Steven King - Mercy Community Services Family Services - Kinship care: Where does it belong?


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Steven King delivered the presentation at the 2014 Out of Home Care Summit.

The 2014 Out of Home Care Summit featured highly interactive sessions and a series of four half-day targeted streams covering the current, topical issues in Out of Home Care across Australia. Showcasing innovative solutions and viable strategies, the Summit focused on the highly practical nature of affecting change within the sector.

For more information about the event, please visit:

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Steven King - Mercy Community Services Family Services - Kinship care: Where does it belong?

  1. 1. Steven King – Executive Director Mercy Community Services – Family Services Kinship Care: Where Does it Belong? 2nd Annual Out-of-Home Care Summit 2014 23-24 June 2014 Pullman Sydney, Hyde Park 1
  2. 2. Outline of Presentation 1. What is Kinship Care? 2. The current state of Kinship Care in Queensland 3. Current MCS-FS Kinship Care 4. Final Thoughts … “Kinship Care – where does it belong?” Kinship Care: Where Does it Belong? 2
  3. 3. Disclaimer … • The views and information provided in this presentation are derived from our experiences at MCS-FS and a comprehensive review of the Kinship Care literature, but not primary research. • Because of the complexity of the issues involved, this presentation does not include specific reference to Indigenous and CALD Kinship Care arrangements • A paper providing more detailed information exploring the issue of Kinship Care and where it belongs in the broader service system is provided on our website at: 3
  4. 4. What is Kinship Care? This section will cover the following: • The MCS-FS Kinship Care Trial – identifying the emergence of kinship care, and the pros and cons identified in the review • The MCS-FS Kinship Care pilot which was developed as a result of the trial • A brief commentary on why it failed to get up • What is happening now at MCS-FS to meet the needs of our Kinship Carers 4
  5. 5. The Kinship Care Trial The origins of Mercy Family Services’ (now MCS-FS) Kinship Care trial: •The “Fostering the Future” forums identified issues with kinship care service delivery in the region •In 2004, the Kinship Care Group was established to examine practice directions in Kinship Care and to develop a model to address the issues •The MFS Goodna Kinship Care trial began in August 2008 •Kinship carers who joined the trial were experiencing many difficulties, including …. 5
  6. 6. The Kinship Care Trial Kinship carers experienced … •A lack of understanding of the ‘Statement of Standards’ as required under the Child Protection Act. •Limited understanding of departmental policies & procedures •Poor relationships with departmental officers •Feelings of shame •An inability to say ‘no’ to departmental requests •Personal conflicts due to complex family relations •A sense of feeling insulted when parenting training was suggested 6
  7. 7. Further Reasons for the Emergence of Kinship Care Identified in the Review • Difficulty in attracting and retaining foster carers; • Acknowledgement in formal legislation and policies that placing a child within the extended family can be the best care option; • The increased recognition of abuse of children in foster care as evidenced in the literature and major inquiries; • Increased drug and alcohol abuse in society; and • The belief that placement with family engenders a sense of belonging, less stigma for children and therefore better outcomes. 7
  8. 8. The Reported Benefits of Kinship Care • Children feeling loved, valued and cared for. • Children being able to maintain a sense of identity, having a sense of belonging and feeling settled because they are placed with people they know. • Children having more stable placements than children placed with non-relative carers and being less likely to be subject to placement moves. • Children being able to maintain contact with their family and friends. 8
  9. 9. Kinship Care ... Some Demographics • Most kinship carers are usually the grandparents of the children being cared for. Yardley, Mason & Watson (2009) identified 78.3% of kinship carers as grandparents. A MFS study (2009) found that 58% of kinship carers were grandparents. • Interestingly, in the 2009 MFS study, 18% of the research group had no blood relationship with the child. These carers became kinship carers because of an already established relationship they had with the child. • Most kinship carers are older, receive a welfare benefit, struggle economically and have health issues. • They are often single parents with low educational attainment, and less likely to own or be paying off their own home. They are therefore subject to rental market volatility. (Aldgate & McIntosh, 2006; & O’Brien, 2000) 9
  10. 10. Some Disadvantages of Kinship Care • Financial hardship on kinship carers. • Problems for carers in having to cope with the behaviour difficulties of children/young people. • Lack of support from child welfare agencies. • Overcrowding. • Ill health of carers. • Less thorough assessments for kinship carers than on general foster carers and less stringent monitoring of placements. • Lower reunification rates for children and children being less likely to be adopted. 10
  11. 11. The Kinship Care Model As a result of the trial, the working party identified the following as being critical components of a Kinship Care specific model: 1. A thorough and extensive assessment of potential kinship carers and their extended families in the context of their ability, capacity and willingness to meet the needs of the child/ren. 2. Ongoing provision of information and training relevant to the child’s needs and the kinship carers responsibilities according to legislation. 3. Ongoing financial, practical, problem-solving and emotional support to kinship carers and their families to ensure they meet the unique, complex and dynamic needs of kinship care placements. 11
