Working Together to Care for Kids

A survey of foster and relative/kinship carers
Research Report – May 2018

5. Services and support

This section presents the findings of analyses relating to the services and support section of the survey, looking at which services carers have used to assist them in caring for children, how helpful these services have been and what additional services they might need.

Carers were also asked about whether they had any difficulties in getting the professional support they needed and what training they had received for their role. Finally, carers were questioned about their contact with their caseworker/carer support worker and their level of contact with other foster or relative/kinship care families. Analyses were conducted overall and for carer type.

5.1 Types of services and supports used by carers

Table 5.1 displays the proportion of carers who reported ever receiving each type of support while caring for a child (for the study child or other children who came into their care), while Table 5.2 shows the proportion of carers who received each type of service support within the past six months (or for study children who were no longer in the household, the last six months that they were present).

  • The most common types of services that carers reported ever receiving (with frequencies over 50%) were carer support staff from a government child protection department and child counselling/psychologist services.
  • Carer support teams from non-government organisations and agencies (39%) and respite care services (34%) were the next most common services carers received.
  • Overall, 90% of carers had received at least one service, with 54% receiving three or more in their time as carers.
  • The proportion of carers who reported having contacted with each type of service in the last six months was much lower compared to the proportion of carers having ever used it (2.9-25% vs 15-56%). In other words, many carers had received the services more than six months ago. Over two-thirds of carers had received at least one type of service in the past six months.

There were significant differences between the care types regarding the type and number of services received.

  • Foster carers tended to report higher contact with services compared to relative/kinship carers. They were also more likely to have contact with a greater number of services in their time as carers (e.g., 70% of foster carers, in comparison to 40% of relative/kinship carers, reported receiving three or more services).
  • Across the service types, there was a similar pattern of results for services in the past six months, with foster carers tending to have individual services more often for children in their care.
Table 5.1: Proportion of carers who had ever received each type of support, overall and by carer type
Service type Foster carers (%) Relative/
kinship carers (%)
Overall (%)
Carer support staff from government child protection department 50.0 60.5*** 55.5
Carer support teams from non-government organisations and agencies 51.5 26.9*** 38.6
Foster carer advisory groups 25.9 13.1*** 19.1
Carer support organisations and groups 30.4 17.0*** 23.3
After hours and crisis services 30.6 9.0*** 19.2
Respite care services 46.8 21.7*** 33.6
Child counselling/psychologist services 64.5 42.8*** 53.0
Disability support services 23.1 10.1*** 16.3
Transport services 25.5 12.7*** 18.7
Legal advice or representation in regards to child/children 14.0 15.0 14.5
A specialised out-of-home-care agency for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander childa 7.1 4.3** 5.6
Services relating to child's learning/educationb 1.0 0.5 0.7
Other health professionalsb 1.5 0.6 1.0
Other service (not listed above) 2.6 1.8 2.2
Total number of different services EVER received      
0 4.8 14.7*** 10.1
1 10.6 25.2 18.3
2 14.8 20.0 17.6
3 18.2 15.4 16.7
4 17.2 11.1 14.0
5 13.3 7.0 10.0
6 or more 21.2 6.5 13.5
Number of respondents 1,196 1,005 2,203

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. A design-based chi-square test was used to assess statistically significant differences between foster carers and relative/kinship carers. (*p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001). aOnly asked of carers whose study children or other children in out-of-home care in the household were earlier identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. bAn additional response option created after its identification as a common "other (specify)" response.

Table 5.2: Services received in the last six months, overall and by carer type
Service type All carers Carers who ever
received each service
  Foster (%) Relative/kinship (%) All (%) Foster (%) Relative/kinship (%) All (%)
Carer support staff from government child protection department 24.5 25.8 25.1 49.0 42.7* 45.4
Carer support teams from non-government organisations and agencies 33.6 12.9*** 22.7 65.6 48.2*** 59.1
Foster carer advisory groups 9.6 4.2*** 6.7 37.0 32.1 35.2
Carer support organisations and groups 12.8 6.2*** 9.3 42.1 36.6 40.0
After hours and crisis services 9.1 1.9*** 5.3 29.6 21.3 27.6
Respite care services 29.7 11.7*** 20.2 63.3 53.7* 60.0
Child counselling/psychologist services 42.2 24.1*** 32.6 65.3 56.4** 61.6
Disability support services 12.3 5.7*** 8.8 53.4 56.3 54.4
Transport services 15.2 7.2*** 11.0 59.7 56.7 58.6
Legal advice or representation in regards to child/children 4.5 4.1 4.3 32.2 27.6 29.7
A specialised out-of-home-care agency for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander childa 3.8 2.1* 2.9 53.2 50.5 52.1
Any of the above (incl. other) 81.0 56.4 68.0      
Number of carers 1,196 1,005 2,203 70~772 39~606 109~1,208

