Children belong with family. At times when children are unable to live with their parents, it is critical to maintain a connection with family supports. Family help build a strong sense of identity, belonging and wellbeing for a child or young person which results in better life outcomes for both them and their families.
KICS is committed to keeping children connected to family. And we know that engaging family during the tough times is beneficial for the child, the parents, kin and community. In our commitment to keeping families connected to kids, we acknowledge the past experiences of some families we work with and support them to have a different experience when working with the Department.
Melanie Dolman, KICS Kinship and KICS Kinship and Foster Care Services Program Manager emphases in a recent interview “We have respect for the role that the Department has in keeping children safe, however we look at every situation with a different focus. We want children to be with family and as connected as possible.”
The Importance of Family Connection
“We work to understand the complexities involved at times when children are unable to live with their parents and we will assist with any barriers that may impact keeping families together” continues Ms Dolman.
Family is foundational in safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people, and in our article on recruiting and engaging family as Kinship Carers we examined research conducted by Dr Annaley Clarke during her thesis on Stability in Statutory Kinship Care. While exploring every facet of Kinship Care, the thesis conducts a comprehensive examination through a Constructivist Grounded Theory Study on Placement Stability, the paper provides insight into the challenges for families wanting to be involved in child protection worries and the court processes along with highlighting the benefits of family being strong, supportive networks for children in care.
Family gives children a sense of belonging and are best placed to provide them with a stable, nurturing foundation for their growth and development. And this is why finding family is a priority for KICS.
Valuing Families as Decision-Makers
The KICS Family Care Finder (FCF) program has been designed to focused on building connection with children in care to their family. Through connection and relationship building using FCF, KICS hopes to provide families, who may not be aware that a child is in care, with an opportunity to make an informed decision about whether they might be able to provide short break or a primary placement for the child or young person until the Department and the parents can work successfully to get the child home to the parents.
Ms Dolman points out that “KICS value that families are their own experts, and so reaching out to families, and engaging them their children is really important.”
Dr Clarke adds that “We know that for some family members, that caring for or visiting with the child might not be an option at the time when we reach out, but for others, it is. We focus of respectful engagement and partnering with families.”
Reaching out to family and giving them the choice to be involved starts with the KICS Support Workers making the initial connection. And Ms Dolman remarks “Our staff really care about providing best practice that supports the whole family in the best interest of the child or young person. They have perseverance in locating family, maintaining connections and valuing family as the decision-makers.”
Supporting Families through Challenges
Navigating Departmental processes can be challenging, particularly in consideration of past life experiences for families. Therefore, providing best practices that supports the families to engage and connect with the child or young person rests with Support Workers who can actively listen and support the families to have a different experience. Ms Dolman says, “The Family Partnership Model guides a strength-based approach, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and mutual respect.”
KICS Support Workers play a pivotal role in recognizing that families come with unique life experiences. By actively listening and empathetically understanding these past challenges, Support Workers can create a supportive environment where families feel heard and valued. Ms Dolman highlights the transformative potential in fostering positive connections between support workers, families, and the child or young person in care. This approach not only addresses challenges and barriers but also strives to redefine and enhance the overall experience for families involved in the supporting the child or young person.
More than Connection
The KICS FCF program reveals the transformative power of KINnection—far beyond a mere connection. KINnection transcends routine interactions between Support Workers, families, and the Department; it embodies a profound sense of kinship, understanding, shared responsibility and self-determination. FCF provides families with the tools and information not only to navigate the system but to reshape their experiences positively where the wellbeing of the child and young people is at the focus of outcomes.
Ultimately, KICS envisions a landscape where every child and young person is positively nurtured and lovingly embraced by their kin until such time that mum and dad are able to once again care for them.
If you have been contacted by a KICS Support Worker and would like more information on how we can support family to care for family whether as a permanent placement or for short term visit or if you wish to just have KINnection with a child in care, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org