Foster & Kinship Carers’ Week (September 10-16) in South Australia has begun. Today we are highlighting the role of foster care support workers who play a vital part in Specialist Family Preservation Foster Care.
Kate Hawkshaw learnt early in life about the value of helping children less fortunate than herself.
From age 13, Kate and her family welcomed foster children into their home, on respite and short-term placements.
“The reason I became a social worker was because Mum and Dad were foster parents; they definitely inspired me,’’ says Kate, a support worker with Centacare’s Specialist Family Preservation Foster Care program.
“It was a bit of a shock at first. We saw different behaviours from quite a young age but my parents set aside time for us and helped us understand that those behaviours were a reflection of the children’s backgrounds.
“I enjoyed it as a child because I knew our home was helping them. And I think it made our family a lot closer; we had more family discussions and were more connected through outings.’’
Today, Kate draws on this experience in her role supporting specialist foster carers.
The carers are incredible; they are such strong advocates for these kids
– Kate Hawkshaw, foster care support worker
Through the SFPFC program, children on a reunification plan with their birth family are placed in households for up to 18 months while they are unable to live at home.
Many children come from a background of trauma and neglect.
“Many of the children who we work with haven’t had a secure start to life,’’ says Anne Bartholomaeus, foster care support worker
“Parenting a child with that background can be quite different to parenting your own, so we work with the foster parents to help their foster child to make sense of their world.’’
Part of a care team, foster carer support workers visit households every week for the first eight weeks of a placement. Support is then ongoing, with foster carers encouraged to reflect on their role – and how they are nurturing their child’s development and healing – with their support worker.
Telephone help is available 24-hours, seven days a week.
“We carry them through those times when it can be hard, when they do need support,’’ Kate says.
“It’s lovely to watch the foster carers grow in confidence with the children. Over time, you can really see their relationship building. The carers are incredible; they are such strong advocates for these kids.’’
Foster carers receive ongoing training and are supported to nurture all areas of a child’s life, including family access, education, personal achievement, emotional and physical health, sense of identity, culture, and social relationships.
“Each week we are looking at what’s changed,” Anne says.
“Change can take a long time. Sometimes you won’t see any change in certain areas of the child’s life but other times change happens really quickly. We are all part of a team working together with the birth family.
“Most of the foster carers will tell us they wished they’d done it long ago and hadn’t waited so long.
“It’s rewarding for us too, to watch them forge such strong relationships with the children in their care, and know that we have played a role in that.’’