Vanessa is the Deputy Manager of Family Partnerships for our Fostering Young Lives Program. She leads a team of people-first practitioners who are responsible for the recruitment, training and assessment work for the program, including restoration, guardianship, kinship, and general foster care assessments.
Vanessa shares some more about her journey and experiences in this very important role.
What inspired you to progress your career in child protection?
I kind of fell into my career. I did a Bachelor of Psychology degree, which is a 4-year degree with no placement experience, which meant I finished my degree with no relevant work experience.
I therefore started my career in mental health and assisted people who were being integrated back into the community from hospital. During this time, I worked with a client who was trying to have her children restored to her care but was unsuccessful in achieving this. I had this great need to want to work with the children in either returning them to their families or sourcing passionate, loving people who could provide them with the stability and security they needed. It was at this point that I realised I wanted to pursue a role where I worked with children and families in this capacity.
I, then, accepted a temporary child protection worker role at Mt Druitt CSC and the rest is history.
How long have you been working in this field?
This year marks the third year in my current role; however, prior to me joining The Benevolent Society, I had gained over 15 years’ experience in the Child Protection and Out of Home Care system in both non-government and government roles.
What do you love about your role?
I enjoy leading and supporting the team to identify, train and support the important adults or carers in children and young people’s lives. My passion is for children and their families and where possible restoring them to their birth parents.
I love the team element that my role entails. When you’re working in an environment like we do, it is very important that all members of my team get on well, so we can deliver as best we can in our roles. Collaboration and positive working relationships are key, with the focus being the best interests of the child or young person at the centre of all discussions and decision-making.
What challenges and concerns does foster care face in Australia?
The over-representation of First Nations children and young people who continue to enter the Child Protection system, is a big concern. Currently they make up 50% of new entries into care and as a sector we need to do a better job in ensuring these numbers decrease and the right supports, and services are in place for their communities. We need to empower the First Nations people and work with them for the future of their children.
The importance of foster care in Australia
Foster carers are so important to the community as they play a vital role in supporting and assisting children and young people who are unable to live safely with their families. They provide loving, nurturing, and stable homes for children and young people and are also able to provide permanency through long term care, guardianship, and adoption (in the right circumstances).
The most important part of our role is keeping children and young people as the focus of the system reform in addition to keeping carer support at the forefront of planning. This will help to ensure positive outcomes for children and young people and increase placement stability and longevity.
“I really love my role and although we see and hear some devastating stories one good story can keep you going.”To find out more about our foster care program, visit benevolent.org.au/services-and-programs/foster-care