A call for radical changes to Victoria’s out-of-home care system and a push towards more kinship care have been welcomed by community welfare organisation Kildonan UnitingCare.
It has backed the call to move forward “in a pro-active child-focused manner” by Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Bernie Geary, in the wake of the Commission’s recent report into the sexual exploitation of children in state care.
The report found many of the 500 children and young people currently in residential care live in appalling and sub-standard conditions.
Kildonan chief executive officer Stella Avramopoulos said kinship care offered a safe and stable alternative for children and young people who need care.
“There are many reasons why children or young people may not be able to live with their parents, and Kildonan’s Kinship Care program helps relatives or adults from the child’s social network, such as a grandparent, take over primary care for a period of time,” she said.
“This gives the child or young person the chance to maintain family and cultural connections and, if re-unification with parents is not achievable, our goal is to support carers so that the child can remain in a familiar and safe environment.”
Last year the program assisted 185 children across the municipalities of Hume, Moreland, Darebin, Nillumbik, Whittlesea, Yarra and Banyule. It is run in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services Child Protection.
Access to the program can be arranged through statutory Child Protection involvement or informally.
Ms Avramopoulos said the Kinship Care program offered a range of support to help carers negotiate the challenges of supporting a new family member.
“It is critical that the kinship carer’s circumstances are carefully assessed and match the needs of the child, and that formal and informal support is available as the child’s development and needs change over time.
“We make sure carers are aware of the financial, legal and community support available to them and we help them access this assistance.”
Ms Avramopoulos said support groups and social activities to give carers some much needed ‘time out’ were also organised.