Home Based Care
WHAT IS FOSTER CARE
Foster care is the provision of temporary care of a child or young person up to 18 years of age, within a home based setting, by an accredited and trained foster carer. Children or young people can be in foster care for a few nights, weeks or years, depending on the circumstances. Children may be any age, culture or religious background, may have special needs or may need to be placed with their siblings.
Foster carers come from all walks of life, they can be singles, married or de facto couples, or same sex couples. A wide range of foster carers are needed with different skills, strengths and locations to match children’s needs.
Foster carers are provided with extensive training and assessment prior to being approved. They are required to undergo a police check and also a Working With Children Check and Medical Check. Foster carers may provide long term care, short term care or periodic respite care.
TYPES OF FOSTER CARE
When a child or young person is at immediate risk of abuse or neglect or likely to be if action is not taken, Protective Services and Police may take emergency action to protect a child or young person. UnitingCare Gippsland is funded to provide placement of children which is required as a result of Protective Services intervention. These children will be subject to an Order from the Children’s court and are deemed as requiring an out of home care placement. These placements are termed Statutory and constitute the majority of home based care placements with the agency.
UnitingCare Gippsland is funded to provide short and long term care through a Voluntary approach by parents and guardians. The parent of a child may enter into a written agreement with UnitingCare Gippsland to place the child in care for the purpose of supporting the child or the child’s parents. This agreement does not affect the guardianship and custody of the child. If the agreement concerns a young person over the age of 15 years, it must be done with the young persons signed consent as well as the parents or guardians. UnitingCare Gippsland, the carer or the parent / guardian may revoke an agreement at any time. When this happens, a child must be returned to the care of their parents / guardian unless emergency action to protect the child has taken place and a Court order has been obtained which would make the placement statutory.
These placements will differ to statutory placements in that;
- The child’s parents may transport their child/ren to and from the carer’s home.
- The carer will be provided with detailed information regarding the child or young person.
- The carer will received a signed copy of the Child Care Agreement prior to the placement commencing.
- Parents or guardians must provide UCG with three emergency contacts under a voluntary placement.
- The placement may be ended at any time by the carer or parent / guardian.
- The parent / guardian must be provided with the carers name, address and contact details.
Respite care is provided by approved carers for brief periods such as weekends, holidays or set days each month. Respite care may be provided by family members, carers or by other agencies. Respite care should be planned and included as part of the best interest plan. As part of planning, the child or young person’s views and their involvement in the decision making process should occur. Respite care is also available to families who do not have Protective Services involvement. The families may contact an agency directly and the agency will assess and determine the suitability of respite care and this will form a Child Care Agreement
LEVELS OF COMPLEXITY FOR PLACEMENTS
Level’s of complexity will vary and it is recognised that some children and young people will place a greater demand on carers and the community service organisations supporting the placement and therefore DHS have established three levels of intensity of home based care; General, Intensive and Complex. This does not provide a definitive tool for ‘classifying’ children according to three levels of complexity, however, acts as a guide to assist Community Service Organisations and Department of Human Services in discussion around matching client complexity to placements.
Home Based Care General
A home based care model that provides placements for children and young people up to 18 years of age who are unable to live with their families due to issues of abuse or neglect, or where the parent(s) are unable to care for the child or young person for a short period of time due to illness or significant family circumstances.
Home Based Care Intensive
Home based care for children or young people with intensive needs up to the age of 18 years. There additional needs may be behavioural, emotional or physical and are significantly greater than those of children in general home based care. Carers who care for these children are given additional training, reimbursement and support.
Home Based Care Complex
Usually one to one care for children and young people aged seven to 18 years with very high, complex needs where intensive placements have been inappropriate or unsuccessful because of the child or young person’s challenging behaviours or additional needs. This is a small proportion of children who are in care and they have extremely high needs and a range of behaviours requiring more specialised care and support. Carers for these children or young people are given additional training, reimbursement and support.
Home Based Care Circle
The circle program seeks to create a healing environment using the child’s relationship and their carer and the care provided as the primary vehicle through which healing can occur. Actively supporting the child to maintain their relationship with their family is equally important. Carers in the Circle program will receive active planned and regular support from placement workers and the therapeutic specialists. The children and young people who will be placed in the Circle Program will be allocated on referrals received by Anglicare Victoria and UnitingCare Gippsland. Two thirds of the places will be for children entering care for the first time. One third of places are for children who have been in care for less than two years and a new placement is required.
WHAT ARE THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN WHO USE FOSTER CARE?
Children and young people who need care have their own special qualities and needs. It is likely that they will have been under a lot of stress at home. They may have experienced harm or are at risk of harm. Sometimes the past experiences of children and young people contribute to emotional or behavioural difficulties. Children and young people who are placed in foster care do not always fully understand why they have had to leave home and they are often confused. They may also express their feelings about separation and loss in ways that seem hard to understand. The sense of belonging is important to all of us and particularly so for children in care who may not have had a positive experience of this in the past. Children and young people who are placed in foster care may feel sensitive about being in foster care and their feelings may be mixed – they may feel disloyal to their parent(s). All feelings need to be treated seriously and with consideration. A UnitingCare Gippsland Home Based Care Fieldworker is always available to talk things over with you.
CONTACT BETWEEN CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS
It is important to maintain continuity of all relationships in a foster child’s life to help them feel safe and loved. These include relationships with foster families, friends, role models and other family members.
