A little about you first...
Caring and Patient
It sounds obvious, but it really matters. Children and young people that have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse, need somewhere to stay where they can feel safe and secure. However, they may take some time to build trust and feel safe and need caring and supportive adults who can help them with skills and strategies to attend school, build friendships, learn to play and have fun.
Carers need 'to not sweat the small stuff' and to accept that they need to build connections (attachment) with the child/young person before the child/young person can really feel a sense of belonging.
Part of a team
The saying 'it takes a village, to raise a child' is never more important than it is when caring for a child or young person within Out of Home Care (OoHC).
A foster carer needs to be able to work alongside the child/young person, their family and Child Safety Officer to meet agreed goals for a child/young person. Carers also need to work closely with a team of therapeutic supports and services to be able to offer a positive environment in which a child or young person can thrive. A carer must be willing to learn different ways of interacting with and managing a child who has experienced trauma.
The child or young person has an assigned Child Safety Officer (CSO) who is responsible for making sure that their physical, psychological, emotional and educational needs are met. They will also work with you to organise contact visits with family members and talk with you about legal matters, meetings or reunification.
As a carer you will also be assigned a skilled Child Safety Officer from the OoHC Team who will work support your work with the child/young person, and help you to navigate the role of being a carer.
All members of the team have an essential part to play and foster carers are an integral support to the care team around the child/young person.
Willing to learn
We don’t expect foster carers to be experts, however, caring for children or young people who need out of home care requires relevant knowledge and skills to equip carers to understand the needs of children affected by trauma. We are going to ask you to learn different ways of parenting to assist a child who has experienced abuse and neglect to build relationships and skills for the future. We need carers to be open to attending training and increasing their skills and knowledge.
Your CSO in OoHC will work with you to build knowledge and skills regarding caring for children who have experienced trauma. They will advise of upcoming training opportunities and reading materials to help to further your understanding of pain based behaviours and activities that may assist you in your caring role.
Flexible and resilient
Not everything goes as planned sometimes and a foster carer may need to be flexible in response to changing demands such as cancelled contact visits. A sense of humour and an ability to seek support are helpful when this happens, and your OoHC Child Safety Officer is there to support you at these times. A carer who can show some resilience helps a child build skills for the future.
Children in care have a right to privacy and for their stories and circumstances to be kept confidential. Carers are asked to be respectful of the child or young person’s cultures or traditions and be open to them observing religious or cultural practices. Carers will be asked to actively encourage participation in Aboriginal cultural activities. Children need acceptance and respect for their families of origin and an acceptance of the right to have contact with their birth family and extended family.
In conjunction with the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and the CREATE Foundation, a Charter of Rights has been developed for children living in out of home care. Carers are expected to uphold these important rights.
Children in care have a range of physical and emotional needs in order to feel a sense of safety. A supportive care environment assists children to settle into care whilst still maintaining a relationship with their families. Carers are asked to assist with transport to contact visits and to provide the children with patience and understanding when they are grieving at being away from their families. Assisting children to participate in sporting, community or cultural activities is also part of the role of a foster carer. Carers may also be asked to undertake therapeutic play with children in the home or to attend additional medical or counselling appointments to assist children.
An appropriate sense of humour and playfulness is a key ingredient of good carers. Interacting with the child, playing fun games, going for walks, and being a bit ‘goofy’ work well for our children and young people and there is some science behind it!
A carer is someone who can talk to and get to know the child/young person, and listen to them, to best provide for their needs. Foster carers need to be able to communicate with a wide range of professionals in a care team to assist the care of a child or young person. There may be many people involved in the life of a child or young person involved with OoHC and the voice of the child or young person is most important.