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In South Australia, forty-six percent of children in out-of-home care with an authority to place are in a kinship care placement. Kinship care is the largest form of out-of-home care in South Australia and is growing almost 50% faster than foster care (DCP Reporting and Statistics).
Given the circumstances in which children enter their care, regardless of jurisdiction, kinship carers typically receive less preparatory training than foster carers. In South Australia, Kinship carers have also been recognised to have received less ongoing training support than foster carers (Nyland, 2016). Proportionately, kinship carers are recognised internationally as being less advantaged, and experiencing greater family complexity, than foster carers. Notwithstanding these factors, children placed with kinship carers enter care for the same reasons as children placed in other forms of out-of-home, and with similar issues (Delfabbro, 2017).
The Kinship CARE Project commenced in March 2018 to provide trauma-informed training about the characteristics and therapeutic care requirements of children in kinship care placements.
As part of the Kinship CARE Project, kinship carers, kinship care support staff and selected DCP Psychology Staff receive training in the CARE Therapeutic Framework (Consistency, