Key players in the Foster Care Industry are excited about the upcoming Carer Exit Survey to take place later this year.
After recommendations from the Crime and Misconduct Commission inquiry in 2003 that Exit Reports were essential for carers leaving the system, the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women conducted the surveys.
However, after data released by the Department showed less than 3 percent of carers who had left the system provided responses mainly due to the Department not actively seeking feedback. Foster Care Queensland provided a submission to undertake the Exit surveys and reports in 2008 and has been conducting them for the last 10 years.
Foster Care Queensland Executive Director, Bryan Smith, said there have been many changes noted since the Exit Survey was introduced.
“Changes we have noticed is data generally related to the lack of focus taken by the Department in both understanding foster and kinship carers family needs and support, as well as diminishing relationships for carers with Chief Strategy Officers”, Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith noted that while the foster and kinship care services rated very well throughout the survey, it had become increasingly apparent that if steps were not taken to help change the way in which the system relates to carers, then Foster Care Queensland would continue to see carers leave the system due to lack of being treated as colleagues and professional partners who have contributed to a child’s wellbeing.
Mr Smith highlighted the fact that the 2016 survey was a catalyst for discussion to take place between the Department, the Ministers Office and Foster Care Queensland, with the outcome being that Partners in Care forums were held across the state during the second half of 2017.
“The outcomes of those forums reinforced what the Exit Report and Carer Survey was telling us,” Mr Smith said.
“There are a number of actions now arising out of those recommendations from the forums as change starts to occur”, he said.
“From March 2018, we will see a much greater focus on carer needs including working with the Department to improve relationships with carers and child-related costs”.
Mr Smith said they are looking at how they can ensure the children are not missing out and carers are not out of pocket, reviewing and streamlining permissions to make it easier for carers and the children they care for and looking at the way in which carers are communicated with, both directly and indirectly, as well as how carers, Foster and Kinship Care agencies and the Department can work together with a greater sense of purpose on behalf of children.
Foster Care Queensland have admitted that these changes will take some time however, they will continue to advocate for changed practices that help carers and, in turn, help foster children.
Executive Director of Infinity Community Solutions, Annaley Clarke, said “the Exit report is a tool that Infinity Community Solutions, who provide a Kinship Care Service in Brisbane in partnership with Kummara Association, find invaluable.”
“The exit survey helps us focus our support on the areas that make a difference to kinship carers,” Mrs Clarke said.
“The voice of carers leaving the system is critical for us all to hear, and it’s thanks to the efforts of Foster Care Queensland and funding of the Department, that the report is made available”, she said.
Mr Smith said “another carer survey will come online in late 2018 and the data from that survey, combined with the 2017-2018 Exit report data, will start to give us some indication of whether change is having an affect.”
Infinity Community Solutions are eagerly awaiting outcomes of the next report and look forward to implementing the findings as they come to light, so they keep on improving their child and young person centred, whole of family-focused out of home care service and continue to look after their kinship carers to achieve better outcomes for foster children in Queensland.