Meet the team providing around the clock protection for vulnerable children

Posted on 13 November 2017 by Angela Mallon

MacKillop Family Services' After-Hours Team Leader, Darren Rose

Emergency services are there when we need them in a fire, accident or medical emergency, but another, little-known emergency service provides a vital lifeline for those in our community who are often at their most vulnerable.

The MacKillop Family Services After-Hours team are on-call in the middle of the night, seven nights a week, 365 days a year, as a vital component of the support that is in place for children, young people and their carers 24 hours a day.

Covering a region that stretches from the North and West Metropolitan region of Melbourne to Warrnambool, MacKillop’s After-Hours team takes the calls that come in from police and child protection teams when an emergency placement is needed for a child or young person.

Team Manager Darren Rose, has seen almost every type of emergency in his eight years with MacKillop. “We’ve been there to help when children are too traumatised to even get out of the car when they arrive at a new foster home. It can take hours for them to begin to trust a new carer and understand they are now safe. At the other end of the scale, we’ve had calls about a carer who has just had a heart attack and we immediately need to find an alternative placement for the child in their care.”

Darren says the shortage of emergency carers is the team’s biggest issue, “We just don’t have enough homes in the region for the numbers of young kids who need help in circumstances that are beyond their control. They could have been removed from an abusive situation by child protection and are already traumatised because of what they’ve been through. The last thing we want to do is to make them even more stressed by sitting in a police station or office for hours while we try to find them a safe bed for the night.

“To make things worse, often the only home we can find is out of their region. I’ve seen times when we’ve had no availability for a kid from a region like Footscray, in their local catchment area, and we’ve had to drive them to Geelong, where they are completely out of a familiar environment and unable to attend their school the next day. The stress and trauma from a placement breakdown is significant enough without a child feeling further isolated by being taken away from everything that is routine and familiar to them.”

To help increase the number of emergency placements available in the region, MacKillop is introducing a new foster care model called the First Call Foster Care model.

Based on a stand-by approach, new carers will be part of a roster system to ensure that each evening and weekend there is a home-based care placement available for children who are unable to live at home with their family because of a significant risk of harm or abuse.

Carers will be rostered on for one week every month with three weeks off. For the week they are on roster, they will receive financial compensation whether they have a child in their care or not. In addition, for each night that carers look after a child, they will receive reimbursement per child.

The maximum length of stay within this model will be seven nights and financial assistance will be available for the emergency provision of clothing/toiletries if needed by a child in placement.

This new model is especially suitable for people who are not caring for other children or young people, who can commit to being available for 24 hours a day for the week they are on roster and who have a partner who can act as a supporting carer.

Darren believes that emergency care in the region needs this radical transformation. “The kids who need emergency after-hour placements have usually never been in care before and we want to do everything we can to provide a safe, secure home. This First Call Foster Care model will mean we have more home-based care options for older children, as most of the existing emergency care is only for babies. The reality is that we have kids of all ages, who through no fault of their own, need a safe place to stay.”

Can you provide safe, short-term emergency care?  Find out how you can help with First Call Foster Care, contact us at enquiry@mackillop.org.au or call our Hotline: 1300 791 677