As much as foster carers love the children in their care and find the experience hugely rewarding, being a foster carer can be frustrating, exhausting or even overwhelming at times. For many foster carers, their case worker becomes a lifeline – on a practical as well as an emotional level.
Challenge Community Services case workers, Natalie Hufnagl and Melissa Day talk about how they help children in need and support the extraordinary families who care for these vulnerable children.
What is a case worker?
Case workers are qualified professionals who work with agencies and foster carers to ensure the protection of children in out-of-home care. With a university degree or Certificate IV in social work, social science, welfare or a related discipline like psychology, case workers conduct risk assessments, develop case plans and provide practical and emotional support to foster carers.
‘It’s a challenging role and no two days are the same,’ says Challenge Community Services case worker Natalie. ‘We are a sounding board for carers when things get rough and bounce ideas around about strategies they can try. Sometimes carers just need to hear they’re doing a fantastic job, which is equally important. We also provide practical support where needed such as taking a child to their respite placement, attending meetings at the school or taking a child to a medical appointment.’
How often does the case worker visit the foster family?
It is a part of the Challenge policy, that case workers visit the foster family at least once each month. At Challenge Community Services, carers and children in care are also able to contact a case worker 24/7 in case of emergency. Case workers remain flexible and adapt to the different needs of children and their carers.
‘At Challenge, the Caseworkers are very hands-on,’ says Melissa. ‘Caseworkers are required to conduct monthly placement support visits. Depending on the child or young person’s needs the Caseworker may attend the home more frequently. The Caseworkers role is to support the child or young people and their foster families.
What is a case plan?
Within 30 days of having a child or young person being placed in care, the case worker will work with the family to develop a personalised case plan which is current for 12 months. The case plan sets out how the foster family – with the help of their case worker – will support the child. This includes physical (including dental) and psychological health rights (including nutrition and exercise) as well as cultural considerations for culturally and linguistically diverse children and children identifying as Aboriginal. The plan, which is reviewed every 6 months, also looks at educational successes or the need for additional academic support.
Children over 7 are usually involved in the development of their own plan, and have the opportunity to tell the case worker one-on-one what they need and how they feel about their placement. Each child is also given a booklet that sets out their charter of rights. This is an important part of ensuring the success of a placement.
If you are thinking about fostering, or have just embarked on the foster care journey, we know that it can feel like a huge leap into the unknown. The training you’ll receive, the detailed case plan for each child in your care, and the support of your dedicated case worker are all designed to set up the placement up for success. Fostering is all about working as a team. Your case worker has your back – when the going gets tough there will always be someone to support you.
Are you ready to give a child or young person a future? Meet one of our team here.
Or you can contact us on 1800 952 417, or email email@example.com to find out more.