  12. 12. The Kinship Care System 12
  13. 13. The Proposed Kinship Care Service Pilot • Child/ren placed with general approved carers while family is assessed and kinship carers sourced. • Kinship Group Conference is facilitated by trained convener including all family members willing and able to attend, PSU, CSO, NGO and Team Leader. • Assessment of Kinship Carers is completed, including information provision and training. • A transition plan is made for the child/ren to move to the kinship placement and implemented. • Ongoing support, information and training are provided to the kinship carers by NGO as per support and training agreement. 13
  14. 14. 14
  15. 15. Why the Pilot (2011) Failed to Get Up – Some major challenges •Challenges of convincing government that kinship care is not a cheaper option when children are looked after by family. •Challenges of funding silos •Challenges of combining funding from two funding programs •No unique funding for Kinship Care 15
  16. 16. The Current State of Kinship Care in Queensland • Of the over 8000 children and young people in care in Queensland, 30-40% are in kinship care (varies depending on the Region). • Kinship Care is seen as part of general foster care – Foster and Kinship Care. • Traditionally kinship carers are supported by the department of Child Safety but there has been a gradually transition to NGO agencies - currently 56%. • The Department has the role of using Family Group Conferencing FGC) to select the kinship carer and assess the carer 16
  17. 17. Carmody Inquiry 2013 Taking Responsibility: A Road Map for Queensland Child Protection. Findings of Kinship Care In 2012 34.6% compared to 46.7% nationally. “Much of the evidence for the low rate of kinship care points to the failure of the child protection system to recruit, support and retain kinship carers, especially in comparison with the support received by foster carers.” p.257 “The Commission believes that two responses are required to improve the rate of recruitment and retention of kinship carers … Firstly kinship care should be provided under a stand-alone framework, instead of being treated as a subset of foster care. Secondly, identification of possible kinship carers could be improved through the mandated use of genograms and eco-mapping, which are currently not used widely across Child Safety.”p.259 Recommendations 8.3 That the Department of Communities, Child Safety … build on the efforts already begun to articulate the uniqueness of kinship care and its importance as a family based out-of-home care placement option so that kinship carers feel that they are part of the team. Recommendation 8.4 That the Department of Communities, Child Safety … engage non-government agencies to identify and assess kinship carers (p.260) 17
  18. 18. The Current MCS-FS Kinship Care Intensive Intervention Placement Service (IIPS) Supporting children and young people in Kinship Care placement with moderate, high and very complex support needs.  The IIPS provides intensive intervention to support foster and kinship carers and the child/ren in their care for 3 to 9 months and then they return to general foster and kinship care services  The carers are referred by the Department and may come from the Department, MCS, or other foster and kinship care programs run by other organisations.  All of the referrals have been triggered by an Standard of Care Review (SOCR)  At any one time in our 3 IIPS programs over 50-95% are kinship carers.  Team of experienced foster care staff and counsellors/therapeutic workers. 18
  19. 19. The Current MCS-FS Kinship Care The Intensive Intervention Placement Services (IIPS) Though the support provided to Kinship Carers varies according to the needs of the children and young people, the most common elements include: •Carer recruitment, pre-service training and ongoing training •Carer assessment and re-assessment •Intensive carer support, supervision, and placement monitoring •All Components (1-9) of Intervention Framework implemented (see Appendix) •Child and Family-focused work – with a stronger focus on working with, and direct intervention with children •Individual intervention plans 19
  20. 20. The Current MCS-FS Kinship Care Current Presenting Issues for the Intensive Intervention Placement Service (IIPS) The presenting issues are still similar to ones presented by kinship carers in the 2008 study and the literature generally: • Pressure by the Department to be a kinship carer • Plans around their future need to be put on hold can breed resentment • Boundaries and risks within the family environment and contact with other family member including the child/ren’s parents • Lack of training: • Being part of the child protection system, learnings around Statement of Standards • Learning new parenting practices around trauma based care and understanding trauma based behaviours 20
  21. 21. Kinship Care: Where does it Belong? Some final thoughts … Kinship Care – What it is and where it belongs Kinship Care is a unique placement option which is defined by the child being placed into care of kin. This has its unique challenges and needs in terms of : •Selection and assessment of carers •Information and training •On-going support What Kinship Care is not It is not a cheaper option because the family are looking after the child. Concerned that it will become idealised/become ‘ideologically driven’ in that it will be seen that children need to be with their family rather that an option for what is best for the child/ren. 21
  22. 22. Appendix: Intervention Framework 22