1. Provide support to carers

Carers face many challenges in caring for children who have experienced separation, trauma and disrupted attachments. Although they undertake this role as volunteers, carers are subject to a high level of community expectation and legislative regulation, which is reflected in the standards of care. The provision of ongoing support and training is crucial to ensuring that carers are equipped to undertake this challenging role.

The Statement of commitment between the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and the foster and kinship carers of Queensland is a partnership agreement between Child Safety and the carers of Queensland. The statement sets out the broad rights of carers and aims to ensure that efforts are directed in ways that support the safety, belonging and wellbeing of children in care. The statement sets out the expectations of each party and their commitment to working together in a respectful, productive, forward-looking partnership that benefits children in care.

1.1 Negotiate support arrangements for carers

The purpose of providing support to carers is to assist them to provide care consistent with the standards of care for each child and to undertake actions and achieve the goals of the child’s case plan. Carers have the right to the level of support that enables them to meet the required standards of care.

For information to consider when negotiating support arrangements, refer to the practice resource Negotiating support arrangements for approved carers and the practice paper Carer support (PDF, 502 KB) Carer support (RTF, 326 KB).

The responsibility for providing support and training to carers is shared between Child Safety and foster and kinship care services and occurs through a partnership process that is respectful and open, and recognises the unique contribution of each member of the care team. 

The majority of carers in Queensland are supported by foster and kinship care services who receive government funding to recruit, train, assess and support carers. For carers who are supported by a foster and kinship service, the service undertakes key support functions. Carers who are not supported by these services are supported, supervised and trained by Child Safety.

The support required for any carer, specific to the goals of the placement for a particular child, is identified and negotiated with the carer and documented in the placement agreement for the child. For further information about developing a placement agreement, refer to Chapter 5, 1.9 Complete a placement agreement.

Foster carer agreement

The development and support needs of foster carers are formally negotiated and documented in the foster carer agreement. For carers who are supported by a foster and kinship care service, this document is usually completed by the foster and kinship care service, with the carer. The section on the carers ‘development and support plan’ captures both the training needs and the support needs of the carers, and draws on the assessment information highlighted in the carer’s most recent assessment report.

For foster carers who are not supported by a foster and kinship care service, the foster carer agreement is completed by the PSU, with the carer. For further information, refer to  Chapter 8, 3.5 Complete a foster carer agreement and Chapter 8, 4.11 Review the foster carer agreement.

Kinship carers

Kinship carers may have different support needs from foster carers, given the unique nature of kinship care. For information about the support issues specific to kinship care placements, refer to the Kinship care program description and the Kinship Care: A literature review. The support and development needs of kinship carers will be captured in the placement agreement for the child. For further information about developing a placement agreement, refer to Chapter 5, 1.9 Complete a placement agreement.

Other support resources for carers

All carers will be provided with information about:

  • the Foster and Kinship Carer Support Line, available on telephone 1300 729 309, Monday to Friday 5:00 - 11:30pm and Saturday and Sunday 7:00am - 11:30pm
  • the role of, and contact details for, the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre
  • the the Connecting with Carers webpage on the Queensland Government website: Carer Business Discount Card.

In circumstances where a carer requires additional support outside business hours, make a referral to the Foster and Kinship Care Support Line using the 'Foster and Kinship Care Support Line Referral' Form, created in ICMS. A referral may be considered appropriate when:

  • a child or sibling group has been newly placed
  • a child has complex needs due to their behaviour or other special needs
  • a child has particular support needs due a specific event or issue
  • a carer has been provisionally approved or newly approved as a kinship carer.

Foster and Kinship Care Support Line staff will record information about the contact with the carer within 'Documents//Comms' in the carer's 'Monitor and Support' screen in ICMS.

An approved carer who is a Child Safety employee may require additional supports specific to their dual role as an approved carer and an employee - for further information, refer to Chapter 8, 3. What if a carer or carer applicant is also a departmental employee?

