Foster Care worker Resource Hub
Supporting the foster care workforce through COVID-19
Resources for foster care workers to support their wellbeing, service delivery, and safety as they continue to work with foster carers, children and young people in care, and their families through COVID-19.
- COVID – 19 resources
- Funded Agency Channel
- Working through COVID-19
- Mental Health
- Financial Resources
- Education, childcare and training
- Legal resources
- Housing resources
- Getting carers online
Sources of information on COVID-19, including directions, frequently asked questions, and translated resources.
DHHS have created a Frequently Asked Questions for kinship and foster carers resource that provides answers to key questions from carers.
Subscribe to the Centre’s daily COVID-19 update, which includes relevant health statistics as well as sector specific information, here.
If you are managing media around COVID-19 you may wish to draw on the resources provided by DHHS here.
You can direct carers to the most up to date information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19) – symptoms, travel and what to do to reduce the risk of infection here.
If supporting carers and families, translated resources on COVID-19 can be found here.
Ask Izzy is a free and anonymous services database, where you can search over 360,000 services to find housing, meals, healthcare, counselling, legal advice, addiction treatment and more. They have COVID-specific information available.
Funded Agency Channel
Information on updates, response plans, and guidelines provided by the Funded Agency Channel.
The Funded Agency Channel (FAC) is the website that supports the partnership relationship between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education and Training and the organisations they fund. It is one of the best ways to stay up to date on policies and guidelines issued to the sector during this time.
The Cares Services and Child an Family Services Plans provide comprehensive advice for services in these sectors to support prevention, case practice and management and guidance to respond to COVID-19.
You can access the plans here.
Frequently Asked Questions about the plans have been prepared, and are available here.
Note: these plans are being updated regularly, so make sure to download the latest from the FAC website links above.
DHHS have adopted a flexible approach to monitoring agencies. The following document covers service disruption and continuity, monitoring, that no funding or service agreements will be ceased during this time, workforce retention, and record keeping. Information can be found here.
There is new practice advice regarding support for young people in Care Services to comply with stay at home directions during coronavirus COVID-19 available here.
Working through COVID-19
Resources for workers on protective equipment, infection control, and worksafe.
If necessary, face-to-face must use physical distancing and hygiene practices.
If a face-to-face visit is required:
- clients should be contacted prior to visiting to screen in relation to their health (whether they or anyone in their household has a confirmed case of COVID-19 or is unwell)
- identify close contacts of the client (that may be in self-isolation) during the pre-visit contact call. Enquire about other household members present on arrival and validate to pre-visit check responses.
- staff should practice good hygiene before, during and after visits and always maintain 1.5 metres between people and 1 person per 4 square metres.
- increase the frequency of virtual contact to check in with clients who may be at greater risk if they contract COVID-19 (this applies particularly to the vulnerable or elderly), noting self-isolation has been recommended for clients over 70 years of age, over 60 years of age where they have an existing health condition, or over 50 years of age for people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent
- ensure visits are as brief as possible to satisfy the purpose
- monitor the risk and the wellbeing of all clients and modify the frequency of visits if the risk has been assessed as increasing
- consider using additional monitoring processes and mechanisms (for example, telephone or skype contact)
- provide groceries and toiletries where these are accessible to the CSO or ACCO and in situations where a client is not able to source these independently.
Monitor the health, safety and wellbeing of clients who are required to self-isolate through telephone or skype contact, or other non-face-to-face communication methods.
DHHS is offering a free online training module to help you protect yourself and the children and young people you are caring for from infection with COVID-19. You may complete this module yourself, and encourage your foster carers and support workers to also complete it. This will ensure that accurate information around COVID-19 is being consistently shared in the sector.
Call the Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 for health information or a COVID19 symptoms assessment – this service is available 24 hours a day.
If you need interpreting services, call 131 450.
Worksafe have provided a range of resources on COVID-19 that may be useful to agencies. These include:
The Department of Health and Human services (DHHS) advises that, until further notice, Shared Lives and Our Carers for Our Kids training delivery to foster care applicants should be undertaken using online video conferencing as group or one on one training. The Shared Lives training package includes guidance and modifications for delivering the training in a group or one on one setting.
Fostering Connections and the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare have developed a resource on facilitating training through online platforms. We note that many agencies are already trialing this work and are grateful for the input from those agencies.