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data and small numbers of respondents' "Don't know" were included in calculating percentages (0.01%-1% of all carers across the items listed). Sample sizes are unweighted. For each item, a design-based chi-square test was used to assess statistically significant differences between foster carers and relative/kinship carers. (*p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001). aOnly asked of study children earlier identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

5.2 Perceived helpfulness of services received

The carers who had contact with services in the past six months were asked how helpful they had found each service, with their responses presented in Figure 5.1). In this figure, views about services are ordered according to the proportions of carers who reported "very helpful" for the 11 types of services (from the highest to the lowest).

  • Carers tended to perceive services as being very or fairly helpful. Overall, at least 80% of carers who had used each service had found it to be very/fairly helpful, with 46-69% of carers reporting very helpful and 25-34% reporting fairly helpful.
  • Perceived helpfulness varied across the service types.
    • The proportion of carers who considered the type service as very helpful was highest for carers who used transport and respite care services (68-69%), followed by those who used the services of disability support, legal advice or representation for children in OOHC, and care support staff from non-government organisations and agencies (59-61%).
    • The assessment that the service was "very helpful" was lowest for care support staff from government child protection departments (46%), followed by specialised OOHC agency for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children (48%). 

Figure 5.1: Carers' views on helpfulness of services received, carers who had services in the past six months

Bar chart Figure 5.1: Carers&#039; views on helpfulness of services received, carers who had services in the past six months

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. Unweighted sample sizes range from 131 to 750. aOnly asked of study children earlier identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Carers' views on the helpfulness of the services received were similar between foster and relative/kinship carers, with most carers reporting the services used were either "very helpful" or "fairly helpful" as shown in Figure 5.2. Nevertheless, a slightly higher proportion of foster carers than relative/kinship carers considered the services received to be "very helpful" regarding transport services (71% vs 66%) and foster carer advisory groups (57% vs 52%). On the other hand, higher proportions of relative/kinship carers than foster carers reported the following services as "very helpful": disability support services (69% vs 57%), carer support organisations and groups (64% vs 56%), care support staff from non-government organisations and agencies (64% vs 57%), and a specialised OOHC agency for Indigenous children (52% vs 45%).16 Despite the overall similar assessments about services received between foster and relative/kinship carers, it should be kept mind that relative/kinships carers were less likely than foster carers to receive most types of services.

Figure 5.2: Carers' views on the helpfulness of services received in the past six months, by care type

Figure 5.2: Carers&#039; views on the helpfulness of services received in the past six months, by care type

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. Unweighted sample sizes range from 111 to 506 for foster carers and from 43 to 258 for relative/kinship carers. aOnly asked of study children earlier identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. bResults for relative/kinship carers are not shown due to small numbers.

5.3 Service needs

Table 5.3 displays the proportion of carers who identified that they currently required each type of support, or in cases where the study child was no longer present in the household, the services the carer required in the past six months while the study child was still living in the household.

