Being a single parent had its challenges.
“You couldn’t just pop down to the shops alone, one of the kids was always attached to me,” Hayden said.
There’s also a simplicity in single-parenting because routines are more consistent and easier to enforce. Hayden is self-employed and has a flexible schedule which helps to keep on top of housework and after school activities.
Hayden’s family were very surprised at the idea of him becoming a foster carer at 21, but they were also very supportive and play the role of typical grandparents. The children’s biological grandparents were supportive too and Hayden is pleased they have a connection to that side of their family.
It’s people in the community who are the most surprised at Hayden’s parenting role, often assuming he’s their older brother.
“You can see people doing the mental calculation, so it always comes up, but they admire what I’m doing,” Hayden said.
The advice Hayden has for younger carers is to be confident.
“People feel like they can’t do it or won’t get looked at seriously,” he says.
Hayden did a lot of training so felt very well equipped and has his case worker to rely on who he can call at any time.
Some of the advantages of being a younger foster carer are having more energy and more time.
“Because you have time on your side you can always have more kids later, so you’re not torn between choosing, you can do both,” Hayden said.
Being open and flexible was important for Hayden and is what he suggests for prospective foster carers.
“I never thought I would have children placed with me permanently, I was happy to go with the flow and make a difference to the lives of any of the children that came into my care,” he said.
We're celebrating our amazing young carers as part of Foster Care Week 2018. Find out more here.
By Belinda Daw