To receive a copy of this resource please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Working remotely requires consideration by yourself and your employer of:
- Minisimising the spread of COVID-19
- Duty of care
- Home office environment
- Workstation set up
- Keeping in touch
- Mental and emotional wellbeing
- Privacy and online safety
Many of us are working remotely, and the same goes for the caregivers and young people we support whether it be employment or education. To ensure that this is done as effectively as possible, please speak with your employer to access their specific policy.
In addition to this, please consider of the Centre’s Workplace Safety resources here.
Resources for maintaining your mental health, supporting carers, and empowering children and young people.
COVID-19 has brought us into a ‘State of Emergency’ following an exceptionally taxing bushfire season. Psychological first aid is used to support people following a disaster to assist them in adjusting to the situation or finding the appropriate support they may need. The below resources also have clear examples on what it is and how to provide psychological first aid.
It may be of value for agencies to consider information on psychological first aid, or consult the World Health Organisation (WHO) factsheet on COVID-19 specific Psychological First Aid. This can be supported by using resources on psychosocial assessment resources and tools in response to disasters.
Head to Health is a hub for digital mental health resources run by the Department of Health. It has a collection of COVID-19 specific resources covering topics such as how to access mental health services, advice for parents, and how to keep older Australians safe and connected online.
While supporting carers, children, and families, it’s incredibly important to take care of your own mental and wellbeing.
The Red Cross have recommendations on how to look after your well-being during COVID-19.
BeyondBlue has created a great guide for looking after your mental health during the outbreak.
THIS WAY UP provides online learning programs, education and research about mental health.
Workplaces may also benefit from considering how they can provide leadership in psychological safety during this time.
Carers can access additional information on caring through COVID-19 by visiting the Foster Care Association of Victoria (FCAV). Carers with FCAV membership have access to their Carer Information and Support Service which provides carers with an independent referral and assistance point.
If you would like to support a caregiver to access telehealth medical or counselling appointments, they may do so by contacting their GP. You can find resources on the National Health Plan here, and specifically about the elements on supporting mental health here.
Carers should ask their service providers about their telehealth options, and whether these are appropriate for their clinical care needs.
If a carer is looking for a psychologist, , the Australian Psychological Society’s website, Find A Psychologist, provides details about how to access psychologists across Australia.
Some of the most important things carers can be doing to maintain good mental health during this time include:
- Establish and stick to a routine with their household that includes chores, learning, outdoor activities, time away from screens, and meals together.
- Staying active (while maintaining physical distance from others while exercising)
- Checking-in with loved ones. While it’s not the same as seeing them face-to-face and giving them a hug, just talking to a loved one can help boost people’s mood.
- Balancing their intake of news and information. If they are finding the influx of information about COVID-19 overwhelming, limit yourself to checking the news only once or twice a day, and make sure they read, watch or listen to something uplifting and non-COVID related every day.
- Encouraging carers to ask children and young people how they are feeling. Uncertainty and illness can make young people feel distressed and it is important to take time to acknowledge and validate those feelings.
- Seek support if they need it. Beyond Blue has a Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Service that you can call on 1800 512 348.
The Staying at Home Toolkit for Foster Carers includes advice on how carers can look after their own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of children and young people in their care, including creating a routine, creating sensory breaks, meditation, mindfulness, cultivating resilience and understanding heightened behaviour.
It is important to talk to children and young people about COVID-19 to make them feel secure and empowered during very uncertain times. This may be embedded into case work or support sessions with the children and young people you work with. It can be a difficult conversation, here are some tips you may find useful:
- Set the emotional tone: if you sound panicked while talking about it, they may panic too.
- Take cues from your child. You can start the conversation by asking what they know about the situation. Give them the opportunity to ask any questions they have.
- Use age-appropriate facts from reliable sources such as government departments.
- Don’t give them too much information all at once, it can be overwhelming. Provide them with the basic facts and answer any follow-up questions they have honestly. If you don’t know the answer, look it up. Show your children that it is a good idea to check what they are hearing through their friends and media.
- Be reassuring but truthful. Tell them about the measures being put in place to slow the spread and let them know that young people and children usually experience milder symptoms.
- Help them feel empowered by teaching them good hygiene and social distancing techniques.
