Being aware of available supports can be crucial for a successful caring relationship. These supports may include:
- emotional support
- physical and practical support
- financial support
- education and learning
- problem-solving support
- cultural support
- community support
- social support.
Supervision and support
Kinship carers may initially require support from the child or young person’s child protection worker to assist in managing their care needs. You should discuss with the child or young person’s child protection worker what support and resources you require, which may include financial or other types of support.
Where kinship care placements have been made and case management remains with child protection, child protection workers are responsible for supervision and support of the placement. For Aboriginal children who are subject to a protection order, an authorised Aboriginal agency may provide child protection services instead of child protection.
Where case management is contracted to an agency, you should speak to the agency case manager about the support available.
Supervision and support in kinship care placements is provided by child protection, a community service organisation or ACCO.
Victorian kinship care services
The Victorian Government funds community-based kinship care services and Aboriginal kinship services across Victoria, to provide a range of cultural and support services for children and young people in kinship care and their families in the area close to where they live.
ACCOs are funded to provide kinship and cultural connections services, and to facilitate and coordinate Aboriginal kinship carer support and healing groups.
A list of kinship care service providers is available on the department’s website at https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/kinship-care
Kinship Carers Victoria
Kinship Carers Victoria is the peak body for kinship carers in Victoria. You can contact Kinship Carers Victoria for information, advice and support on (03) 9372 2422, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://kinshipcarersvictoria.org/.
The Mirabel Foundation
The Mirabel Foundation assists children and young people who have been orphaned or abandoned due to parental illicit drug use and are now in the care of extended family. Mirabel provides advocacy, referral, research, practical and emotional assistance to vulnerable children and young people and their kinship carers.
Permanent Care and Adoptive Families
Permanent Care and Adoptive Families provides peer support, advocacy, education and support services to ensure better outcomes for children and young people in kinship care, permanent care and adoption.
Kinship carer support groups
Kinship carer support groups operate in various locations across Victoria. Usually, there is at least one provided by each community service organisation funded by the Victorian Government to provide kinship services. The frequency of these groups may vary, but all groups have the common aim of sharing information and support for kinship carers.
If you are a new carer, attending a support group is highly recommended. They are great for learning about other services and information available to support your role and the child or young person you care for.
Many carers report that these groups make them feel part of a wider network and reduce the sense of isolation that can accompany this challenging role. They also report feeling supported, connected and ‘heard’, as they are able to share experiences with and learn from other carers. The structure of the meetings may vary, but all are informal and welcoming, sometimes with guest speakers.
To find your nearest support group, contact Kinship Carers Victoria on (03) 9372 2422.
Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services
The Victorian Government funds community-based organisations across the state to deliver Child and Family Information, Referral and Support (Child FIRST) and Integrated Family Services for vulnerable children, young people and their families from diverse backgrounds and family compositions. This includes kinship families.
There are 22 Child FIRSTs across the state. Each Child FIRST provides a central intake and referral point to a range of community-based family services and other supports. Child FIRST provides a clear pathway for families to access relevant family services and support, based on their needs.
Referrals in relation to Aboriginal children and families can be made directly to an ACCO.
Raising children and being part of a family can at times be a rewarding and challenging experience for parents, caregivers and families. Integrated Family Services provide a range of interventions and approaches to:
- enhance parenting capacity and skills
- improve parent/s and/or caregiver/s relationship with the children and young people they care for
- promote safety, stability and development of children and young people
- enhance social connectedness.
This may include:
- information, advice and advocacy
- outreach support
- in-home support
- family decision making/family group conferencing
- group work
- accessing universal services
- secondary consultation.
A list of contact numbers for a Child FIRSTbased in your local area can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/family-support.
Looking after yourself
The role of a carer can be very demanding. Being aware of how to manage your stress can improve your wellbeing and may help you in providing care. You are the best person to know what makes you feel emotionally, physically and mentally better, so plan activities to support your health and wellbeing.
There is a range of resources you can access, which may help you identify what would work best for you. See Information sheet 6. The impact of caring and looking after yourself.
You could also consider getting support and advice from other carers, child protection, your agency (if involved), Aboriginal community networks and broader support networks, such as Kinship Carers Victoria, which provides a range of support services to carers.
Respite and time out
Where a child or young person is residing in a kinship care placement as part of an endorsed case plan, respite can often help you to maintain the quality, viability and longevity of the placement.
Respite care is when arrangements are made for you to spend a night or more away from the child or young person you are caring for, or when it is planned that the child or young person will stay the night away from you.
Respite care can be for a night, a weekend or longer, and differs from occasional babysitting or an overnight stay with a friend.
You should discuss respite care with the child or young person’s child protection worker or agency case manager in the first instance. Respite care should always be planned well in advance, ideally with another family member, or other well-known and trusted adult, and in consideration of the best interests of the child or young person.
Child protection or the authorised Aboriginal agency will need to assess that the proposed respite carer is suitable to care for the child or young person, including completing mandatory screening processes, and they will be required to hold a Working with Children Check.
Sometimes, children and young people may need to stay with an assessed and approved foster carer for respite care to occur, if this is in their best interests.
Regular respite may affect your care allowance. Speak to the child or young person’s child protection worker or agency case manager about this.
Training provides an opportunity for you to gain skills and knowledge to support the child or young person in your care. You are encouraged to take part in the training opportunities available, as you will also be able to meet with other carers, share ideas and discuss challenges you have faced.
Participation in training can support you to care for children and young people with various needs. There is a lot of research and practice advice about understanding trauma, and approaches to supporting children and young people with challenging behaviours. Training in this area may be of particular interest for you.
Carer KaFE: Kinship and foster care education
The Carer KaFE is a one-stop shop for training for Victorian statutory kinship and foster carers. An online calendar shows you the face-to-face training available in your area. Online learning, cultural awareness training, accredited training opportunities and conference attendance sponsorship are also supported by the Carer KaFE. There is no cost for carers to access and attend training opportunities.
The Carer KAFE is managed by the Foster Care Association of Victoria, in alliance with Kinship Carers Victoria, VACCA, the Victorian Aboriginal Children & Young People’s Alliance and other important organisations supporting kinship carers.
For more information about the Carer KaFE, call (03) 9416 4292 or visit the Foster Care Association of Victoria website at https://www.fcav.org.au/. Alternatively, you can speak to the child or young person’s child protection worker or agency case manager.
Carer Advisory Groups
Carers are at the centre of change for some of our most vulnerable children and young people. In order to improve quality outcomes, and to allow for better stability in care arrangements, it is critical that carers participate in decision-making and development opportunities.
Carer Advisory Groups is a new initiative that brings together foster and kinship carers, agency management, peak bodies, child protection and other department representatives to improve communication and to promote service improvements in out-of-home care. The groups meet quarterly and membership is for a period of 18 months. There are Carer Advisory Groups in the North, East, South and West divisions of the department.
For more information on Carer Advisory Groups or if you are interested in joining a group in your area, call the Foster Care Association of Victoria who provide a supporting role on (03) 9416 4292 or visit https://www.fcav.org.au/
Kinship Carers Victoria – call (03) 9372 2422 or visit http://kinshipcarersvictoria.org/
VACCA – call (03) 9287 8800 or visit https://www.vacca.org/
Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) http://www.snaicc.org.au/
Permanent Care and Adoptive Families – call (03) 9020 1833 or visit www.pcafamilies.org.au/
Mirabel Foundation – call (03) 9527 9422 or visit https://www.mirabelfoundation.org.au