30 Years of FCAV - Alumni stories

30 Years FCAV LogoLong-standing members, staff and Board members reflect on how the out of home care system operated for carers in Victoria through the decades, the improvements that have been made and the challenges that lie ahead as we understand the importance and impact of the Foster Care Association of Victoria as it celebrates its 30 year anniversary.  


The culture and process change that FCAV was charged with advocating for 30 years ago can still be recognised in the challenges we face today, but the successive group of vocal and strident foster carers, staff, board and members of FCAV has led to shifts in the sector and improvements for carers and the children and young people in their care, which would not have happened without the formation of FCAV as a peak body and its individual and collective work.


kh pic1Katie Hooper is former CEO of the Foster Care Association of Victoria - leading the organisation from 2009 until 2019.


Katie’s association with the FCAV began in 2000 when she was a team leader and manager at MacKillop Family Services. The Homebased care team at Mackillop were focusing on engaging carers and focusing on respectful and supportive relationships and, as a part of this, ensuring that carers were engaged with, and represented by, the Foster Care Association of Victoria whenever they required additional support or advocacy.


“In those years there were no paid staff at FCAV, instead it was a dedicated volunteer committee of foster carers who undertook advocacy as carers across Victoria required it. These volunteer advocates would attend meetings with agency staff and managers or the Department to ensure carers voices were heard, their needs considered, and requirements actioned.”


“The volunteer Board of FCAV held AGM’s at the Hawthorn Town Hall and carers from all over Melbourne and Victoria attended. Sandie De Wolf (then Berry Street CEO) and Paul Linossier (then MacKillop Family Services CEO) were significant supports and speakers at these events.”  


“This committee and then the first staff member, Julien Leith, worked closely with Ministers, gained funding for carer celebration events and really put the needs of volunteer carers on the map.

 I spent some time as a volunteer Board member and then in 2009 I took the role of CEO at FCAV.”  


This began a journey of strategic growth and development of initiatives and services that met the needs of foster carers across the State. Katie’s initial focus was to ensure FCAV was able to represent all carers. With a small but growing staff and the engagement of eager students, the FCAV rallied foster care agencies and filled its database, directly connecting foster carers around the state.


“We developed a useful and engaging newsletter which was printed and posted widely. We held compelling AGM’s and continued the carer celebration events. We developed a strategy that ensured all calls the hotline were recorded and themes were collated for advocacy, giving FCAV its mandate. It was the support and commitment that foster carers put into FCAV that gave it strength, credibility and a structure and purpose that the sector and Government listen to and value."


The FCAV as the peak body, provided statewide support and advocacy to all Victorian foster carers. Over the decade FCAV grew from a one-person team to a fully operational series of programs with a team of 13 staff. 


“From there my focus was on developing core operational systems and processes. Once this was established, the next goals were ensuring the organisation’s efficiency and sustainability with the implementation of strategic direction that positioned FCAV as a highly respected body with Government and in the sector, whose input was sought on key foster care policy and program decisions.


“We initiated the first state-wide carer census and facilitated foster carer health, services and wellbeing research projects to establish core foster care data to inform our own advocacy approach as well as provide the evidence-base for foster care needs to the sector colleagues and the Department. We ran Carer Life surveys with pro-bono assistance from McArthur using a satisfaction matrix which gave qualitative data and key analysis of foster care retention and attraction points.


“FCAV worked at advancing the care system by providing accurate information, timely and independent support and ongoing advocacy to carers and to the sector, including Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO’s). This period saw relationships and collaboration with not only the 2000 Victorian member households but also with the 26 agencies and with Government departments. Finally, we were successful in ensuring staff worked on clear project outcomes on significant projects such as Carer KaFE and the statewide support line.”


Over the years the advocacy work of FCAV proferred many successes in foster care support including an increase to the basic care allowance payments, increased funding to the FCAV’s Carer Information Support Service hotline, a full and targeted training and education package for carers, Carer KaFE; the initiation of the Carer Advisory Groups, Carer Handbook and the Foster Care Charter of rights and responsibilities for carers, among them.  


“It was very gratifying when the Victorian Government committed to universal Home Stretch extending care to 21 years of age and FCAV’s part in the advocacy that saw that happen.”


“Some of the initiatives that stick in my mind include the National Conferences we held twice in my time at the helm. Huge events with internationally renowned keynote speakers and over 700 carers in a room. Another is the Caring for Carers Program which was able to provide those tangible benefits that so often carers go without, whether it was a nice lunch with other carers or a small care package or the big on-campus overnight retreats complete with massages and meditation sessions. Those were the times I got to meet and spend quality time with many of our amazing foster carers while they had a well-earned break. I relish those times meeting incredible people.”


“I was very grateful to secure some large grants allowing us to develop our organisational cultural capacity through the Ian Potter Foundation and a Sidney Myer Foundation Grant which gave us greater connectivity and technical capacity in the office. It was a real boon to receive the philanthropic support of companies like L’Oreal, NAB and the ANZ bank which all offered technical, practical ways of better supporting our carers including some wonderful home makeovers and beauty product gifts for carers for a few years there!”


The growth FCAV saw over the 10 years Katie was the CEO culminated in the Carer Strategy, the systematic approach to streamlining future support needs and a mechanism of response to carer’s unique challenges as they provide care for our children and young people in care.


“I’m very pleased and very proud of FCAV’s capacity to reach all Victorian carers where their needs are and provide the extra forums, information, advocacy and support that they need as well as the sector-wide work that FCAV is able to do, ensuring the carer’s voice is heard in how the care system operates and how the children and young people within it are provided for in foster caring households.”


“Carers are the backbone of the Victorian care system.  As a carer myself I know that carers take children and young people into their homes, their families and they love them. The staff at FCAV really believe in what they do and it is this belief and respect for carers, wanting their voice and needs heard, that drives FCAV’s success. Congratulations on a magnificent 30 years FCAV!"


Sandra Creaner