  • Carers' reports indicate that child counselling/psychologist services were the most needed (50%), followed by carer support staff from the government child protection department (43%).
  • Respite care services and carer support teams from non-government organisations and agencies were also needed by over one-third of carers (both at 36%).
  • Approximately one-quarter of carers reported a need for carer support organisations and groups (29%) and foster carer advisory groups (24%).
  • There was some variation between the care types regarding their need for the various services. More specifically, foster carers tended to cite a higher current need than relative/kinship carers for services, including carer support teams from non-government organisations and groups, after hours and crisis services, respite care services and transport services.
Table 5.3: Proportion of carers who had a current needa for each type of services at the time of interview, overall and by carer type
Service type Foster (%) Relative/
kinship (%)
All (%)
Carer support staff from government child protection department 43.8 42.1 42.9
Carer support teams from non-government organisations and agencies 46.1 26.7*** 35.9
Foster carer advisory groups 29.8 18.8*** 24.0
Carer support organisations and groups 32.8 24.8*** 28.6
After hours and crisis services 25.4 12.9*** 18.8
Respite care services 42.8 29.9*** 36.0
Child counselling/psychologist services 57.7 42.5*** 49.7
Disability support services 27.9 15.2*** 21.2
Transport services 25.6 14.3*** 19.6
Legal advice or representation in regards to child/children 17.9 19.3 18.6
A specialised out-of-home-care agency for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander childb 12.3 8.6** 10.3
Services relating to child's learning/educationb 2.4 1.1* 1.7
Other health professionalsc 0.9 0.5 0.7
Other financial supportc 0.5 0.6 0.6
Any of the above 86.5 72.0*** 78.8
Number of respondents 1,196 1,005 2,203

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data, small numbers of respondents' "Don't know" were included in calculating percentages (0.02%). A design-based chi-square test was used to assess statistically significant differences between foster carers and relative/kinship carers. (*p < .05; **p < .01; ** p < .001). aCarers may currently use the service. bOnly asked of study children earlier identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. cAn additional response option created after its identification as a common "other (specify)" response.

The analysis also revealed the unmet service needs of carers. "Unmet service needs" were defined as instances where carers reported that they currently needed a service but had not received it in the last six months or had never received the service. Figure 5.3 shows the analysis of unmet needs for services and Figure 5.4 the results by care type.

  • Overall nearly two thirds of carers (64%) had one or more unmet service need.
  • As shown in Figure 5.3, the most common unmet service need was carer support staff from a government child protection department (25%), followed by child counselling/psychologist services and carer support organisations and groups (both at 22%).
  • The unmet service need was also relatively high for respite care services and foster carer advisory groups (both 19%).

Figure 5.4 shows that foster and relative/kinship carers were relatively similar regarding the unmet service needs they identified, although there were some differences.

  • Foster carers were more likely to indicate an unmet need overall and for several services, including foster care advisory groups, after hours and crisis services and disability support services.
  • The unmet need for respite care services was higher for relative/kinship carers than for foster carers.

Figure 5.3: Carers with unmet service needs (i.e., currently need the services but not receive in the past six months or never received)

Bar chart Figure 5.3: Carers with unmet service needs (i.e., currently need the services but not receive in the past six months or never received)

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. aOnly asked of study children earlier identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Figure 5.4: Carers with unmet service needs (i.e., currently need the services but not receive in the past six months or never received) by care type

Bar chart Figure 5.4: Carers with unmet service needs (i.e., currently need the services but not receive in the past six months or never received) by care type

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. aOnly asked of study children earlier identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

The survey also investigated the extent to which carers who reported currently having a need for services had any difficulty in getting the professional support required. Their responses are summarised in Figure 5.5.

  • Almost half of carers currently having a need for services (47%) said that they had some difficulty getting the professional support they needed (i.e., 37% of the total sample), and 51% reported otherwise (i.e., no difficulty). A small number (2%) were not certain whether they had had any difficulty in getting the support they needed.
  • The reports on this issue were similar between foster and relative/kinship carers.
  • A higher proportion of male carers than female carers reported having had some difficulty in getting the support from the services they currently need (48% vs 42%).

Figure 5.5: Proportions of carers with service needs who reported having any difficulty in getting the professional support, by care type and by gender

Bar chart Figure 5.5: Proportions of carers with service needs who reported having any difficulty in getting the professional support, by care type and by gender

Note: Percentages are based on weighted data.

Carers who indicated having had some difficulty in getting the services that they currently required also provided reasons for feeling this way (or barriers to getting the support required) (Table 5.4).

