Chat with the CEO report

Samantha Hauge, CEO of the Foster Care Association of Victoria (FCAV) welcomed Agency, Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP), Department of Families Fairness and Housing (DFFH) and Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations (ACCO) staff to a worker session in November. 

Sam updated the group on FCAV’s recent successes which include - 

  • a more streamlined approach for carers to be able to access Medicare Cards
  • The Help Desk at DFFH was recently launched in each division – provides help with birth certificates, Medicare cards and passports
  • We are in discussion regarding all children in care accessing dental work

Glenda and Heidi from OzChild then presented their Carer Support Strategy. Glenda is the Carer Advocate and Events Coordinator and Heidi is the Senior Carer Support Worker at OzChild. Glenda is also a long term foster carer so has great insight into what carers need. As part of her role she runs and supports -

  • The buddy program
  • Long Term on hold carer households
  • Retired carers and Life Member Carers
  • Social Events
  • Milestone Acknowledgement of Carers – at 1, 2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 years
  • Feedback from Carers
  • Monthly Carer Panel

Heidi looks after the carer family providing support, debriefing, training, compliance, acknowledges significant events, annual reviews, support through a CIMS as needed, attends and assists with carer events.

As part of creating events Glenda organises wine and cheese nights for carers to come together, an annual pampering day, morning teas, Facebook Group, New Carer Group – 4 week program with a Buddy Program attached, they have Kylie Bell their Aboriginal worker who organises Cultural Events and Yarning Circles and a Carer Consultation Group which also involves carer representation on their panels. In addition to this they run a volunteer transport group to assist carers.

For older carers and those retiring they provide a plaque as they recognise their contribution and want them to remain a part of the OzChild family.

They also have an OzChild Village App which sends out all training provided both internally and via Carer KaFÉ to Carers, has staff contacts so that if their case worker is not available they can access other staff from within the team.

 OzChild advised that the app was designed by their marketing team, so it was an internal cost was not funded by DFFH. They then used Digistorm to develop it up. Digistorm also do apps for schools and now have adapted this to foster care. It’s like a subscription agreement and it costs around $1700 per year.

Sam then fed back issues and concerns raised by carers at the last Carer Morning Tea in October 2022.

These included - 

  • Limited or incorrect information is provided when children or young people are being referred to carers for consideration.
  • Involving carers to a 72-hour meeting would help to overcome these issues as well as provide an opportunity for carers to ask for more information about the child
  • Carers available but not being utilised for placements
  • Young people leaving care without any long-term planning such as Home Stretch of Better Futures being involved, and some carers were not aware that Victoria is now allowing young people to remain in care until they are 21
  • Again, carers not being invited to Care Teams – It was great to hear that OzChild will not attend without the carer being present

It was suggested regarding carers being available and not being utilized, that this could be due to the matching process the agencies use when they receive a referral. This looks at the dimensions of a child’s life including behaviour, health, education, contact with the birth family etc. and matches to the carers availability and whether they have younger children in their carer or their own children and may not be considered a good match for the carer.

In addition to this it was advised that PCU will often not place with carers on the border of their catchment areas as they are concerned about the time needed to transport to and from access, school, and appointments due to the time and cost of doing so.

FCAV have agreed to check into this further and try to meet with DFFH to explore these issues.

Michele Creed asked about the progress of The Statement of Commitment (SOC) and Sam advised that as the state is in caretaker mode it is not in progress currently – it has been sent out for consultation with agencies and ACCOs and although we have received some feedback there needs to be further consultation. Sam advised that we will come back to the Working Group soon.

FCAV understands that some of the issues carers are grappling with would be addressed by having the Statement of Commitment in place and it is hoped that the delay will not extend for too long.

Sam also advised that the SOC has now been accepted in South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland – all have their own individual versions, but it is great to see this has happened.

Some agencies have been using the Caring Life App and had great feedback from carers - This was developed by Emma Stirling and Anthony Denahy carers in 2019 and is a way to store life memories such as photo, videos, and other important mementos securely for children in care. CaringLife app won the Minister’s Award for Innovation at the 2019 Victorian Protecting Children Awards.

Gerda from VACCA asked about carers being able to claim the Carer Allowance as income to obtain a housing loan as they recently had the experience of a carer with a stable long-term placement being knocked back for a housing loan. As carers are volunteers, and the carer allowance is received as a reimbursement of costs and placements in foster care are seen as temporary arrangements, the carer allowance is not considered as income nor is it tax deducted as a normal income would be. If it were seen as income this would create further issues around the need to tax the allowance.

Another issue workers were having was around long-time delays in carer’s receiving the Carer Allowance – some are dependent upon a previous placement being closed before the new carer can be reimbursed. FCAV have recently been advised of a carer waiting 9 weeks before their Carer Allowance started and this is often the costliest time as kids come into care with very little and need clothing, school uniforms, shoes etc.

Although agency staff have tried the Carer Reimbursement Desk, they advised they have not been helpful and appear to be very short staffed at the moment. Sam to have further discussion with the DFFH worker and advocate in the hope to streamline this process further.

Michelle Creed asked what works? What is it carers say is best practise to support them? What Works?  See more from FCAV on What Works through carer’s lived experience here

FCAV Action Plan following meeting -

  1. Check with DFFH and PCU if there are barriers to placing children and young people with carers that live on the border of each division and ensuring more accurate information is provided in referrals
  2. Sam to discuss the long-time delays in carers receiving the carer allowance – she will raise the issue with DFFH
  3. Provide more information about the OzChild App – see above for further details

Dates for next year -

Carer Chat with the CEO at the office – Tuesday 31st January 2023 from 6pm

Agency staff Chat with the CEO online – Thursday 9th March 2023 from 10.30 am to 12 noon