On the 12th and 13th of November I spent time with DHHS representatives and agency colleagues discussing the Victorian government’s Roadmap to Reform paper for our sector. Apart from the usual presentations there were speakers including young adults who once were in care as well as young parents who received support through the cradle to kinder program. Unsurprisingly their comments resonated the loudest to most of us. One young person shared that when they entered foster care at the age of 10 yrs, they were illiterate. Their foster parent taught them to read and write. Another said that given her childhood abuse she didn’t want any contact with her mum for 2 yrs, even though there was a lot of pressure to do so. The message was the importance of listening to the child.
The young mums were equally impressive sharing their personal stories. One said she was a heroin addict when DHHS removed her children. At the time she hated DHHS but now she could say that was the right thing to do. The message was that with the right support, change was possible. What counted was having a worker who stuck through thick and thin, allowing trust to develop.
There was very strong agreement about the broad policy directions we should move toward. The importance of early intervention, the reduction of children in OOHC, especially residential care, the prioritising of culturally appropriate practice, the adoption of evidence based services with measurable outcomes and the need for place based flexible models.
I am pleased that we have had these types of conversations and feel we are well placed to rise to the challenges and opportunities that these issues raise. I anticipate that next year we shall see the beginnings of service models that reflect these aspirations, like the complete move of kinship care from DHHS to our sector. I think there will be trials of intensive foster care models aimed at moving children from residential care. The Minister was very clear when she spoke to us that she wanted to see a reduction of children, especially young children, from residential care to home based care types.
So, I think next year is going to be very exciting with more change and forums, that if done well can be the foundation of excellent work for the families UMFC was established to serve.