  • Table 5.4 shows that long waiting lists/low availability of support staff were the most common barriers to accessing required services, reported by 45% of carers in this group.
  • Other important reasons included no appropriate services, lack of awareness of services available, cost and agency-related issues (e.g., bureaucracy, poor communication) (21-27%).
  • Overall patterns in barriers were similar between foster and relative/kinship carers and between male and female carers. However:
    • A slightly higher proportion of relative/kinship carers than foster carers reported that not being aware of what was available was an issue for them.
    • Male carers were slightly more likely than female carers to report agency-related issues (26% vs 20%).
Table 5.4: Barriers in getting the services they needed, by carer type and by gender

 

Barriers

Care type Carer's gender

 

All (%)

Foster carers (%) Relative/kinship
carers (%)
Males (%) Females (%)
No appropriate services 23.1 20.5 23.8 21.6 21.9
Worried seeking support may lead people to think you are incapable 6.4 5.2 5.6 5.9 5.8
Too far to travel/problems with transport 15.6 12.7 11.3 14.6 14.2
Long waiting lists/support staff availability 48.8 43.9 48.9 46.1 46.4
Cost of the service 21.5 20.7 18.1 21.5 21.1
Not aware of what's available 23.1 31.6 30.2 26.8 27.2
Lack of services/support availablea 12.2 13.3 11.9 12.8 12.7
Agency problems (e.g., bureaucracy, poor communication, slow to respond)a 22.7 18.9 26.0 20.2 20.9
Not allowed/entitled by agencya 3.0 2.3 2.1 2.8 2.7
Lack of responsiveness/ action/continuity from caseworkersa 10.0 8.4 6.8 9.5 9.2
Other 7.7 11.2 11.1 9.2 9.4
Number of carersb 487 335 92 730 822

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. The sum of responses may exceed 100% due to multiple responses. aResponses were recorded based on carers' verbatim responses. bOnly includes carers who said that they had difficulties accessing services.

5.4 Grandparent Adviser Phone Line

Carers were asked whether they were aware of the Grandparent Adviser Phone Line and, if so, whether they had accessed it and how helpful it was to them.

  • Many carers were not aware of the Grandparent Adviser Phone Line:
    • twenty-eight per cent of all carers were aware of this service, 72% were not;
    • a higher proportion of relative/kinship carers than foster carers reported their awareness of the service (32% vs 23%). Nearly four out of ten grandparent carers (39%) said they knew about the adviser phone line.
  • One-quarter (25%) of carers (grandparent carers and other carers) who knew about the adviser phone line said that they had accessed it, which means that 7% of all carers interviewed had used it. Grandparent carers who knew about the service were more likely than other relative/kinship carers and foster carers to report having accessed the service (39%, 9% and 14%, respectively).
  • Among carers who had accessed the adviser phone line, two-thirds (66%) reported that the service provided by the phone line was "very helpful", another 14% indicated that it was "fairly helpful", while "not very helpful" and "not helpful at all" were reported by 10% and 9%, respectively. A small proportion (2%) of the carers who used the service did not know whether the service provided was helpful to them or not.

5.5 Carer training and preparedness for the caring role

As discussed in Sections 4.3 and 4.4, carers reported that most study children either had prior history of abuse or were exposed to family violence or alcohol or substance abuse before coming to live with the carer, and a substantial minority also had one or more developmental conditions. More importantly, many carers learned of the study child's prior history and developmental conditions after the child came into their care. Some carers may not have been well prepared to look after the study child. Providing carers with training courses or workshops can support them with skills to deal with children's difficult behaviours and better cope with caring demands. These issues were investigated in the survey.

Preparedness for the caring role

Figure 5.6 shows carers' reports of how well they considered themselves to be prepared or trained for their current caring role.

  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of carers felt that they were very well/well prepared for their caring role, with the higher proportion feeling very well prepared compared to those feeling well prepared (43% and 21% respectively)
  • One-fifth reported that they were adequately prepared for their caring role, while the remainder (16%) felt that they were poorly or very poorly prepared.
  • Although both carer types and genders were very positive in terms of being prepared for their caring role, slight differences were apparent.
    • Foster carers were slightly more likely to feel very well or well prepared (at 68%) than relative/kinship carers (60%). A higher proportion of relative/kinship carers than foster carers reported that they were poorly or very poorly prepared (22% vs 11%).
    • A higher proportion of female carers than male carers felt very well prepared (44% vs 36%).

Figure 5.6: How well carers were prepared for their current caring role

Bar chart Figure 5.6: How well carers were prepared for their current caring role

Note: Percentages are based on weighted data.

Among the carers who said that they felt poorly or very poorly prepared for this role, a sub-group of carers (n = 46) were randomly selected and asked why they felt this way. The first main theme to emerge from the analysis of these carers' responses was that inadequate training/support was available (identified by n = 25 carers; 19 or 64% of whom were foster carers). Direct quotes from carers exemplifying this theme are as follows:

I haven't been trained at all - I've been relying on parental instinct and just knowledge of being a parent. (Foster carer)

I was thrown in the deep end by the Child Protection Department - the children were only coming here for a short term, but they are still here. We had very little support at the start. (Relative/ kinship carer)

They just assume that you know how to cope and look after the child. (Foster carer)

There's no training for kinship ... we've raised five children between us - we've never been offered formal training to deal with the complexities of a foster child. (Relative/kinship carer)

Another theme to arise from the analysis of carers' responses was carers feeling unprepared for the "realities" of caring for a child in out-of-home care (identified by n = 9 carers; 78% of whom were foster carers). Responses reflective of this theme were:

All of the training done on paper in the classroom is not what can help you get through the day-to-day. (Foster carer)

When we did our initial module course, there were a lot of things that were, I guess, glossed over ... Doesn't give you the most realistic view into fostering. (Foster carer)

Overall, therefore, carers' open-ended responses as to why they felt poorly/very poorly prepared for the role tended to indicate that they believed that the training available was inadequate to support them through the initial stages of when the child was coming into their care and/or that the training they did receive was not adequate in preparing them for the challenges they would face in their caring roles.

Carer training and carers' views about training received

Carers were asked whether they had ever attended any training courses, whether they had attended any in the last 12 months and, if they had attended any in the last 12 months, who organised the training.

  • The majority of carers (62%) reported that they had attended some training courses or workshops to help them in their caring role, while 38% reported having never undertaken any training.
  • Four in ten carers said that they had undertaken training in the past 12 months.

Patterns in receiving training were very different between the two types of carers.

  • Regarding whether they had undertaken any training courses/workshops, 92% of foster carers reported that they had, in comparison to just over a third (35%) of relative/kinship carers.
  • The contrast was also apparent regarding training received in the past 12 months, with 54% of foster carers reporting that they had, compared to 16% of relative/kinship carers.
  • There were slight differences between male and female carers in carer training.
    • Female carers were slightly more likely than male carers to indicate that they had received any training (63% vs 56%).
    • Female carers were slightly more likely than male carers to report that they had attended any training in the last 12 months (35% vs 27%).

Regarding who had organised the recent training course/workshops, the following were the responses by the carers who had undertaken training in the last 12 months (Figure 5.7):

  • Training through an OOHC agency was most common (60%), followed by training through a jurisdictional child protection department (23%) or through a carer support group (16%), with a small number of carers using self-help or online materials (2%).
  • The reports differed somewhat between foster carers and relative/kinship carers regarding who organised the training courses/workshops they attended in the last 12 months:
    • More foster carers than relative/kinship carers reported that the training they received was through their OOHC agency (66% vs 42%).
    • Relative/kinship carers were more likely than foster carers to report that their training was through their child protection department (39% vs 18%).

Figure 5.7: Carers' reports of who organised training course/workshops attended in the last 12 months

Bar chart Figure 5.7: Carers&#039; reports of who organised training course/workshops attended in the last 12 months

Note: Percentages are based on weighted data.

Views about carer training

Carers' views about the helpfulness of the training received were very positive.

  • The vast majority of carers who had undertaken a training course/workshop in the past 12 months found it to be very or fairly helpful, regardless of whether it was delivered through a carer support group, an OOHC agency or a child protection department.
    • Fifty-nine per cent reported that the training received was very helpful and 31% found it fairly helpful.
    • Only 9% considered the training was not very helpful or not helpful at all, and the remainder was not sure.
  • Foster and relative/kinship carers were similar in their views about the helpfulness of the training received.

The carers who had not received any training were asked whether they felt attending training courses/workshops would be helpful to assist them as a carer.