1.2 Provide support to the carer during routine contact

The provision of support is one way of contributing to the carer’s knowledge, skills and abilities, and can enhance their capacity to provide quality care and their ability to respond to the diverse and complex needs of individual children. For support that is specific to the goals of the placement for a particular child, refer to Chapter 5, 2. Support a child in out-of-home care.

Carers require a range of supports at different times for different children. These can include: 

  • practical support: This may include the provision of community or professional services in accordance with the child’s case plan, and ensuring that these are still relevant to the needs of the child and the placement. Providing the carer with the necessary information about the child is critical, as this equips the carer with the necessary information to perform their role effectively, promotes the safety of all and contributes to placement stability.
  • financial support: Ensuring that the carer is receiving the correct reimbursements from Child Safety is important. This includes their access to the discretionary payments from child related costs and payments, such as high or complex support needs allowances.
  • emotional and psychological support: It is particularly important to acknowledge the contributions made by the carer. Additional supports may be required at times of stress, such as when there are signs that the carer is struggling to manage a child’s challenging behaviours, or where a child is leaving the placement. 
  • task-focused problem solving support: Carers are more likely to experience stress when they are struggling to deal with a child’s difficult behaviours (such as conduct disorders, violent behaviour or sexually reactive behaviour), where there has been a number of stressful events over the past six months, or where the carer has felt under pressure to accept a placement. Responding to specific issues in a timely way can help to preserve the placement
  • case work support: It is essential that carers are supported through regular home visits to the child and carer by the CSO, in order to establish a good working relationship that allows for the early communication of issues or needs.

For further information, refer to the practice paper Carer support (PDF, 502 KB) Carer support (RTF, 326 KB).

1.3 Support for care services

Non-family based care services (“care services”) include the following services that provide out-of-home care for children:

  • residential care and therapeutic residential care
  • supported independent living
  • safe houses

It does not include foster and kinship care services.

Care services are not supported by Child Safety in the same way that foster and kinship carers are. Care services are responsible for the provision of supervision, training and support of their staff, to ensure that they are able to provide care that meets the legislated standards of care.

Responsibilities of Child Safety in supporting the delivery of non-family based care services include:

  • ensuring that care services are provided with all of the information they need about a child, including background information, information about the child’s strengths and needs and full information in relation to children with sexual abuse histories or sexually reactive behaviour
  • supporting care services to satisfy licensing requirements, by assisting with the development of policies, procedures, training and guidelines that align with legislated requirements and Child Safety's expectations
  • supporting care services to meet their funding objectives, through appropriate referrals and the continued support of children in placements
  • assisting care services to assess the suitability of staff members, by conducting personal history checks through the CSU.

The CSO with case responsibility for the child will work in partnership with the care service, as set out in the case plan and placement agreement for each child - refer to Chapter 5, 2. Support a child in out-of-home care.

1.4 Case work support

Regular case work contact between the CSO with case responsibility, the child and the carer or care service establishes good communication and allows for the early identification of issues and emerging needs. The minimum face-to-face contact requirements for children is once a month in their care environment, as outlined in Chapter 4, 4.2 Implement contact requirements. Case work contact by the CSO may increase at certain times. The frequency and nature of supports to the carer will depend on a range of factors, including:

  • the complexity of the needs of the child in the placement, such as the nature of their needs and behaviours, the history of placement disruption and movements
  • the case plan goal, the key activities outlined, and who is responsible for the identified actions
  • the type and length of the placement
  • the placement capacity of the carer household
  • the number of children placed in the household, their ages and behaviour, and whether they are a sibling group or comprise a number of unrelated children
  • the carer's level of experience, knowledge and skills with respect to caring for the children in the placement
  • the degree and nature of the support and training available to the carer from foster and kinship care services
  • informal support networks.

High levels of carer support result in better placement outcomes for the child. Conversely, carers who are poorly supported are more likely to end a placement or resign as carers. For further information, refer to the practice paper Carer support (PDF, 502 KB) Carer support (RTF, 326 KB).