The Victoria Auditor – General’s Offices (VAGO) Kinship Care Report was released 22 June 2022. The report examines the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) and three other kinship care service providers – Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Anglicare Victoria, and Uniting Victoria/Tasmania.
The focus of the audit is: is the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) supporting timely, stable and quality placements for children and young people through the new kinship care model?
The importance of the report
Kinship care is the support provided by relatives or a member of a child’s social network when they cannot live with their parents. It is the fastest-growing form of out-of-home care in Victoria.
Available information shows that between 2017 and 2021, the number of children and young people in kinship care grew by 33.2 per cent.
DFFH introduced a new kinship care model in 2018 to accommodate this growth and respond to issues with the level of support kinship carers were receiving.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are significantly overrepresented in kinship care and are 20.1 times more likely to be in kinship care than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria.
The DFFH cannot be assured that it is providing timely, safe and stable placements for children and young people at risk. This is because it does not systematically monitor or report on if it is achieving the new model’s objectives.
DFFH also does not ensure that staff and service providers complete mandatory assessments on how safe a home is, what support the carer needs and the child’s wellbeing. This puts children in care at risk because DFFH cannot confirm if they are being cared for in a safe environment.
Kinship carers are also not receiving the support they need to provide stable homes for children and young people in their care.
There are 12 recommendations which DFFH has accepted these include:
- identify Kinship networks early (6)
- completing mandatory assessments (1)
- support for carers (2)
- monitoring and reporting on the new model (3)
Kinship Care Network
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare co-hosts with Kinship Care Victoria a statewide Kinship Care Network inclusive of 28 funded service provides and DFFH policy and divisional Kinship Care teams. 96 participants come together every 6 weeks to build capacity and alignment across the Kinship care sector.
The Network looks forward to collaborating with government to implement the recommendations to bring about the necessary change early and timely way.
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare strongly supports empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination. Increasing attention for timely, appropriate kinship placements and cultural connection must be a priority.
Please see the full VAGO report here: https://www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/kinship-care.
You may also read the Press Release from Kinship Carers Vic here: http://kinshipcarersvictoria.org/press-releases/.