  • Thirty-nine per cent indicated that it would be either very helpful or fairly helpful and 19% reported it would be a little helpful, while 42% thought it would not be helpful at all.
  • Foster carers who had never received any training were more likely than relative/kinship carers to believe that attending training courses/workshops would be very or fairly helpful (56% vs 38%).

A sample of carers who indicated that training would have been very or fairly helpful were asked about what types of training courses/workshops would have been helpful (n = 39). The most common type of training identified was to assist carers in coping with the children's emotional and behavioural issues, including those that are a result of trauma experienced by the child (identified by n = 19 carers; 13 or 68% of whom were relative/kinship carers). Quotes from carers on this theme are as follows:

Anything to help to support the emotional issues that arise with the children and gain a better understanding of the behavioural issues that may arise. (Relative/kinship carer)

Courses that help you with child difficulties and how you can help them with their difficulties. (Relative/kinship carer)

Dealing with trauma ... things around mental health first aid. (Foster carer)

A small number of carers (n = 4), also indicated that support groups/networks would have been helpful:

Dealing with their learning and development, stages in their growth from experienced people who have been parents ... I don't really have a network of women around me. (Relative/kinship carer)

5.6 Contact with caseworker or carer support worker and other carer families

Caseworkers or carer support workers are an important source of support for carers; for example, they can provide direct support or information and services referral. For some carers, it is also important to meet other care families to share their experiences and information, be connected with other carer families and build a support network. Carers' experiences on these aspects of the carer experience are the focus of this section.

Contact with caseworkers or carer support workers

Table 5.5 shows carers' reports regarding how often they had contact with a caseworker or carer support worker about the study child, including forms other than face-to-face (phone, email etc.), overall and by carer type and gender.

  • More than one-third of carers (38%) reported that they had contact (including phone, email, etc.) with a caseworker or carer support worker at least fortnightly, and a further 31% reported monthly contact. Less frequent contact or varied contact was reported by 19% and 6% respectively, while 6% had no contact with a caseworker or care support worker.
  • The patterns of contact with caseworkers or carer support workers differed somewhat between foster and relative/kinship carers.
    • Foster carers were significantly more likely than relative/kinship carers to have more frequent contact with a carer support worker about the study child (i.e., 52% of foster carers had at least fortnightly contact, in comparison to 25% of relative/kinship carers).
    • Despite the minority, no contact with any caseworker or carer support worker was more common among relative/kinship carers than it was for foster carers (10% vs 1%).
  • Male and female carers were similar in reports of their contact with a caseworker or carer support worker.
Table 5.5: Frequency of contact between carers and their caseworkers or carer support staff, by carer type and by gender
   Care type Carer's gender

 

All (%) 

 Foster carers (%) Relative/kinship carers (%) Males (%)  Females (%)
Weekly 32.6 11.3*** 17.2 21.9 21.3
Fortnightly 19.9 13.6 15.4 16.7 16.5
Monthly 31.2 30.6 31.9 30.8 30.9
1-4 times a year 11.2 26.5 22.2 18.9 19.3
Varies 3.9 8.3 5.7 6.3 6.2
No contact at all 1.3 9.8 7.7 5.5 5.8
Number of carers 1,090 930 241 1,780 2,022

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. The sum of responses may exceed 100% due to rounding. Excludes carers with a response of "don't know".

Carers who had been in contact with a caseworker or carer support worker typically indicated that the caseworker or carer support worker was from a government department (70%), while caseworkers or carer support workers from non-government organisations or carer support groups were mentioned by just over one-third (35%). A small number of carers (less than 2%) did not know where the caseworker or carer support worker they contacted was from. It should be noted that some carers had contact with more than one caseworker or carer support worker from government or non-government organisations (7%).

The caseworker or carer support worker for relative/kinship carers was much more likely to be from a government department (85%) than a non-government organisation (16%). For foster carers, carer support workers were equally likely to be from a government department or non-government organisation (54-55%). Male carers and female carers were also similar in their reports about where their caseworker or carer support worker was from.

Carers who had contact with a caseworker or carer support worker were asked how satisfied or dissatisfied they were with the advice or assistance they received in their most recent contact. Figure 5.8 shows a positive picture of carers' views in this regard.

