Manifesto & Advocacy

Priorities for the Foster Care Association of Victoria are directly informed by foster carer’s experiences in providing care to the children in their homes. As the peak body representing foster carers in Victoria, the FCAV continues to champion change through government working groups and independent review processes which aim to target areas for improvement. While foster care in this state is still under-resourced and lacking in certainty for foster carers and the children in their care, progress is evident in some critical areas, as we see attention and funding being paid to the calls for improvement foster carers have been making through the FCAV for many years (see FCAV Media Releases).

 

This is the Current Claims for Improvement Manifesto (30 June 2017)

 ManifestoJune2017

Dec 2016 Manifesto 

July 2016 Manifesto

May 2016 Manifesto 

 

Advocacy in detail 

The State-wide Client Support Funding Framework

 

The FCAV has sought clarity and process flexibility for carers to access resources to cover medical, educational and therapeutic cost deficits identified by the Foster Care Estimates. [1] Save Foster Care, http://savefostercare.org.au/about

 

On 1 July 2016 the DHHS introduced a new Client Support Funding Framework. The framework ensures a more consistent approach to providing additional financial support to help carers meet the needs of children and young people in their care. Client support funding is additional funding that carers may be eligible to access to help cover costs for extraordinary expenses. This includes the purchase of specific items or services that exceed the day-to-day costs of what the carer allowance contributes to or to assist with high costs that place an unreasonable financial burden on the carer.

 

The framework follows the introduction of a new simplified care allowance rate structure on 1 January 2016. Consolidated guidelines for care allowances and client support funding will be available from 1 September 2016 to make it easier to identify and access the full range of financial supports available for carers.

For more information on client support funding and support for home-based carers in Victoria visit www.dhs.vic.gov.au/carersupport.

 

The FCAV still calls for a further:

 

  • An increase of $88 per week, per child to the foster and kinship carer reimbursement to meet parity with other states and cover the basic costs of caring for children, per Foster Care Estimates

 

  • Improved access to training and therapeutic support

 

Permanency for Children Changes

 

The FCAV's Carer and Information Support Service has heard time and again from carers that they need more clarity and improvements to the process for the conversion of foster care placements to permanent care.

Changes to Child Protection case planning and Children’s Court orders to provide children with timely outcomes came into effect on 1 March 2016. As transition progresses, a legislative review is being undertaken by the Commissioner for Children and Young People and FCAV is engaged to participate on behalf of Foster carers. We will await findings of this review to ensure effectiveness and clarity for foster carers who are converting to becoming permanent carers. These amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 were made to provide timelier decision-making by Child Protection and the Children’s Court about a child’s ongoing care arrangements, and to give permanency for a child more prominence in decisions being made from an earlier stage. Permanency is about a child having an ongoing care arrangement that keeps them safe and gives them a sense of certainty. All children who were subject to a Children’s Court order that changed on 1 March 2016, transitioned to the new order from that day. As case plans are prepared and reviewed, they will be aligned with the new orders.  Each case plan will now have a permanency objective. For most children in Out of Home Care, the permanency objective will be family reunification: to return to the care of a parent. However, for a small group of children, a permanent or long-term kinship or other home-based care placement will be needed to provide for their safety and wellbeing. Knowing the permanency objective will help children and carers with the direction of planning for the child’s future. Carers contribute to case planning by providing agency and Child Protection staff with information about the child, and by participating in care team meetings and case planning discussions. 

 

Another notable change is that cultural planning is now required for all Aboriginal children in Out of Home Care from the time they first enter care, and not just children who were previously under guardianship orders.  The 2016-17 state Budget includes $5.3 million over two years for a new model of cultural support. In the interim, until the new program commences, care teams have a vital role to play in preparing a cultural plan for each Aboriginal child in care, with assistance from Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. These plans will help maintain a child’s Aboriginal identity and connection to their Aboriginal community and culture.

 

Carers wanting to provide children with a permanent home were also concerned that their child may have additional needs, sometimes as a result of past trauma. Funding has been provided to support children in new and existing permanent care placements where needs, not covered by the usual carer allowances or existing sources of funding, are identified. $1 million is allocated through Child Protection to support placements at the time a permanent care order is made. A further $1 million is being managed by OzChild in partnership with Permanent Care and Adoptive Families.

 

The 2016-17 Budget includes an additional $10.6 million over two years to provide a helpline for permanent carers and increase the number of flexible support packages available. This will significantly augment the support and financial assistance available to permanent carers.

The funding can be used to cover additional expenses carers incur, not covered by the usual carer allowances or existing sources of funding, such as providing therapy, accessing services to address additional educational, health and medical needs, assisting with contact between parents, siblings, and family members, preserving cultural identity, and costs related to respite care and child care. If you are an existing permanent carer and want further information, please contact Permanent Care and Adoptive Families on :(03) 9020 1833 or by email on: info@pcafamilies.org.au.

 

Quality of Care Review

 

In the rare instances where a Quality of Care (allegation of abuse) occurs against a foster carer, it can be a really difficult process. FCAV has championed a review of the QoC process and made clear that the process as it is currently conducted, damages foster carer’s goodwill regardless of the outcome of the allegation. We are pleased that a review of QoC is being established with the DHHS. The review process will involve a sector reference group and a consultative process with carers.

 

The DHHS review of the Guidelines for Quality of Care commenced on 5 July 2016 with FCAV participating on the Project Advisory Group.

The review will address:

 

  • A review of the guidelines for responding to and managing quality of care concerns

 

  • A review of the efficacy of the 28 working day timeframe for the completion of all quality of care matters

 

  • Development of an investigative framework for the management of allegations of abuse and/or poor quality of care

 

Roadmap for Reform

 

FCAV continues to influence the Minister’s reform platform, the Roadmap for Reform, having input in a number of ways. 

http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/about-the-department/plans,-programs-and-projects/projects-and-initiatives/roadmap-for-reform-strong-families,-safe-children

 

 

Marilyn McHugh: Supporting Foster and Kinship Carers: Levels of Remuneration for Carers

 

Australia has 9,900 foster carer households and 13,700 relative/kinship households caring for 43,400 children in out-of-home care. Given the higher number of children in care, compared to carers, it is not surprising that over half (52%) of all foster care households have multiple placements (2-4 foster children) compared to 39% of relative/kinship households. A range of financial and non-financial supports are required to support and sustain placements, prevent carer burnout and the breakdown of placements. An important component of financial support is carer remuneration (i.e. care allowance/subsidy). Ongoing difficulties in carer recruitment/retention, and the increasing costs of children, suggests it is appropriate to consider the current levels of carer allowances provided by the eight jurisdictions and discuss how levels compare to current Foster Care Estimates (FCEs). The FCEs, based on the costs of children not in care, are adjusted to reflect estimates of the day-to-day costs of caring for children in different age groups. The ongoing absence of a national framework setting levels of subsidies fails to ensure adequacy and equity for all carers. This paper looks at the state of play and how, in relation to remuneration, carers in the various States are faring in relation to the FCEs.

 

To see Marilyn McHugh's presentation slides from the Shine A Light Conference click here