As a foster, relative/kin carer it is good to accept quite early that it is highly likely that you will have numerous caseworkers (and managers) in your journey as a carer. In the 7 years I have been a carer we have had relatively little churn – 5 caseworkers (across 2 agencies).
Anyone that is already a carer will know that the skills and attitude of caseworkers can vary and at times you will find your role is definitely in the ‘advocacy’ space to ensure the needs of the child or children you are caring for are supported.
I am very blessed that I could really consider which agency (read my post for more information on choosing an agency) I would go with when we were moving out of Family and Community Services (FACS which used to be known as DOCS) in NSW.
My agency and caseworker (just had a recent caseworker change) absolutely respect that as CC’s carer, I have the best knowledge of how she is going and what she needs.
In the past however I have experienced a caseworker who was very resistant to working together to support CC’s needs. It was challenging and at times hostile. As a carer supporting children with trauma, the last thing you want is a caseworker that struggles to support you all.
If you are struggling getting support for a child or children in your care, this is not ok.
When trying to figure out the best place to formalise any concerns, this should be through the annual case plan meeting or by asking for a review of the case plan (a case plan is where everything is documented each year to show what will be done to support every child in care).
In terms of who to speak to about your concerns, always start inside your agency when trying to get support for children in your care. If your caseworker is not providing adequate support, speak to the Manager. If there is still no change, go to the senior management team.
No matter where you are, you should be receiving support and seeing the caseworker regularly.
You may be advocating for
- Extra therapeutic support
- A review to family visit time so it works better for children in your care (more about family visits later which are critical for a child to understand who they are, where they come from and have family connections)
- Support with the school’s approach to any behavioural needs
- Extra training for yourself / partner to support healing
If you are unable to get support from your agency internally, then there are escalation pathways in each state/territory.
In NSW, go to My Forever Family.
In Victoria, go to Foster Care Association of Victoria
In Queensland, go to Queensland Foster and Kinship Care
In the Northern Territory, go to Foster and Kinship Carers Association NT
In Western Australia, go to Foster Carer Association WA
In South Australia, go to Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers
in Tasmania, go to Foster and Kinship Carers Association Tasmania
In the ACT, go to Foster Carer Association, ACT
If you yourself are not comfortable advocating for children in your care, then find someone in your own network to support you with this.
note – children and young people who are entering into the statutory care system are most often doing so as the result of intergenerational disadvantage, parent’s own trauma, untreated mental health, homelessness, domestic violence (and often a mix of these are playing out at the point of children coming into care). I personally acknowledge there are prevailing systemic issues such as racism and a lack of services to support families earlier that are exacerbating this issue. A key solution is earlier intervention solutions – ideally co-designed by the people that experience these impacts. I also acknowledge that children in care, wherever possible should be living with family (including their siblings) and that whilst foster care is a ‘back end solution’ it is still required to support children and families to either get back to together or be very connected even in care.