  • Three-quarters reported they were either very satisfied or satisfied with the advice or assistance they received.
  • Fourteen per cent were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied and the remainder (11%) were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.
  • Although a positive picture prevailed for both foster and relative/kinship carers, foster carers were slightly more positive in their reports of satisfaction with the advice or assistance received.
  • Male and female carers were similarly satisfied with the advice or assistance received.

Figure 5.8: Carers' satisfaction with advice or assistance received in their most recent contact with caseworkers or carer support workers

Bar chart Figure 5.8: Carers&#039; satisfaction with advice or assistance received in their most recent contact with caseworkers or carer support workers

Note: Percentages are based on weighted data.

A sample of carers (n = 49) who indicated that they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the most recent contact they had with their caseworker/carer support worker were asked to explain why they were dissatisfied. The first common theme identified from carers' responses was a lack of understanding and/or professionalism from their caseworker (identified by n = 14 carers; 8 or 57% of whom were foster carers). Responses such as the following were provided:

I have a very young caseworker who has never had children and who gives only very textbook advice that isn't real. It's not the real world. (Foster carer)

Just don't feel that they're listening to us and being supportive to the child's best interest. Not putting the child first. (Foster carer)

The caseworker does not behave professionally and is very rude. She is very confronting. The foster child says the caseworker is scary. (Foster carer)

Another common theme identified from carers' responses as to why they were dissatisfied with their most recent caseworker contact was communication difficulties (e.g., phone calls not being returned, no reply to emails and a lack of consultation; identified by n = 13 carers; 9 or 69% of whom were foster carers). Examples of responses received in regards to this theme are:

The caseworker is very difficult to contact - very rarely responds back or acts on queries. (Foster carer)

It's been a week and they still haven't replied to an email about situations that have come and gone already. (Foster carer)

A small number of carers (n = 4) also indicated that their dissatisfaction with their most recent contact with their caseworker was due to a lack of accountability and responsiveness, with the following quotes as examples:

No action, numerous requests made and no action. (Foster carer)

I had trouble with another foster child and I asked for help from child safety and they palmed it off. (Foster carer)

Overall, it appears that many carers who had indicated dissatisfaction with their most recent caseworker contact were unhappy due to a perceived lack of professionalism and/or not following through with communication and delivering on what the carer thought they should be. This sentiment was expressed more frequently by foster carers than relative/kinship carers.

Contact with other carer families

Carers' reports of meeting other carer families through a carer support group or on a social basis are shown in Table 5.6.

  • Around one-half of carers (48%) reported that they had met other carer families through a carer support group or on a social basis. One in seven carers (14%) met other carer families at least once fortnightly and a similar proportion met other carer families every month. The remainder either met other carer families a few times a year (18%) or less than once a year (2%)
  • There were some differences between foster carers and relative/kinship carers and between male and female carers regarding meeting other carer families, with the frequency of contact being also slightly higher for foster care families and for male carers.
    • Foster carers were much more likely to meet with other carer families than relative/kinship carers (65% vs 32%). In contrast, relative/kinship carers were more likely than foster carers to have never met other carer families (68% vs 35%).
    • A slightly higher proportion of male carers than female carers had never met other carer families (59% vs 52%).
Table 5.6: Frequency of meeting with other carer families, by carer type and by gender
  Care type Carer's gender

 

All (%)

Foster carers (%) Relative/kinship
carers (%)
Males (%) Females (%)
Fortnightly or more often 20.7 8.7*** 9.3 15.1* 14.4
Monthly 17.4 9.7 10.7 13.7 13.3
1-6 times a year 25.0 11.3 18.4 17.7 17.7
Less often 2.1 2.1 2.6 2.0 2.1
Never 34.9 68.2 59.0 51.5 52.5
Number of carers 1,182 1,001 264 1,920 2,185

Notes: Percentages are based on weighted data. The sum of responses may exceed 100% due to rounding. Excludes carers with a response of "don't know".

Carers who had met with other carer families provided positive views about opportunities to meet such families.

  • One-third (35%) reported that they were very satisfied, and 43% were satisfied. Only 6% were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. The remainder (15%) had the view of being neither satisfied or dissatisfied.
  • The positive views about these opportunities of meeting other carer families were apparent regardless of care types and gender of carers, with 77-80% of the groups reporting to be either satisfied or very satisfied.