- Be aware of how you talk about the outbreak when young people are present. Remain positive and prevention-focused within earshot.
The Conversation has tips for combining play and mindfulness to support children during this time.
Headspace has created a fantastic guide for young people about how to cope with stress related to the outbreak.
raisingchildren.net.au has created extensive resources about how to talk to young people about COVID-19, and how to navigate isolation and social distancing with children, teenagers, and young people with a disability, autism and other conditions.
Where to direct carers who have questions or concerns regarding the financial impacts of COVID-19.
There have been numerous financial support packages which may be confusing to navigate, especially for carers with children in the home along with their other duties. Other carers may have found themselves without an income as a result of the lockdowns. The information below can be shared to help explain the new packages to your carer households, and identify where they can seek further support.
The Victorian Government has announced a financial support package for the Child and Family Welfare sector. A total of $77.5million will be provided to the sector over the next two years. There are three key aspects of this package that will impact foster and kinship carers:
- $11 million will provide extra financial support for carers
- There will be a one-off payment of $600 to all foster and kinship carers per child in their care to help cover the additional costs of full-time caring at home.
- An additional $2.3mil pool of funding is being created for foster and kinship carers.
For more details, see the FAQ and media release on the DHHS site.
Beyond government payments, a range of options are being made available to those who are experiencing financial hardship. Many carers may be feeling overwhelmed navigating the financial ramifications of COVID-19.
Carers may benefit from the Moneysmart website, which provides a range of advice including on early access to superannuation and investment scams, financial assistance, and practical steps for living on a reduced income.
For those who require urgent help with money, consider the resources available here.
For detailed information about payments for individuals affected by COVID-19, see Services Australia.
For detailed information about support for businesses affected by COVID-19, see Business Victoria.
Consumer Affairs Victoria have set out rights and responsibilities in a range of areas where they have been receiving queries. The may be of use to carers with concerns regarding housing and tenants rights, price gouging, and event cancellations and refunds.
Further information on consumer rights, including answers to commonly asked questions, has been provided by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The Federal Government has increased the JobSeeker payment and introduced the new JobKeeper payment to support people whose employment and income has been affected by COVID-19. These payments are being boosted to a higher amount due to the Coronavirus Supplement (around double the usual payment you would receive).
Information on JobKeeper from the ATO, including links to enrol for payment, and JobKeeper guides, are available here. Note that carers may require direction to either the information for employers or information for employees.
Information on the JobSeeker payment from Service Australian, including links to enrol for payment, is available here.
If carers need to deal with Centrelink it is worth noting for them that the current wait times on the phone are long, and it is best to have their relevant information ready to go to save time. This provides a useful step by step of claiming payments.
A person is eligible for JobKeeper if:
- They have been stood down by their employer since March 1st 2020 due to COVID-19,
- They are still working, but on reduced hours as a result of COVID-19.
- They were employed for 12 months prior to March 1st (this applies if they are a full-time, part-time, or long-term casual employee)
- Their employer has signed up for the wage subsidy scheme. If their employer has not signed up for the scheme, they will need to apply for JobSeeker.
A person is eligible for Jobseeker if:
- They have been stood down since March 1 2020 and there is no chance of being re-employed by their employer (for example, if the company has shut down or they have been made redundant).
- They are a casual who hasn’t been employed for 12 months prior to March 1 2020, but this is dependent on incoming testing.
- A person can only access JobSeeker or JobKeeper, not both.
- If they have applied but are unsure of their eligibility, make sure carers do not withdraw their Centrelink application. Centrelink will assess this for them.
- For employees who earn less than JobKeeper payments – the payment is the same for everyone. It equates to 70% of the median wage.
Education and training resources
Resources for carers on school attendance, information on learning and educating at home, childcare, and training.
A Return to School Resource for Carers has been developed with DHHS, which is available here.
Victoria will begin a staged return to on-site schooling. Students in Prep – Grade 2, Year 11 and 12 and all students in specialist schools, will return to school on Tuesday 26 May 2020. Students in Grade 3 – Year 10 will continue to learn from home, until they return to school on Tuesday 9 June.
DHHS have further updates on the impact on the Education sector here.
To support foster carers caring for a school-aged child or young person who is no longer attending school due to the outbreak you can find a list of useful education and learning resources here.
