Specialist foster carers help “last chance” children heal from trauma and rediscover childhood

An intensive foster care program is changing the lives of Toowoomba’s most troubled children by helping them transition out of institutionalised residential care and back into family homes.

Toowoomba child welfare organisation OzChild is delivering the Queensland-first program in which specialist foster carers are trained and paid up to $65,000 per annum to care for children short-term with complex behavioural and emotional problems, which have resulted from their trauma and neglect.

OzChild Queensland director Estelle Paterson said the Toowoomba and South West region was chosen in 2018 to deliver the pilot program because of the high number of children under 12 in residential care.

“Our foster carers work closely with our professional support team which includes therapists, skills coaches and a teacher to deliver the program’s behaviour modification strategies,” Ms Paterson said.

“Often the problem is the system around the children. There are not enough trained foster carers to take on children with trauma,” she said.

“Often trauma manifests itself in negative behaviour and the program teaches both foster carers and families how to manage those behaviours in a positive way.

“For a lot of kids, this is their last chance to get out of the system and get back to a family.”

The program has more than an 80% success rate with 17 children successfully completing the program and returning to their family or family-based foster care.

Member for Toowoomba South David Janetzki MP said it had become an increasing trend for children to be placed in residential care as a first, not a last resort, because the children had nowhere else to go.

“Residential care is an institution, it is not a stable, loving family home,” Mr Janetzki said.

"It is certainly not the place for traumatised young children, some just five years old, to live where they are supervised by paid shift-workers,” he said.

“There is a well-established link between children in residential care, their over-representation in the youth justice system and their future involvement in the adult criminal system.”

Mr Janetzki has joined child safety advocates in calling for the government to invest more funding into fostering and prevention programs, rather than expensive residential facilities.

“Resi care is failing our children and it is outrageously expensive,” Mr Janetzki said.

“The average cost is almost $350,000 per child, per year, with some children costing upward of $1milllion per year in resi care,” he said.

“The OzChild Toowoomba team and the region’s 12 intensive foster carers are achieving life-changing results for these children whom everyone else has given up on.”

To find out more about becoming a specialist foster carer visit ozchild.org.au