Sanctuary Training Rolls Out for Foster Carers

Posted on 17 December 2015 by Louise Carson

Four siblings of varying ages holding hands outside

MacKillop is excited to announce the introduction of Sanctuary training specifically for MacKillop foster carers.

The first round of training recently took place in Melbourne and provided the opportunity for foster carers to learn about the principles and tools of Sanctuary. It is hoped similar training sessions will now be offered to carers in VIC, NSW and WA throughout 2016.

The Sanctuary Model is the foundation for how MacKillop works with clients and each other. The model integrates trauma theory with tools to overcome the impacts of adversity, loss and change. It recognises that trauma has an impact on not only the people who seek our services but also our employees and carers providing these services.

Foster carer, Fleur, attended the Sanctuary training as she wanted to learn more about SELF (Safety, Emotion, Loss, Future) and gain a greater understanding of trauma.

“Before training I thought Sanctuary was a holistic program but perhaps more for staff and organisations”, said Fleur. “I find Sanctuary an excellent resource as it can be used in all relationships, not just with children. I particularly appreciate the SELF tool as an informal structure for conversations with children in my care.”

Sanctuary tools like SELF, Community Meetings, Self-Care Plans and Red Flag Meetings can give carers the prompts and language to talk about issues with children.

This worked well for a MacKillop foster carer and case worker recently when a Red Flag Meeting was called to help manage the worries and concerns of a sibling group of children in care.

The children had just found out that their mum, Lucy*, was pregnant again. Casey* (11), Hamish* (13) and Hayley* (15) were incredibly worried. They’d been in care for a few years and told their foster carer, Nicole*, how fearful they were for the new baby. Nicole called Tara Turnbull, her MacKillop case worker, straight away to pass on their concerns.

“I wanted to support Nicole in managing the children’s worries and better understand them, so I called a Red Flag Meeting for the next day for the three children, Nicole and me”, said Tara.

“Anyone can call a Red Flag Meeting – young people in care, foster carers, birth families, case workers. It is a powerful tool for children in care, as it gives them some control and a safe place to talk and they know they’ll be heard.”

The children and foster carer came to MacKillop’s Wollongong office the next day. It was explained to them that one third of the meeting would involve talking about the problem and two-thirds about the solution. Also that notes would be taken because what the kids had to say was important and we wanted to make sure we fully understood the problem and their ideas for a solution.

The children openly talked about how they were feeling. The youngest was the most forthright saying she was “worried” about her baby brother and “scared” about what would happen to him. The meeting opened up discussion around their own history where they disclosed previous trauma. As the children said; “The baby can’t speak up for himself so we have to.”

Nicole told Tara afterwards that she hadn’t expected so much to happen, but that it helped her to understand the children’s history and better support them.

“Tara encouraged and enabled the children to have their say, to provide possible solutions and did this in a non-threatening forum”, said Nicole. “This is so valuable for the children when they see a collaboration between all the parties involved in their day-to-day lives. The children walked away from this meeting feeling very positive and happy. We are now much better informed about what they want, what concerns them, what they are thinking, what they need from their carer and MacKillop.”

This example of a Sanctuary tool in action was also highlighted in the Shining a Light on Good Practice Guide NSW 2015 launched in November. You can read the full case study here -

To find out more about Sanctuary speak to your MacKillop case worker.

*Names changed to protect privacy