The Department of Communities (Communities) values family and foster carers and the fundamental role they play in the care of children – we are partners in care and we need to work together.
During Child Protection Week 2019, Hon Simone McGurk MLA, Minister for Child Protection announced that Communities would partner with the Foster Care Association Western Australia (FCAWA) to better understand the lived experience of carers and the support they need. This led to the Foster Care Refresh project which was developed to improve outcomes for children in care by working with foster, family and significant other carers and the sector to identify how we can work better together.
The three consultation phases of the project have been completed. The three phases of the Project canvassed the views of Communities and community sector organisation carers through face-to-face consultations and online feedback opportunities. It also included engagement with designated Communities staff, who provided their feedback on the issues and ideas raised by the carers.
Phase 1 engaged with Departmental family and foster carers and phase 2 sought feedback from Community Sector Organisation (CSO) carers, in partnership with the Child and Family Alliance WA.
Phase 3 provided an additional opportunity for Communities’ carers and designated Communities staff to provide feedback.
Thank you again to all Communities and CSO carers who participated in the consultation feedback and provided their insights and ideas, which has broadly focussed on:
- Building Effective Partnerships
- Developing a Capable and Confident Workforce
- Responsive and Agile System.
Throughout this three stage consultation process carers identified what is working well, areas for improvement and suggestions for change. Carers offered suggestions to improve the foster care experience, including:
- better communication
- consistency in worker/child/carer case management
- a more responsive and inclusive system with regard to planning and decision making, including cultural planning
- greater access and in-home support for children with complex needs
- system reform to access better health and educational services.
The Refresh Project Team is scheduling feedback sessions with Regional Leadership groups and has met with the Child and Family Alliance WA.
Some early opportunities and actions have been implemented already, including policy and practice guidance for medical assessments and decision making.
A roundtable meeting was chaired by the Commissioner for Children and Young People on 14 February 2020. Invited participants included executive staff of Department of Communities, academics with expertise in foster care planning, representatives of community service organisations, representatives of the Aboriginal community of WA, and family and foster carers. The Roundtable participants considered and discussed the findings from Phase 1 consultations, made observations and recommendations to feed into the final report.
A report is been developed to provide a summary of the carers’ voices and translate their ideas into tangible actions to promote positive, respectful and effective collaboration between carers, Communities and the sector. Recommendations were developed in response to the feedback collated and will be further explored in the development of an implementation plan.
Implementing the findings and recommendations outlined in the Foster Care Refresh Report will provide further opportunities for carers, Communities and the sector to work better together.