It is widely recognised that maintaining contact between children and their biological parents and siblings is the most important factor influencing outcomes for children in foster care. This contact is a key factor in the development of children’s identities and resilience, and their perceptions of security and stability. It also prepares them for being reunited with their birth families.
Foster carers may find contact challenging when they have mixed feelings towards the biological parents or feel the biological parents resent them. They may also feel uncomfortable if children have mixed feelings about their biological parents, or develop conflicts of loyalty between their foster and biological parents. A UnitingCare Gippsland Home Based Care Fieldworker is always available to talk things over with you and develop strategies for managing these feelings.
SUPPORT FOR CAREGIVERS OFFERED BY THE AGENCY
UnitingCare Gippsland values their foster carers and their families and are committed to supporting carers in a variety of ways. The supports offered include:
- initial and ongoing training
- casework support including regular visits and carer supervision
- 24 hour telephone support
- contact with other carers to develop a support network
You will never be alone in caring for a child or young person and you will receive ongoing support in your role. Social events organized by UnitingCare Gippsland can also provide a good source of support through networking with other foster carers.
Foster carers receive a fortnightly caring allowance or reimbursement, which is a contribution toward the costs of caring for the child or young person placed with them. It covers items such as:
- food, clothing, household provisions,
- gifts, pocket money, entertainment
- other everyday costs of caring for a child
Respite carers receive the allowance in proportion to the amount of time they provide care for a child or young person.
The allowance is not considered a payment for caring and it is not a source of income. It is a reimbursement toward the real costs of providing care. The fortnightly reimbursement is not subject to tax and should not be cited as income for any purpose, such as yearly tax returns, applications for Federal Government allowances and benefits, or when applying for loans from financial institutions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Becoming a carer is a serious decision for any family. It is a commitment that should not be made without prior discussion with your partner, your children or any other significant people in your life. Here are some questions you may like to ask:
- What other stresses are there on our family at the current time?
- Is this a good time to invite new challenges?
- How would we cope with the uncertainty of the length of stay of children in our care?
- How would we cope if a child or young person placed in our home has difficult or out-of-the-ordinary behaviours?
- Can we cope with a child or a young person returning to the care of their parents when we feel that they may not provide the same standard of care that we have?
- How will our family adjust to the addition of other members? What changes, compromises or sacrifices will need to be made? Is everyone prepared to make these changes?
- If in a relationship – is our relationship strong enough at this time for us to work as a team and support one another?
- If single – have I considered the lifestyle changes and loss of privacy associated with sharing my home with a child or young person?
REWARDS & CHALLENGES
Rewards of being a carer
- Helping to keep children and young people safe
- Helping children and young people to reach their full potential
- Helping parents to develop new ways of relating to their children
- Using your skills and life experiences for the benefit of others
- Enhancing your own parenting skills and knowledge
- Being a highly valued and contributing member of a caring team
- Expanding your social and personal contacts
Challenges of being a carer
- Managing your own children’s feelings about sharing you, their home and their lives
- Responding to children’s behaviours that you may not have previously experienced
- Being able to say goodbye to children when they leave to return to their families
- Feeling confident that children will be safe when they leave your care
- Finding space in your life for yourself when so many demands will be made on your time and energy
- Being able to persevere when the observable changes may be small or nonexistent
- Sharing the decision making for the children placed with you
WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD A FOSTER CARER HAVE
The following are qualities that ensure children and young people receive a positive foster care experience:
- tolerance, flexibility and a non-judgemental approach
- an ability to care for children and young people from a variety of backgrounds
- maintaining a stable and balanced lifestyle
- emotionally and physically able to manage any difficulties or set-backs
- loving, kind, caring and respectful to children and young people
- able to balance the needs of the child in care with the needs of their own family
- mature and able to understand the individual needs of children who are experiencing grief following their separation from their parents
- able to take an unknown child into their care
- ensures the children in their care are protected from potential dangers
- sets boundaries and house-rules to help children feel secure
- has a well developed personal support network
- is able to help a child maintain their connection to significant people
- accepts involvement and support from UnitingCare Gippsland and Department of Human Services
- is able to work as part of a support team with professionals.
HOW TO BECOME A FOSTER CARER WITH UNITINGCARE GIPPSLAND
As part of the assessment process for becoming a foster carer, you will be required to complete a number of screening checks, including health checks, referee checks, a home and environment check, Police checks and Working with Children’s Checks. Other people over 18 years of age of living in your household need to have Police check and in some circumstances may also need a Working with Children’s Check.
Carers must also undertake Shared Stories, Shared Lives Training which is the first step of preparation to be an effective foster carer. It briefly touches on a number of issues, many of which need to be explored in more depth in specialised training to equip foster carers to do their job well. Carers must also complete the Circle Program Training, this training builds on the basic caregiver training and informs carers about therapeutic approaches to caring for children.
Whether you are an experienced carer or new to the role, everyone can benefit from learning more about being a carer.
Ongoing learning assists you to:
- feel more confident in your role
- access valuable support networks and other carers
- gain knowledge and skills to help care for children and young people with special or particular needs
- feel better prepared to care for children and young people who have experienced trauma and change
- avoid burnout so you can continue caring for yourself and the children and young people in your care.
HOW TO APPLY
We welcome your interest in assisting and supporting Gippsland’s most vulnerable children and young people and invite you to complete our registration form by clicking here.
We can then organise a Carer Enquiry Interview with our training and recruitment officer which takes about ½ hour to discuss your interest in becoming an approved carer.
For further information please contact Fostering Connections on 1800 013088 or visit their website www.fosteringconnections.com.au