Twenty years ago Connecting Foster Carers was a small self-help group of carers who met to exchange support and information in each other’s homes. Recently, Connecting Foster & Kinship Carers – SA celebrated it’s first year as a funded Carer Advocacy Service with it’s own offices and paid staff.
In her 2016 report The Life They Deserve Commissioner Margaret Nyland heard the calls from foster and kinship carers for an organisation that could advocate for them and her recommendation for a funded body was supported by the government.
‘Winning the funding meant we could expand what we do but we are still very much a grass roots organisation that focusses on the realities of carers,’ said Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers – SA Chief Executive Officer Fiona Endacott.
‘Carers can call us on our 1800 number seven days a week and if we are not there we guarantee to call back within 48 hours. We provide helpful advice and support and, if it is needed, we advocate with and for them within the Out of Home Care system.
‘It’s important that we advocate firmly and respectfully so that we get matters resolved but also maintain good relationships with stakeholders within the system so we can work with them in the future.
‘Sometimes being a carer can be very isolating and the best thing we can do is to connect a carer with somebody in our Peer Support Network who understands what it means to be a carer and share their experiences.
‘The other important need for foster and kinship carers is information that is reliable and presented in a way that is useful to them. We provide some basic information on our website but where we see a need we develop specific packages around important topics and run morning teas where we invite guests from government and non-government organisations to talk with carers.
‘We survey our members, now more than 800, every year. In our last survey, understanding and managing children’s behaviour and helping young people to reach their potential were the top two issues.
‘Family based care provided by foster and kinship carers is still by far the best option for children who come into state care but each month the number of calls we get increases and so does the complexity of the matters that carers raise.
‘There is clearly still a lot of work for all of us to do,’ concluded Fiona.
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