More foster carers needed in anticipation of extra child protection workers

Upper Murray Family Care recruitment, assessment and training officer Jeanine Aughey with foster carers Robyn Bottrell and Rudy Kramer. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
Upper Murray Family Care recruitment, assessment and training officer Jeanine Aughey with foster carers Robyn Bottrell and Rudy Kramer. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

A rise in child protection workers in Victoria will result in more vulnerable children identified, and more foster carers will be needed to support that increase.

Luke Rumbold, Upper Murray Family Care’s chief executive, welcomed the state government’s $72.2 million investment in 450 new child protection positions but said it would add to the continual need for new carers.

“That’s tremendous, but by definition they generate work, and we’re the placement agency,” he said.

“We might get 20 workers in the area, and you have more people out there seeing vulnerable families – some of that is going to come our way in terms of more referrals.”

REACH OUT: Upper Murray Family Care chief executive Luke Rumbold says on Foster Care Week, residents should consider being carers. Currently half of active households are 'on hold', unable to take children. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS

REACH OUT: Upper Murray Family Care chief executive Luke Rumbold says on Foster Care Week, residents should consider being carers. Currently half of active households are 'on hold', unable to take children. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS

As Foster Care Week comes to a close, Mr Rumbold said the message stayed consistent year-round; carers are always needed.

“For every 100 inquiries, you might end up with 10 carers,” he said.

“Last year in Victoria the average conversion rate between inquiries and carers coming out the other end was eight or nine per cent, and our rate was 18 per cent.

“People walk away with some knowledge about foster care, but we let them go a bit too easily.”

As UMFC’s recruitment, assessment and training officer, Jeanine Aughey answers calls from potential carers.

“People ring up, asking if it’s okay they have a dog, or they rent – and we say, ‘great!’ – we have a mother and son, same-sex couples and single people fostering,” she said.

“There are 80 active carer households in the region and half are on hold … a family might be away or someone is sick and they need time out.

“Forty is not a lot of households when we’re getting 30 requests for placements a month.”

Mr Rumbold said foster care was always a self-selection process, and what was most important that people consider the idea.

“The preparation for people who wish to become foster carers is light years ahead of what it was,” he said.

“Australia is getting a lot more mature about understanding the diversity of families, and the strength that brings.”

For information about foster care, contact UMFC on (02) 6055 8000.