This Foster Care Week we join in the call for carers to be supported with the basics such as birth certificates and Medicare cards, to be unburdened by the financial pressure to pay for health and education expenses that aren’t covered by the care allowance.
Putting Children First
While National Child Protection Week is celebrating 30 years of putting children first, putting children first has been part of the fabric at OzChild for nearly 170 years.
Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) is one such program which is putting NSW children first in order to better protect them. The empirically proven program is ‘breaking the cycle’ for children who have previously bounced around the welfare system.
“We all have a role to play when it comes to looking after our kids. If that means caring for a child for a short time so they can return to their family then that’s what we do,” says OzChild’s TFCO Carer Recruiter & Trainer Amanda McGill.
And that’s exactly the idea with TFCO. This successful program places children and young people with a specially trained TFCO foster carer for around nine months and was developed as an alternative to residential placements for children and young people with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties.
At the end of the placement, the child or young person is reunified with their biological family (including kinship carers) or placed in lower intensity long-term foster care.
And it’s working. Amanda has seen how successful the model is, having supported carers through the program which has seen eight children and young people graduate in NSW, reuniting with family or being placed in long-term foster care since the program’s inception 18 months ago.
“These kids have been constantly let down by adults, put in the too hard basket for too long without the root of the problem being identified. In some cases, this may be undiagnosed intellectual disabilities, even trauma that has not been addressed. At the end of the day what they really needed was a program that puts their needs first, a program like TFCO,” says Amanda.
TFCO in NSW is a targeted intervention for children and young people aged 7-18 who exhibit complex and extreme behaviours that impact on their ability to live in family-based arrangements. These children have often experienced multiple placement breakdowns. TFCO helps them return to a stable, family environment.
TFCO is putting children first in order to better protect them by focusing on five key areas:
- A consistent, reinforcing environment with mentoring and encouragement
- Daily structure with clear expectations and specific consequences
- A high level of supervision
- Limited access to negative peer influences along with access to prosocial peers
- An environment that supports daily school attendance and homework completion.
In Victoria, the growth in OOHC is the fastest in the nation – a grim reality for the state which has endured the harshest and longest lockdowns. With more than 45,000 children already in OOHC across Australia, an additional 4,500 children are estimated to enter OOHC because of the pandemic – put simply, we do not have enough carers.
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