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I didn’t meet with any foster carers who had interacted closely with peer workers. However, I did meet with peer workers and agency staff who delivered training and support to foster carers. This co-facilitated approach (with parent trainers as partners in the training delivery – not just popping in and out) was seen as very beneficial to building carer’s abilities to work more closely and respectfully with family. Family inclusion has the potential to build relational permanency and expand children’s networks of support. We know from other evidence that when children have good quality contact with their families they have greater stability in care and when children have stability in care and when their foster carers have good relationship with their parents they are more likely to be safely and securely reunified. Carers are a crucial and central part of building family inclusion and relational permanency, and carer/parent work is an area ripe for innovation in Australia. One way to build relationships from the beginning is to ensure that foster carers and parents meet as early as possible, preferably within a day or so of a child moving into a carers home. My report has more information about how carers can play a role in family inclusion and reunification in practical ways.
Jessica Cocks