Through Elijah’s eyes: the best things about his Teaching Family Model home

For children who have experienced significant and repeated trauma, traditional out-of-home care (such as foster and residential care) doesn’t always provide the right support. Berry Street is implementing a new, proven model of care to reimagine the future for our most vulnerable children: the Teaching Family Model (TFM).

TFM is an evidence-based, alternative approach to traditional residential care. It offers an innovative way of caring for children and young people in a family-style setting. TFM practitioners provide children with trauma-informed care, help them learn important interpersonal and living skills, and how to better manage their emotions.

Continue reading “Through Elijah’s eyes: the best things about his Teaching Family Model home”

Considerations for supporting children, carers & families during remote contact visits

In these uncertain times, it’s understandable that carers may be feeling elevated concerns about how to manage the changing expectations of contact with family members. As a therapeutic service, Take Two offers this guidance in managing the heightened emotions and thoughts of children in the out-of-home care (OOHC) system in these times. We also provide a list of some free video calling apps and programs that might be suitable to use.

Continue reading “Considerations for supporting children, carers & families during remote contact visits”

Caring for children in out-of-home care during the COVID-19 outbreak

Communities around the world are feeling the impacts of COVID-19. And for anyone who has suffered trauma or lives with anxiety normally, it’s an even more difficult time.

For families with children – especially children who are in out-of-home care – spending weeks at home without any school or other group activities will likely be pretty tough at times.

Over the coming weeks, Berry Street’s Take Two service will be providing resources to help families with children who have experienced developmental trauma to support and manage their wellbeing.

Continue reading “Caring for children in out-of-home care during the COVID-19 outbreak”

The longest relationship

Children in out-of-home care often have uniquely strong sibling relationships. This article looks at some of the reasons siblings are separated and ways sibling relationships can be maintained and nurtured while children are in out-of-home care.

By Dr. Trish McCluskey, Berry Street

Almost all of us have one, or more. Sometimes we wish we hadn’t and then we cannot imagine our lives without them. Remember primary school? We fight with them, they fight with us and then we fight for them.

Siblings: our closest genetic relative, our soulmates, rivals for parental affections, the keepers of our unembellished history.

For children in out-of-home care and indeed for all of us, our siblings are usually the longest relationship of our lives. Sometimes these are close and loving relationships and other times they are not. Interestingly even fraught sibling relationships can often be repaired and research shows siblings being identified as major supports as we get older.

Why then do sibling relationships seem to be so underestimated and overlooked for children in foster, kinship or residential care? Continue reading “The longest relationship”

Save Foster Care campaign

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During Foster Care Week, we are focusing on the #SaveFosterCare campaign, a collaboration between Berry Street and the Foster Care Association of Victoria. We are working together in the lead up to the State election to save the foster care system. We are calling on the State Government and the Opposition to increase reimbursement rates for carers.

Foster carers willingly open their hearts and their homes to thousands of Victorian children and young people. They deserve to be supported.

More and more foster carers are leaving the system each year due to the financial stress. The gap between reimbursements to foster households and the actual costs associated with caring for foster children continues to widen, placing significant stress on families.

The facts:

  • 616 foster carers left the Victorian system in the last year, while only 442 new carers could be recruited. It’s the third year in a row the Victorian system has lost more foster carers than it’s gained.
  • Foster carers in Victoria still receive the lowest reimbursements in Australia, estimated to be over $5,000 less than it costs to care for a ten year old every year. This financial stress leaves many carers struggling to continue.
  • At the same time, reports to Child Protection are increasing and many more vulnerable young children are being placed into Residential Care. Residential Care is an extremely important service but is not the right option for every child, particularly very young children who would benefit more from a home environment.

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The financial cost of fostering is deterring as many as 60% of potential foster carers.

Berry Street and FCAV are calling on the State Government to increase reimbursements to carers, and provide them with a simple, fair system.

The time to act is now.

Visit www.savefostercare.org.au to voice your support and help vulnerable children.

Spread the word and help the #SaveFosterCare campaign create change!

Post written by: Skye Doyle, Media & Communications Officer, Berry Street

2013 CREATE Report Card: Experiencing Out-of-Home Care in Australia

Presented 110814 456_1by Claudia Whitton, Policy and Research Manager and Audra McHugh, Policy Officer at CREATE.

This session provided an overall summary of the CREATE Report Card which collects the experiences of young people living in out-of-home care. The full report is available to download online.

