A team within Upper Murray Family Care (UMFC) is trying to raise community awareness of the support they can provide to kinship carers and their role in the community, as Kinship Carer Week draws to a close today.
This year's Kinship Carer Week ran from September 6 to 10 to pay tribute to the work carers do looking after children every day around the country.
Team leader of the kinship team at UMFC Vanessa Dodd said kinship carers were people who were known to a child, who stepped in to look after them if they couldn't live with their parents for reasons of abuse or neglect.
"They might be an extended family member, they could be a teacher from the school the child attends, they could be a friend of the child's family," she said.
"[Normally] they have had some sort of involvement in looking after that child throughout their life anyway, normally in an informal capacity.
"So a lot of the time it's probably not even a conscious decision, it's just that they know that child, they know that child needs them, and they do it.
"It's a massive commitment that they take on and a lot of the time they don't get a lot of time to think about it because that child will be in crisis with their family and need somewhere safe to be as soon as possible."
Ms Dodd said kinship carers were important, because children had better outcomes if they could stay connected to their community of origin.
"They've identified that it's in the best interests of the child that they stay connected to family and community wherever possible," she said.
"So kinship care is ideally the first course of where you would try to place a child if they cant be with their parents."
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Ms Dodd said there were more kinship carers than people realised.
She asked "for everyone to be aware that those people are out there and they need support".
"Absolutely direct them to UMFC, because that's what our kinship program does," she said.
"We support kinship carers, because it's a tough job and they can't do it on their own."
Ms Dodd said her team could provide support in multiple ways.
"We have an information and advice service that is free for all carers," she said.
"Basically it just gives them a confidential space to talk about what they're going through and ask questions.
"We can refer them to services, we can help them understand Centrelink and the payments they're entitled to, we can help them to navigate through the court system if they're having to deal with that.
"And sometimes it's just that we offer them a listening ear, because they might not have someone else to talk to."
Kinship carers can call the UMFC kinship team on 02 60 558 000.
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