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Too few places for fostered siblings: report We Need More Foster Carers!

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on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 12:38
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Trigger happy Child Protection Workers Exhaust Foster Care System

Too few places for fostered siblings: report

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MORE than four out of five children in foster care in Victoria are separated from siblings, according to Anglicare, the state's largest foster agency. And two out of five children in foster care have been separated from all their siblings.

In a report released today, called All Together Now, Anglicare publishes the findings of a survey of children in 116 foster homes across the state - the first survey of siblings in foster care in Australia, according to the report's author, Dr Sarah Wise.

Anglicare says the Department of Human Services struggles to find carers for children from large families, in which siblings may have different fathers.
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Only 16 per cent of the children in the survey were placed with all their siblings, 84.1 per cent were separated from at least some of their siblings, and 42.6 per cent were separated from all their siblings.

Dr Wise says that one reason so few siblings get to stay together is that residential care in group homes has been phased out, and foster carers are unable to take on multiple siblings. ''The group home is out of favour, and these are some of the consequences.''

The survey also found that separated siblings had limited or no contact with each other - almost half of them (45 per cent) had no contact with siblings once they were fostered out.

The report calls on the state government to improve access by foster agencies to information about children and their siblings in foster care, so that children and their carers and agencies can keep track of siblings over the years.

The report also recommended that children from the same family be assigned to the same case worker, even if parents moved between regions.

New foster carers must be recruited who are willing and able to care for siblings together, the report said. Many carers were unable to care for more than one child from a family at a time.

The Department of Human Services does not contest the findings in the Anglicare report, although a spokesman said the department did not have its own figures on children separated from their siblings.

The Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge, supported the report's findings, telling The Age: ''The Anglicare report highlights another aspect of out-of-home care, which is buckling under the pressure of an overstretched child protection system.

''The Coalition government is conducting a comprehensive inquiry into child protection. We encourage Anglicare to provide this important research to the inquiry panel for their consideration when developing recommendations to improve the safety and protection of vulnerable children.''

Rizz, 20, (last name withheld) says she lost all contact with her six brothers when she went into foster care four years ago at the age of 16, even though she ''nagged my childcare worker all the time'' for access to her 15-year-old brother, who was in care on the other side of Melbourne. Once she turned 18, she found her brother and they lived together for a month.

''But it was just too much hard work,'' she said. ''He had changed completely; we didn't know each other any more.''

Michelle Griffin
February 22, 2011
http://www.theage.com.au