The CREATE Report Card is a survey that is completed online and is open to all young people living in care between the ages of 8 and 17. The survey intends to hear as many young people as possible and present their experiences to those working the sector. Alongside gaining key statistics on care in Australia, the report also gives an understanding of what makes a good care placement.

83% of children overall say that they are “quite” or “very” happy in their current placement. 75% feel as though they are treated exactly the same as other young people.

A big part of having a good placement is concentrating on relationship building. Key to relationship building is in the difference between a child in care being able to speak freely, and feeling as though someone will listen when he or she speaks. Giving the kids a voice, allowing them to take part in and gain a deeper understanding of their care planning leads to those plans being executed more effectively.

What CREATE hopes for in the future is an increase in the engagement of young people in the plans made about their lives, particularly the transitioning from care plans. With stronger involvement in their life decisions, young people in care are able to transition out of care and live more independently.

Child protection is everybody’s business…we all have an opportunity to improve the lives of young people in care

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Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Kinship Care: the mainstream out of home care

In 2010 kinshipshutterstock_71181379 care overtook foster care as the predominant form of out-of-home care in Victoria. Children are usually happier in kinship care, but is it always the best choice? That’s the question Meredith Kiraly asked.

Kinship carers are usually poorer, older and in a poorer state of health than other foster carers. The majority of kinship carers are the grandparents of the children they care for, and often they take on children because they can’t turn down their own family.

But is love enough?

Meredith says that while love is obviously important, there also needs to be safety and wellbeing in care scenarios.

Kinship care assessment is far less rigorous than foster care assessment, often involving little more than a police check. It’s based on the assumption that carers and children already share a close relationship, but this is not always the case. Given that less than 1% of people who engage in acts of child molestation have a criminal record, there are questions over whether this assessment is adequate.

Meredith told the story of an infant girl who was in stable foster care. She was moved to live with her grandparents prior to initial assessment. Further assessment was delayed for months after she was placed with her grandparents, and warning signs – minor cuts and bruises, were ignored. A year later she was admitted to hospital unconscious with a head injury, it was not until this point that she was returned to foster care. In this child’s situation, there was no urgency, she was in stable foster care to begin with, so why was she moved before proper assessment was made?shutterstock_108866654

Meredith indicated that more extensive assessment of kinship carers is needed to ensure that kinship care provides a safe, stable and nurturing environment for children. Do you agree?

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Young people transitioning from out of home care in VIC

Associate Professor Philip Mendes
Associate Professor Philip Mendes

“Young people with disabilities are facing huge challenges when leaving Out of Home Care.”

On Friday, the second day of the conference, Associate Professor Philip Mendes from Monash University presented the findings of a study into this transitional period.

Philip said his study confirmed that young people leaving care are more vulnerable to poorer outcomes. He drew comparisons with the wider community, highlighting many young people don’t leave the homes of their parents until they are aged 25 and of those who do leave home by 18, a large portion continue to receive some sort of support from their family.

This is in stark contrast to young people with disabilities who are leaving Out of Home Care at age 18 and are often not ready to be fully independent for a variety of reasons.

There is minimal research about how many young people are in care, or what types of disabilities they live with, but it appears there is an over representation of children with a disability.

The findings of the study concluded:

  • Young people with disabilities are not experiencing planned transitions from care and are not receiving the care they need.
  • Young people are sometimes transitioned into aged care facilities.
  • The system is crisis driven.
  • Inadequate funding results in a lack of accommodation options and support services for young people with disabilities.
  • Young people’s participation in their leaving care plan is hampered by the lack of resources and services.
  • The sudden transition from statutory children’s services to voluntary adult disability services is problematic for some young people.

“After transitioning from care, young people with disabilities should have ongoing monitoring and support”

Associate Professor Philip Mendes

Philip continued to explain the situation for young people with undiagnosed disabilities, borderline disabilities and mental illness was also dire. They ‘fall through the net’ and are often left worse off than those with significant diagnosed disability.

“The most common type of disability is mental illness and yet young people with mental illness are not eligible for disability services,” he said.

Philip’s presentation highlighted how a sector that is underfunded is not providing the level of care and support a vulnerable group of people need. The process of leaving out-of-home care is fraught with difficulties, as one can imagine.

Perhaps the most important finding from Philip’s study:

“After transitioning from care, young people with disabilities should have ongoing monitoring and support”

For more information on how young people are affected, read this great article from The Age on Chantelle’s story of leaving care with a mental illness.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.