At Anglicare Victoria, we want as many young people as possible to have the opportunity to live in a home-based environment. For the first time in Australia, a new form of professionalised foster care is providing an alternative to residential care and getting kids with problem behaviours back to a stable, family life.
Kellie knew she could make a positive difference to a vulnerable child’s life and reunite them with their family.
After hearing about a new form of professionalised foster care from a colleague, Kellie, who works in the healthcare industry, thought she would give it a go. A few months ago, Kellie started caring for Ben* as part of the Treatment Foster Oregon Care (TFCO) program.
Kellie was unsure how having an extra child would impact on her family, especially her two young girls.
Initially, caring for Ben was challenging. When Ben arrived he was shut down and spoke very little. He could not have conversations, either affirming yes or no, and could not say what he thought or what he needed.
Kellie had been prepared for challenging behaviour from Ben but was surprised to find soon enough, with a little love and care, he was a perfect match for the family.
“I was expecting it to be so much more challenging than it was. When Ben came to us, not only did I find him a perfect match for us, it was where he was at in his journey that was the right fit for us,’’ she says.
“It’s actually more pulling him out of himself rather than trying to contain his behaviours.”
TFCO is a professionalised form of foster care which runs over six to nine months, with the aim of preparing young people to be reunited with their family or moved into a stable foster or kinship care arrangement.
The TFCO approach helps young people better manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviours by setting clear, consistent boundaries and using a rewards system to reinforce positive behaviour.
TFCO carers are given specialist training and are closely guided and supervised by a team of six professionals including a schools specialist, child therapist and skills coach with daily calls. They receive fortnightly financial reimbursements and a respite carer as needed.
Within a few months of entering the TFCO program and with Kellie’s love and care, there has been a remarkable difference in Ben’s behaviour.
“I’ve seen him come out of his shell. I’ve seen him talk about his history and his experience with his family and in care in a very open and emotional way. It’s very different to the boy that came to us. So it’s helped him become more himself.
“We now have a 12-year-old who is very happy to tell me that my dinner was a little bit bland tonight, that he prefers to play this game rather than that game, or that he needs help with his homework, or wants a new jumper – that very normal 12-year-old behaviour,” says Kellie.
“I’m really amazed by the skill and commitment provided to him. He has a life coach and an educational support coach. They have their own goals with Ben. For me, I have found the carer meetings we have once a week have some fantastic strategies and debriefing,” she says.
A typical day involves Kellie bringing the kids to school then heading to work. The end of the day is focused on bringing the family home to have
a nutritious dinner, to do homework and spend quality time together.
“For us, it’s about Ben having a very normal family life, because that’s what TFCO is trying to do,” says Kellie.
Being a TFCO carer has brought more to Kelly and her family than she could have ever imagined.
“I really did labour long and hard over this and now I wonder, what I was waiting for. So I just think, it’s actually not what you can do for the child, it’s what the child can do for your family. Besides having my own children this is the best thing I could have done.
“I think people just need to take a leap. These kids can bring so much to families and other children.”
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.