A decline in the number of foster carers in Tasmania will worsen over the next five years, according to a Tasmanian foster carers organisation.
The Foster and Kinship Carers Association of Tasmania (FKAT) said there were about 430 active foster carers in Tasmania but another 150 new carers were needed in the next three years to keep up with demand.
FKAT chief executive Dr Kim Backhouse said there was an ageing demographic of carers in the state.
There are not enough foster carers in Tasmania, says Dr Kim Backhouse. (ABC News: Carla Howarth)
“We don’t have enough foster carers at the moment in Tasmania and nationally there’s a decline in that space,” she said.
“Only smaller numbers of younger carers are coming into the system.”
Dr Backhouse said the decline in foster carers would worsen over the next few years.
“Given that a lot of the service providers are only having placements for six or seven new carers in any one year per organisation, we have a long way to go,” she said.
“Every time there is negative press, anyone that’s particularly interested in joining the association or getting information about being a foster or kinship carer is reluctant to do that.
“There is a lot of foster carers that have a particularly unpleasant experience with the workers in the [Human Services] Department.
Tasmania has a relatively high rate of children in foster care, says David Clements. (ABC News: Carla Howarth)
“That’s something that we’ve tried to work very hard on over the last couple of years — to create strong relationships with the departments, particularly if they’ve got a care concern.”
Interim Commissioner for Children and Young People, David Clements, said Tasmania had a high number of children in foster care.
“We’ve got increasing numbers of children actually entering the out of home care system,” he said.
“So to have the skilled and dedicated people to do this important work on hand means that those children are going to be receiving better support and the care that they really need.”
The ABC revealed in May detailed allegations from whistleblowers of child abuse in foster care, saying the Tasmanian Government was so desperate to house vulnerable children they were being sent to abusive out-of-home care environments.
Human Services Minister Roger Jaensch said the system was improving.
“We are redesigning and rebuilding our child safety system and our out-of-home-care system,'” he said.
“There’s a lot of due diligence undertaken, and selection and training and support throughout the career of a foster carer.
“Every time there is an incident or an allegation or a concern raised, we go back and examine those cases in detail and make changes to our system.”
‘Training for foster carers should be mandatory’
Laura Bane says she and her husband responded to a crisis by offering to help. (ABC News: Carla Howarth)
Hobart foster carer Katie Wells has fostered more than 60 children over 15 years.
“It is really difficult at times. You need a lot of patience. It’s a lot of hard work,” she said.
“Kids who come into your care are really confused, they’re really unsettled, they’re unhappy and they can display lots of different behaviours.”
Ms Wells wants to see mandatory training for registered foster carers.
“The training that’s offered once you’re a registered carer is sufficient if you make a commitment to undergoing to that training,” she said.
“What I think needs to be improved is the fact it’s not mandatory — no training is mandatory for careers once they’re registered foster carers.”
Hobart resident Laura Bane, 29, and her husband have been respite carers since the end of last year.
Respite carers take children for short periods to give their foster parents a break.
“We provide regular monthly respite for three kids,” Ms Bane said.
“We felt a strong responsibility that there was a growing crisis and issue happening with children who had faced trauma and disadvantage.”
Mrs Bane urged other young people to become carers.
“We don’t have biological children of our own; we’re newly married, we’re only renting a house,” she said.
“What we’ve gained far outweighed what we’ve had to sacrifice.
“If you’re single, of a particular religious background or in a same-sex relationship, you can absolutely make it work within your lifestyle.”