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The training and support available to you as a new foster carer

  • Need to know

At Mercy Community, we are dedicated to supporting you to be the best foster carer you can be. We spoke to Mercy Community’s Foster and Kinship Care Program Manager of the Ipswich region, Karen Vanderburg, about what lies in store for people just starting out on their foster care journey.

Q: What training and support is available for new foster carers with Mercy Community?

K: From the beginning, potential foster carers would attend Getting Ready to Start training, which has been developed by the Department of Children, Youth justice and Multicultural Affairs and delivered by Mercy Community staff. It consists of four modules and takes about 12 hours to complete in total. The training is facilitated, so it’s not just about providing information, there are activities to take part in too.

This initial training gives you a broad understanding of the Foster Care system itself, and why kids come into care. It covers what you can expect when you become a carer, the Child Protection Act and the legislation around becoming a carer, the different responsibilities of the people you’ll be involved with—for example, a Foster and Kinship Care Practitioner from Mercy Community and a Child Safety Officer. You will learn about trauma and why kids come into care, as well as what being a carer means for your family and your home. It doesn’t matter what Foster and Kinship Care agency you’re with—everyone receives this same training.

Each of the four modules includes a piece of assessment and if you complete that successfully, you’ll receive a certificate.

Q: What comes next?

K: Once you receive your certificate of completion, you will go through an assessment process. You will be allocated a Foster and Kinship Care practitioner that will spend time with you and your family assessing your suitability to become carers. Once completed the assessment will be sent to a panel that will make the final decision on approval.

Q: What’s the panel all about?

A panel of assessors from the Department and Queensland Foster and Kinship Care (QFKC) review your application, and make the final decision about your application to become carers.

“Every conversation you have with your FKC practitioner is training; you’re constantly learning.”

Q. And then, if you are successful in the assessment process?

K: If you go through the assessment process successfully, you will be assigned a dedicated Foster and Kinship Care (FKC) Practitioner with Mercy Community, who will support you with new placements, with the conversations you’ll be having with Child Safety (part of the Department of Children, Youth justice and Multicultural Affairs), and with any of the care needs for you and the child or children in your care.

Q: Is that all the training?

A: Not at all. There’s ongoing training offered throughout the entire experience of being a carer.

Every conversation you have with your FKC practitioner is training; you’re constantly learning. They’re constantly providing information, providing strategies, having conversations… that is ongoing. There is also a calendar of training sent to every carer and they are supported to engage in any training they require. Within the first year of becoming a carer you will be asked to complete Starting Out training which is 2 modules focusing on Promoting Positive Behaviours and Carer Support, Advocacy and self-Care in addition to this you will complete Water Safety Awareness and Hope and Healing trainings.

Q: Is there any training that is unique to Mercy Community?

K: Mercy Community also provides all new carers with an induction. This gives more information about how Mercy Community Foster and Kinship Care operates and what supports we can offer through our programs.

Q: What if a carer urgently needs to ask a question related to the needs of the child? Can they call their Mercy Community FKC practitioner at any time?

K: Yes. During office hours, carers can talk directly to their practitioner. For anything from 5pm onwards, we have after-hours support as well. Mercy practitioners will be there on the other end of the line—weekends and anytime during the night, whatever they need.

The other support that is available is the Carer Support Line, provided by the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs. Child Safety also has after-hours support, and Queensland Foster and Kinship Care (QFKC) offer support too.

Q: What’s a FAST delegate?

K: FAST stands for Foster Care Advocacy and Support Team. These teams are trained, specialist local Foster and Kinship Carers who have volunteered to provide advice, support and advocate on behalf of other Foster and Kinship Carers. New carers will have a FAST representative in their area, which gives them additional local support.

Q: Is there any peer-to-peer support?

K: Yes, we also offer carer support groups, that may involve some information sharing, or a workshop, or mini training, or just a place to catch up and support each other. These support groups are just for Mercy Community Carers.