If you require support to engage a child/young person in school or approve their school attendance, please refer to the following:
- Providers should connect with the LOOKOUT school in their local areas if they are having difficulty with negotiating appropriate support and connection with the school. LOOKOUT contact details can be found here.
- For updated advice regarding school term dates, attendance, and school bus services, visit the Department of Education’s coronavirus advice page for parents, carers and guardians.
- The Department of Education’s learning from home information site is designed to help support children’s learning and development if their school is closed.
You may wish to direct carers to call the DET advice phone line for parents and carers on 1800 338 663.
The Department of Education and Training also have a range of learning resources and advice on their website. These resources include:
The Government has announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package that gives families fee relief for childcare during COVID-19. Foster carers not required to do anything to receive this package.
If a child is enrolled, they are eligible.
Resources on the operation of Family Contact during COVID-19, where to find answers on a range of common legal questions emerging from this situation, and how courts are operating during this time.
Family contact as written in the Court conditions can still go ahead by means of phone calls, facetime/skype, SMS, or email, and supervised contact may occur online.
Case Managers will need to liaise with Child Protection about how to best facilitate contact to ensure the safety of the household and confidentiality of the placement.
The Children’s Court of Victoria remains open and operational at all venues. However, there will be restricted entry to the Court, with court users appearing via audio visual link or telephone rather than in person. Families are not required to attend Court in person provided lawyers hold up-to-date instructions and are able to contact clients by telephone.
Information on COVID-19 measures and the Children’s Court of Victoria can be found here.
Information on COVID-19 and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria can be found here.
Information on COVID-19 measures and listing arrangements for the Family Court can be found here.
Resources on a range of housing issues that may have arisen as a result of COVID-19, including payment supports, information on eviction moritorium, and where carers can find further support.
There is a moratorium on evictions, meaning that evictions from rental homes will be put on hold for 6 months by the states and territories. Landlords and renters are encouraged to talk about short term agreements and come to a mutual understanding about their situations.
Information on the impacts of COVID-19 on renters can be found at Tenants Victoria.
Carers who may require assistance with rent may be eligible for the rent-relief grant, with further information available through Housing Victoria.
Carers can also access the following support programs:
- Private Rental Brokerage Program (PRAP) provides financial and practical assistance to establish and maintain private rental tenancies for people who are homeless or those who are at risk of homelessness, who are able to maintain private rental, or who are in private rental and need targeted time limited assistance to maintain their private rental. For more information about PRAP, visit a service provider website, such as Vincent Care or Launch Housing. You can find service guidelines here.
- Housing Establishment Funds (HEF) helps individuals and families who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness to access emergency or alternative housing options, such as registered rooming houses, hotels/motels and caravan parks. Find more information about HEF here.
- People experiencing or at risk of homelessness can call the toll free homelessness hotline on 1800 825 955. This number will direct the call to the closest homelessness entry point, or if the call is outside business hours, it will be directed to the After Hours service.
Banks have been offering support to those affected — including up to a three-month deferral of mortgage repayments — under existing financial hardship policies. In addition to extending repayment holidays, the banks announced new fixed-home loan and term deposit rates, among other measures.
The Australian Banking Association has detailed information for individuals, business and commercial landlords. Their frequently asked questions page provides a range of answers to common queries, and carers can use the find my bank section to identify the specific relief packages being offered by their financial institution.
Getting carers online
Many carers are getting online for the first time, or being required to use technology in a new way. There are numerous resources that can be accessed on how to best utilise technology and how to stay safe online.
If assisting carers and prospective carers to get online so they can participate in training, assessment, or other supervision, consider using the Be Connected website provided by the eSafety Commission. There are COVID-19 specific online safety tips for those who are older and online during social distancing.
Their topics range from the most basic (what is a computer, how to use email) to more complex uses such as apps. They also provide opportunities to practice that can be shared and walked through. Topics can be found here.
The eSafety Commissioner is also hosting free webinar presentations to help older Australians stay safer online. These require bookings and cover a host of topics including scam spotting and shopping online, as well as staying safe online – COVID-19 edition. Bookings and information can be found here.
Keeping children and young people safe online needs to be age appropriate and clear. This should be a joint conversation with their carer and potentially care team if there have been concerns around internet safety.
Carers may find it useful to consider: