What is the Fostering NSW campaign?
The Fostering NSW campaign is a public awareness campaign and one component of an overarching Foster Care Recruitment and Retention Project being delivered by ACWA. (www.facebook.com/ACWAFosteringNSW) The other component is sector development.
Who is running the campaign?
The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) is running the campaign and has engaged advertising and marketing firm, Ogilvy Australia, to help deliver it.
What are the campaign aims and objectives?
The campaign is designed to support the recruitment efforts of out-of-home care agencies by raising general awareness of foster care, encouraging people to ‘Open Your Heart’ and find out more about becoming a foster carers by visiting the Fostering NSW website or calling the 1800 number.
How will the aims and objectives be achieved?
A high profile public awareness raising campaign has been planned to raise awareness of foster care and maximise all opportunities for publicity. The main campaign elements include:
- Public relations i.e. media stories and events
- Social media i.e. Facebook, twitter and you tube
- An interactive Foster Forum
- Advertising (digital online advertisements and limited print)
- An updated Fostering NSW website and 1800 number
- Supporting activities including local information sessions and engagement opportunities.
How long will the campaign run for?
The campaign will run for one year and has been split into three waves of activity. The first wave will start on 30 May 2013, the second in late August (timings to be confirmed) with the final wave being launched early in 2014.
Are there target audiences?
Specific groups will be targeted as part of the public awareness campaign. The primary target group is women aged between 30 and 50, with secondary target groups being “empty nesters” (especially for short-term and respite care), same sex couples and caring professionals.
Grassroots campaigns aimed at recruiting Aboriginal and CALD carers will commence during the second wave.
Are there specific key messages that agencies should use?
ACWA’s key messages can be found on the campaign micro-site, which is hosted on its website, and agencies are encouraged to use them as a point of reference when developing their own agency and regional campaigns.
Is there an official campaign launch?
Yes. The campaign will be jointly launched by the Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward, and ACWA CEO, Andrew McCallum on 30 May 2013 at Parliament House. AbSec, CREATE, agency representatives and current foster carers have been invited to attend. The launch will also involve a press conference in order to generate further publicity.
Find out more on Fostering NSW’s facebook page:
Most, if not all, children and young people living in out-of-home care (foster care) arrangements have suffered trauma. This may have been abuse and/or neglect prior to their removal from their family of origin and/or other subsequent trauma including that associated with a multiple placement history.
Read all about it on our website http://www.phoenixrising.org.au/main/page_child_trauma.html
The future for many of these children is bleak. Well-documented research identifies an inability to maintain relationships, poor education achievement, criminal involvement, mental health problems, and high levels of addiction/substance abuse as just some of the likely adverse outcomes for these children and young people.
Recent advances in neuro-imaging techniques have resulted in concrete evidence of altered brain development and functioning in children who have suffered trauma, abuse, and neglect. This means that adverse outcomes, previously explained in psychological, emotional, and behavioural terms, are now better understood. For example, certain brain areas may react to chronic stress and/or fear by producing excess hormones, which can destroy neurons and impair functioning.
Additionally, persistent stress or fear is shown to cause activation of certain pathways not normally activated. Such pathways may become sensitised and create memories that automatically trigger the fear response. This explains some children who are hypersensitive to nonverbal cues such as eye contact or a touch on the arm, which they perceive as threatening. See http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/issue_briefs/brain_development/brain_development.pdf for more information.
What can we do?
Timely, targeted, developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed interventions are vital to minimising the long-term adverse effects of such early insults on brain development. It is often important that interventions involve patterned and repetitive activities that are designed to activate the neural pathways necessary for re-organisation. Such activities may include music, movement, and massage. Once improvements have been made at this level, for example an improvement in the child or young person’s ability to self-regulate, it is possible to introduce therapeutic techniques that are more insight and verbally oriented, such as cognitive-behavioural or psychodynamic approaches. See http://www.childtrauma.org/images/stories/Articles/nmt_article_08.pdf
In summary, children in the out-of-home care (foster care) sector require timely access to appropriate therapy interventions in combination with quality case management and care. With this in mind, The Wishing Well was established to provide therapies so these children and young people can recover from the trauma, abuse, and neglect they have suffered, and have the opportunity for happy and productive lives.
Some examples of therapies which are effective in treating children and young people who have suffered trauma, abuse, and neglect include:
- Art Therapy
- Play Therapy
- Massage Therapy
- Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
- Music Therapy
- Heal For Life Camps
- Educational Support, Tutoring, and Remedial Work
- Nutrition Support and Guidance
With around 36,000 children in Australia* living in foster care / out-of-home care, the need to recruit quality and dedicated foster carers has never been greater. Whatever your reason and motivation to join the PRFC team as a foster carer, you can be certain that this is a great opportunity to do something worthwhile for a child or young person in care.
These questions are also available on our website http://www.phoenixrising.org.au/main/page_foster_care.html
What is foster care?
Foster care means caring for a child or young person who cannot live with their family. Although the reasons for family breakdown are varied, some common issues include: family violence, parental substance abuse, mental health, neglect, and abuse. Foster carers are relied upon to open their homes and hearts to offer a safe and nurturing environment for these children for varying lengths of time.
What is the role of the foster carer?
Foster carers are adults who are able to open their homes to foster children and offer them a loving, safe, and nurturing home. As with any parent-child relationship, foster carers are responsible for the day-to-day care of the foster child. This means foster carers, in conjunction with PRFC support, have responsibility for meeting the child’s needs, which include the emotional, physical, psychological, and other needs.
A successful foster carer enjoys working with children and recognises the importance of a stable and nurturing home in the life of a vulnerable child. And, they also recognise the needs and benefits of working closely with PRFC Caseworkers and the children’s natural family.
How do I become a foster carer?
From start to finish, the journey to become a foster carer takes around 2 to 6 months and involves several steps. These steps involve a combination of assessments, information sessions, interviews, training, and background checks.
Typically, the process goes like this:
Step 1: Expression of interest – You contact PRFC and inform us that you are interested in becoming a foster carer. In response, we will send an information pack aimed at providing you with information to help you make an informed choice about becoming a foster carer.
Step 2: Information exchange session and meeting the household – After reading the PRFC information pack and if you remain interested to proceed, we will arrange to meet you in your home to further discuss the process, answer your questions, and meet members of your family.
Step 3: Application – The third step involves completing your application to become a foster carer form and submitting it to PRFC for processing.
Step 4: Assessments – When we receive your application form to become a foster carer, we will be in touch to arrange your assessment appointments (6 sessions of about 2 hours each) and organise dates for foster carer training.
Step 5: Background checks – We will require information for the purpose of carrying out background checks on you and your family. These include: Criminal Record check, Working with Children check, reference checks, and a safety check of your home for potential safety issues relevant to foster caring.
Step 6: Training – You will be required to participate in foster carer training to give you a better understanding of the foster carer role and to equip you with the skills you will need to provide quality care.
Step 7: Approval – Upon completion of the paperwork, checks, and training, we will contact you to discuss the progress of your application to become a foster carer.
Step 8: Placement – Once you have been approved to provide foster care, we will discuss with you the child/children we feel may be suitable placement options for your family.
How long does the process take?
This depends upon individual circumstances and may take between 2 to 6 months.
What do children in foster care need?
In short, children in foster care need a stable, nurturing, and supportive home where they can grow, develop, and learn to become self-sufficient young adults. Many foster children are exposed to challenging life experiences which may include abuse, violence, and neglect. It is vital for foster carers to know and understand the unique needs of these children. As a result of past trauma, foster children may present with an increased need for support, recognition, relationship, and trust building. Foster carers can assist children by taking the time to listen to them and by assisting them to find happiness and balance.
PRFC Caseworkers work closely with foster carers and involve other professionals with expertise to provide therapy and other remedial services to children.
PRFC is focused on providing therapeutic interventions which have been shown to be effective and to work well for children and young people. The PRFC Care Team work closely with foster carers in the provision of these services.
What support is available?
PRFC recognises the importance of foster carers to the happiness and stability of children placed in foster care. PRFC offers comprehensive and ongoing support to ensure foster carers are supported at all times.
We recognise foster carers may experience problems or wish to ask questions at times outside of office hours. PRFC provides foster carers with 24 hour/7 days per week access to an on-call Caseworker.
PRFC personnel regularly visits foster carer families to ensure effective communication, monitor placement progress, and provide support.
Training – PRFC requires foster carers to participate in regular and ongoing training. This is to ensure that foster carers continue to be updated with the latest information and behaviour management skills, and have the opportunity to network with other carers.
Financial assistance – To assist with the daily expenses of raising children, foster carers receive a tax-free fortnightly allowance (the amount depending on the age and needs of the child/children in care). These payments do not affect other government allowances the foster carer may receive.
Can I choose the ages of the children I wish to foster?
Yes. Foster carers can choose the age range and gender of the child/children they bring into their home. This is important for various reasons, including carer capacity and other children living at home. There are guidelines and practices as to what works best and these are discussed during the initial assessment process.
What are the types of foster care placements?
Depending on the needs of the child and the foster carer’s ability, a foster carer may be called upon to provide a variety of care types for children living in out-of-home.
While there are categories for placement arrangements, these are fluid, and sometimes with the agreement of all parties the care category may change to benefit the child.
Care arrangements include:
(a) Emergency Placements – as the name explains, emergency placements typically are expected to be for a few nights whilst a more permanent solution is put in place.
(b) Respite Care Placements – respite care is used to give families or foster carers a break from caring duties by allowing foster children to spend a few days each month with another family. This could be a one-off event, or occur on a regular basis, depending on the circumstances and the needs of the foster carers.
(c) Short Term Placements – lasts anything from 6 months to 12 months and is geared towards restoration of the child to their natural families.
(d) Long Term Placements – provides children with a permanent living arrangement with one foster family until the foster child is able to live independently as an adult (usually age 18).
How long do children stay in foster care?
Depending on the child and their circumstances, a child may reside in foster care for a few nights each month (Respite Care) or until they reach the age of 18 years (Long Term Care). This does not preclude the child from continuing to reside with the foster care household beyond the age of 18.
Who can become a foster carer?
PRFC accepts potential foster carers from varied backgrounds. They may be single, married, in a same-sex relationship, living on a farm, or in a city apartment, working, studying, unemployed, or in paid work, etc. We accept applications from potential foster carers from age 21 years.
Do I need a big house to become a foster carer?
No. Whether you rent a tiny apartment in the city, or live in a mansion in the country, PRFC will work with you to decide a suitable placement type for your home. And, whilst the living arrangements vary, foster carers will be required to offer a foster child / groups of sibling children (age dependent) a room of their own to ensure the children are given privacy and space to allow them to feel comfortable and able to settle into your home.
Can I become a foster carer if my own children live at home?
Yes. Provided you have discussed the situation with your own children – and they are agreeable, you can foster children whilst having your own children at home.
Can I apply to become a foster carer if I have a criminal record?
Yes, you can still apply. Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from becoming a foster carer. Clearly, child-related and serious offences will prohibit you from working with children, but for most offences, you will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. PRFC caseworkers will weigh up such factors as: the nature of the offence/s you committed, the length of time since offending, and certain other features.
What financial support do foster carers receive?
To help with the daily expenses of raising a child, PRFC foster carers are paid a fortnightly allowance for outgoings such as food, clothing, the child’s education, and other activities. The exact amount of money is determined by the age and needs of the child/children in care. Note also, as foster care allowances are not treated as income, it will not affect existing government payments you may currently receive.
Do foster children have contact with their birth parents?
Yes, unless contact with parents or significant other family members is considered contrary to the child’s best interests. It is well established that children significantly benefit from maintaining connection with their natural families.
Maintaining a connection may involve various contact arrangements, however the usual way children in foster care maintain contact is through regularly scheduled and meaningful contact visits with their parents / families which are often supervised. The regularity of such visits is often determined by Court Order but there are exceptions to this.
Do foster carers meet the birth parents of the children they foster?
Each case is assessed on its own merits. Foster parents often at some stage meet their foster child’s natural parents. This may occur at a Case Conference or other activity including placement assessment.
PRFC Caseworkers will seek to promote a positive working relationship between foster carers and the birth parents. In certain circumstances, PRFC (following assessment) may determine that a face-to-face meeting between the foster carers and child’s natural parents is not in the child’s best interest. In these circumstances a meeting is avoided.
Whilst each case is different, PRFC Caseworkers find that biological parents are often appreciative when they discover their child/children are placed with a caring and committed family.
Will the child’s parents be given my name and address?
Sometimes. The level of disclosure of personal details about the foster care family is subject to an in-depth risk assessment conducted by PRFC Caseworkers, and involving members of the PRFC Care Team, including the foster care family and others. The outcome is discussed with the foster carer family before any disclosure is made.
The level of disclosure may involve generic information to more detailed information which depends on each individual case. Birth parents may be provided with their child’s placement details (i.e. your suburb, the child’s school details, etc) unless PRFC determines this is contrary to the child / carer’s best interest. During the initial placement assessment, foster carers will be included in this decision-making process and you will have a say in whether your details are to be released to the parents.
What happens if the child and I do not get along?
Although the option remains for the child to move to another placement, research clearly shows that children are significantly affected by placement changes whilst in care.
To ensure placements are given the best chance of succeeding, PRFC foster care families are given around the clock support and access to support services to help families stay intact. We recognise the importance of quality and effective therapeutic interventions for children in foster care and will seek to explore these and other options before moving a child. However, there are exceptions and matters which will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
* Australian Government – Australian Institute of Family Studies 2011
Phoenix Rising For Children (PRFC) was founded in 2001 to provide quality out-of-home care (foster care) to children and young people. PRFC was established by qualified and caring individuals with expertise and a clear awareness of the outcomes for children in foster care, and a significant commitment to see quality outcomes for such children and young people.
Meet the team at our website http://www.phoenixrising.org.au/main/page_the_team.html
Soon after establishment, PRFC participated in the accreditation process with the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCCG). This newly introduced legislation required agencies in New South Wales providing out-of-home care (foster care) for children and young people, to be accredited.
PRFC was one of the first agencies accredited in New South Wales to provide foster care and was recently re-accredited to provide foster care and supported out-of-home care for a further 5 years. We have grown at a pace which has allowed us to maintain a quality approach to the services we provide for children, young people and families, within and outside the care sector.
PRFC personnel work closely with an expanding field staff, providing a flexible work environment. Our focus is on recruiting foster carers with the potential to provide a high standard of quality care. We recruit personnel with commitment and capacity to make a positive contribution to the services we provide.
We have a focus on training and support for our staff and foster carers, who comprise our Care Team. We have a flexible approach to new ideas and we pro-actively respond to perceived challenges and opportunities.