Sunday, November 05, 2006

What's going on with Australia and foster care?

I shall continue to post my notes and updates on contacts from the 2006 It's My Life conference. However, several articles about the foster care situation in Australia have recently captured my attention...

Alienating foster parents winds up hurting the kids
In Australia, the NSW Foster Care Association ordered a boycott yesterday in response to changes in the law. Up to 1,000 foster parents are predicted to quit the system, and hundreds more will refuse to provide emergency refuge for at-risk children.

The Department of Human Services wants to disclose the personal details of 10,000 foster parents and their families to birth parents with a history of violence and abuse.

Information would include foster parents' names, addresses, telephone numbers and workplace, as well as details relating to foster parents' birth children.

Community Services Minister Reba Meagher did not consult foster parents about the issue.

This news came just days after a large billboard was unveiled in Sydney, calling for more foster parents to volunteer over Christmas.

Foster Care Association president Mary Jane Beach responded that,"The people who draft these laws have no idea of the implications. They think it's like a family picnic."

Another proposed law, which was more popular with foster parents, would allow foster parents to adopt their foster children without the consent of birth parents. Beach said, "For too long, the interest of birth parents has been placed before the children."

In New Zealand, for example, over 23% of foster children lived in three or more foster homes in the past 12 months. 156 children were passed around 6 or more homes. Dozens were shifted between 8-11 homes within one year. These children need and deserve permanency.

Foster parents in the land down under have expressed an urgent need for better respite care, in order to provide time off when they need it.

Compensation for kinship care providers is also an issue
It is estimated that, in Tasmania, 8,000 children are currently being raised by their grandparents and that number is growing all the time.

Custodial grandparents save the state a lot of money -- especially since the 2003 federal goverment recommendation that kinship care providers receive the same financial support of foster parents has apparently been disregarded.

According to the articles cited below:
Custodial grandparents in Tasmania receive $28 fortnightly
Australian foster parents receive between $374 and $564 a fortnight, depending on the age of the child.

Curious to know what a 'fortnight' is? Every two weeks.

The rate for kinship care compensation has not increased over the past 15 years.

Lack of oversight leads to death
Baby Elizabeth Edwards didn't have to die. Her death was neither willful nor malicious -- just plain ignorance. Elizabeth was placed by her foster mother in a cot with a bottle in her mouth and surrounded by a U-shaped pillow.

The baby suffocated and choked on the contents of her stomach. Her foster mother wasn't an evil woman. She was trying to do a good thing. But, foster mother Janet Todd had never been educated about sudden infant death syndrome.

South Australia's only foster care placement organization is Anglicare SA. This organization has no minimum level of training for foster parents. Their training courses do not include infant care.

"Our training has tended to focus on attachment, loss and grief, behaviour management and the traumas associated with placement," Anglicare manager, Margie Battye, told the court. She said that Anglicare did not have the budget and resources to provide infant care training.

Tell that to baby Elizabeth.

Australia's foster care system is a problem that is not going to go away. The number of children needing foster care has increased from 15,000 to 23,000 over the past five years. Meanwhile, the number of available foster parents has dropped from 14,000 to 9000.

Sources
Edwards, Verity. Foster mum had no baby-care training: Foster parents were not shown how to care for babies before a nine-month-old girl died while in care in 2004, a welfare group has admitted. The Australian, Nov. 2, 2006.
O'Dwyer, Erin. Worried foster parents in revolt over new rules. The Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 5, 2006.
Labour talk is cheap on foster care. Press release by United Future New Zealand Party, Oct. 31, 2006.
Vowles, Gill. Care shame: Tasmania's custodial grandparents are still waiting to get equity with foster carers four years after being promised it by the state and federal goverments. The Sunday Tasmanian, Oct. 29, 2006.

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Comments:
Hi Lisa,
The work you are doing is so important...keep it up!

You wanted to know some information about the conference I spoke at last week. You can download a flyer here = http://www.mnasap.org/calendar/detail_calendar.htm#nov4a

MN ASAP (Minnesota Adoption Support and Preservation) is the group that was sponsoring it. They have parent liaisons (experienced foster and adoptive parents) all over the state of MN to help families who are struggling. It is a great program! ~Kari
 
Good I found you. I had read your blog when you posted something on a friend's blog. I have decided to add foster care/parenting/ eventual adoption blog links to my blog. I feel that it is something that gets ignored. I feel that we should take care of our own before adopting from other countries. Your blog will be amongst the blogs
 
Hi Lisa,
Thanks for posting on my blog. It helped to be reminded that I'm not along with having a childhood that was...less than ideal. ;) I'll be reading your blog from now on and will add a link.

Thanks!
April
 
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