Caring through COVID-19 and Foster Care Week
Join us in celebrating the ‘Value of Carers’ as they have been #CaringThroughCOVID19 this year.
Foster carers have done an incredible job caring for children and young people through COVID-19. Fostering Connections is highlighting the wonderful work carers do to create stable and safe environments for children and young people in care.
Fostering Connections spoke with agencies across Victoria to hear from staff who work directly with children, young people, and foster carers about the positive contributions carers have made.
Foster care agencies Anglicare Victoria, Mallee District Aboriginal Service (MDAS), Life Without Barriers (LWB), Mallee Family Care (MFC), and Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) shared their thoughts on the “Value of Carers”, how fostering has impacted foster carers, children, and young people during COVID-19, as well as their appreciation of the work foster carers do.
The Value of Carers
The theme for Foster Care week this year is the ‘Value of Carers’, highlighting the ways foster carers are assets to the community.
Tara from Anglicare Victoria shared that "carers can create life-long memories with these young people. The impact that they have in a child's life, is beyond words. We often don't realise the impact that we've had on a child’s life until they return many years later saying ‘gosh, I learnt so much from you’. Every moment shared between a great carer and a foster child is invaluable.”
From MDAS, Glenn notes that “you can't put a price on a foster carer... Without people like that we’d have a lot of children in pain because they wouldn’t be getting the help or advice or guidance from these people.”
When discussing how measure this value, Josiah from LWB, “It’s immeasurable the value that they offer. They're the foundation of the foster carer system. Carers have an ability to have a major impact
on a child's a development while in care. Role model and impart values to children in care, lifelong impacts on how they will see the world and internalise their own feelings, and how they see themselves and self-worth.”
Josiah pointed out that these benefits are not just in the long term, “Carers have these precious day-to-day moments. They can offer insight about the child that we as case managers just can't get in our role. They're the foot soldiers that really show what a healthy relationship with adults is like.”
Tess, a case manager with MFC, noted how critical carers are to the community. “They bring everything. Foster care wouldn’t be able to happen without carers. They provide such a good, nurturing space for children to best develop in themselves.”
“They’re wonderfully therapeutic,” continues Tess. “Opening their homes to a stable and loving environment for children in the community."
Owen from VACCA highlighted how foster carers allow families to get space to work on problems and heal. “We would be in a hard place if we didn’t have foster carers,” says Owen. “It's hard to put to words the value of a carer - they're invaluable and essential... To be able to give families the opportunities to heal during hard times.”
Caring Through COVID-19
The phrase ‘unprecedented times’ has never been used more than it is has in 2020. As a result, the incredible work that foster carers have done to step up and support communities during a global pandemic needs to be celebrated and shared.
“Throughout COVID, our carers have been absolutely incredible,” Shared Tara from Anglicare Victoria, “They have been supporting foster kids with virtual learning, alongside the added challenges of working from home and providing assistance to their own children as well. They have been so proactive in seeking advice from their case managers on ways to best support their kids as well as their families through all of this. They have stepped up immensely”.
Glenn from MDAS reflected that COVID-19 has made carers “more vigilant and more protective of the children... in all areas.” Foster carers are thinking of all the ways that they can help children and young people remain safe including culturally and with family and friends, especially during the pandemic.
This was supported by Josiah from LWB. “The stamina to consistently be a leader of their household, and children with trauma need predictable routines and stability and we are asking these carers to manage these children in a world that is unstable.”
“The stamina to keep that going for 5 - 6 - 7 months is draining, but they continue to show up and be the leaders of that household and role model that dependability and creativity.” Josiah notes that carers have been working hard to create rich environment even in lockdown. “Finding the interests of the child: imagination play, arts cooking, gaming.”
“Carers knew that COVID was going to be tough - challenges, hardships - but knowing that and continuing to stay committed to the children,” Josiah added.
Agencies also noted the challenges in virtual learning and staying connected.