Of note, for carers who had not met with other foster or relative/kinship carers, only 37% said they would like to have this contact.

5.7 Summary

This section focused on the information collected in the survey regarding services and supports available to assist carers in their caring role. While this mainly applied to the services used by the carer for the children in their care (study child and other children in care), the survey also collected information about the training and professional support carers had received, and the level of contact with their caseworker/carer support worker and other foster or relative/kinship care families.

Service use

The vast majority of carers (90%) had used at least one service for caring for the study child and or other children who were placed in their care, with over half (54%) using three or more services. Over two-thirds of carers had received at least one type of services in the past six months. Over half of carers indicated that they had contacted with carer support staff from their government child protection department and child counselling/psychologist services.

Overall, foster carers had received more services than relative/kinship carers, with the one exception being carer support staff from the government child protection department, of whom a greater proportion of relative/kinship carers than foster carers reported using. Eight in ten foster carers received at least one type of service support in the past six months while less than six in ten relative/kinship carers received at least one type of service.

When asked about the services they currently needed, the most commonly identified service was child counselling/psychologist services (at 50%), followed by carer support staff from a government child protection department (43%), and respite care services and carer support teams from non-government organisations and agencies (both at 36%). These services were also identified as commonly having unmet service needs. Overall, nearly eight in ten carers reported currently needing at least one service (regardless of whether they were currently using it) and two thirds of carers had unmet needs for at least one type of service. Foster carers were more likely than relative/kinship carers to indicate a service need.

Almost half (47%) of carers with a need for at least one type of service (nearly four in ten carers overall) said that they had some difficulty in getting the professional support they needed, with the most commonly reported barrier being long waiting lists/low support staff availability.

In relation to the Grandparent Adviser Phone Line, just over a quarter of carers were aware of this service, with one-quarter of the carers who were aware of it reporting that they had used it and generally reflecting positively on their experience. These data suggest that there exists an opportunity for services to be targeted or promoted to all carers more effectively, so they can be made aware of the service and its purpose, and use it when they required.

Carers' preparedness for the caring role and training

Carers were asked about how well prepared they felt for the caring role, with almost two-thirds (64%) indicating that they felt very well or well prepared. Nevertheless, 16% said that they were poor or very poorly prepared for their caring role, with a higher proportion of foster carers than relative/kinship carers reporting this (22% vs 11%).

Almost two-thirds of carers (62%) also reported that they had attended some form of training course or workshop to assist them in their caring role, with 40% undertaking training in the past year. There were large differences between foster and relative/kinship carers in regards to training, with 92% of foster carers reporting that they had received some form of training, in comparison to only just over a third (35%) of relative/kinship carers.

Training was most commonly received through carers' out-of-home-care agencies and, generally speaking, carers who had attended a training course or workshop in the past year had found it to be helpful. It is important to note that among carers who had not attended any training, views were mixed about whether it would have been helpful to do so, particularly among relative/kinship carers; more specifically, only 38% of relative/kinship carers who had not attended training thought it would have been helpful, compared to 56% of foster carers.

Contact with caseworker/carer support worker and other carer families

The majority of carers were in contact with a caseworker/carer support worker at least once a month, with foster carers tending to have more frequent contact than relative/kinship carers. For relative/kinship carers, their caseworker/carer support worker was most likely to be from a government department, while for foster carers, the contact was equally likely to be from a government department or non-government caseworker/care support worker. Overall, carers were satisfied with the advice or assistance received from their caseworker/carer support worker in their most recent contact, with only 14% expressing dissatisfaction.

Finally, carers were asked about the level of contact they had had with other carer families. Just under one-half reported that they had met other carer families through a carer support group or on a social basis. Foster carers (at 65%) were much more likely to report this type of contact than relative/kinship carers (at 32%).

Similar to the results for training, not all carers who reported an absence of this type of support believed that they needed it or would like to have this contact (i.e., only 37% said they would like to have it). Hence, while the results indicate on the one hand that there may be a need for greater carer support groups or social contact, particularly for relative/kinship families, not all carers feel they require this type of support or would use it, even if it were available.

16 The analysis by gender is not shown due to small sample sizes of male carers who used each of the services.