Extended foster family creates stability for children in need

Children and young people entering foster care have often experienced many challenges and disruptions during their life. This is why BCYF (Barwon Child, Youth & Family) has created a new model of care to help make the transition as easy as possible and to strengthen positive outcomes for the children and young people as well as for foster carers.

The BCYF Extended Foster Family is an innovative model that provides a child or young person with as much consistency and support as possible by establishing a network of regular foster carers.

Each child or young person is placed with a primary carer who looks after them most of the time they are in care. Respite carers provide support for a child or young person’s parents, guardians or regular foster carers by providing them with a break.

The extended foster family model ensures the same respite carers are used each time, and thereby providing more consistency in the child or young person’s life.
Manager Out of Home Care, Jo Dumesny, explained how this model replicated a commonly seen extended family of parents, aunts and uncles.

“The primary carers replicate the parent figures or the guardians that look after children,” she said. “Then we designate three respite carers to this model, these carers remain with the child, so they would take on the role of the aunty or uncle and extended family.”

Ms Dumesny explained how fostering connections with familiar carers was important. “The children and young people in our care build relationships not only with their primary carers, but with the respite extended family members as well” she said.

“They know each other, so the children feel so much more secure, stable, and are happier. They are very happy and willing to go away for the weekend and spend some time away with the ‘aunts and uncles’.”

“This model has worked successfully so far with many of the children and young people in our care and has created a really stable environment for them.”

One of BCYF’s Foster Carers, Gel, who has been part of the new model, shared how it is not only supporting the children and young people, but has also been beneficial for foster carers.

“For us, to know they were going to have a fun weekend with their family, you can’t beat that,” said Gel.

“Having that relationship with the other carers enabled us to have a bigger family unit and one where we could call on each other when needed,” she added.

BCYF has embedded the extended foster family model into its program permanently to better support our children and young people.

BCYF is still in urgent need of foster carers across the Barwon region. To find out if foster care is for you, contact BCYF on 5226 8900 or visit www.bcyf.org.au/foster-care/

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