“Carers have had to up their communication tenfold and have been fantastic at that,” says Tessa from MFC, who noted the increased communication from carers to both the agency, child protection, and families. “They've been moving with changed contact whether that be phone video and also in regional areas they’ve been dealing with face-to-face contact. They’ve really stepped up in being able to facilitate a lot of things themselves and that includes school as well. A lot of them have very selflessly put a lot of their life on hold to make sure the children are supported in this environment. They’re doing a phenomenal job.”
From VACCA, Owen advised that their carers realised that COVID-19 was going to be a real challenge but persisted with resilience, “A lot of carers have put their safety second to the care of the children. They’ve realised although it may put their family at risk, they realise the importance of keeping children connected with families where possible.”
Throughout COVID-19, foster carers are creating safety and stability during uncertain times – and that is worth celebrating.
A Message to Victoria’s Foster Carers
Agencies from across the sector shared words of encouragement with Victorian foster carers, and some tips to keep moving forward.
“You’re making an impact,” says Tara from Anglicare Victoria. “You’re making a difference.”
Glenn from MDAS highlighted how agencies are always available to provide a helping hand. “If you need anything, 24/7, were here to help you, were here to back you, were here to support you. We know that these times are difficult... Anything we can do to help the carers, we are offering.”
“Remember why you got into this role,” says Josiah from LWB. “While it can be difficult, you are in a precious time in this child's life where you can have a major impact on how children will respond to the world and how children will see themselves in their world.”
Josiah was quick to point out that carers must also fill their own cups, “Taking care of these vulnerable children, you need to take care of yourself. Have a date night - prioritise relationship building just as much as your prioritizing school. They [carers] need to allow themselves to know that they have the best interest of the child at heart. You may not be 100% everyday... but allowing that grace of ‘I'm back at it again tomorrow’.”
For Tess at MFC the message was simple, “I just want them to know that they are being seen, and are being heard, and definitely appreciated by both the agencies and children's families and the children themselves. We acknowledge the hard work they put in and we are so thankful that people like them exist to provide care for these vulnerable kids.”
Owen from VACCA also expressed gratitude for the hard work of carers, “Thank you. Thank you for sticking with it, and thank you for your time, and your commitment to caring for children. We can't wait to all unite on the other side of this.”
“It has been really sad to not connect with our carers [in person] like Foster Care Week and NAIDOC week to have dinners and celebratory periods,” said Owen. “We're looking forward to doing that with them when we can.”
In addition to the amazing work highlighted above, to celebrate Foster Care Week 2020, Fostering Connections is
Hosting a Value of Carers Prize Draw - currently accredited Victorian based carers may enter to win one of five $100 MYER vouchers
- Sharing the voices of young people who have been in care, and current foster carers to explore the ‘Value of Carers’.
- Hearing from the Minister of Child Protection, Luke Donnellan, on the amazing work Victorian carers have done to support children and young people in care during COVID-19.
- Foster Care 101: LIVE on Facebook – ‘All the questions you wanted to ask but hadn't had a chance” Monday 14 September at 12.30pm
- Download our #CaringThroughCOVID19 social media pack so that you can join the conversation on social media and help raise awareness about foster care.
- Share your experiences on social media with us by using #FosterCareWeek2020 #ValueofCarers & #CaringThroughCOVID19
As Victoria comes together this year to celebrate the Value of Carers, we ask for you to consider how foster carers can make a positive impact in a child or young person’s life.
In July 2020, we shared the Creativity and Commitment during COVID19 of Regional Agencies . This highlighted the incredible work that foster care agencies across regional and rural Victoria did to continue providing best practice care to support their foster carers and children and young people in care. This included goals of reunifying siblings, young people successfully exiting care during a pandemic, supporting education and remote learning, and ensuring that foster care recruitment continues smoothly despite restrictions. In 2020, foster carers are needed now more than ever.
If you are interested in getting involved with fostering, please enquire online or speak with a member from our team on 1800 013 088.
To see more Foster Care Week events being held across the state please visit the Foster Care Association Victoria (FCAV) website: www.fcav.org.au/event-listing/event/129-foster-care-week-2020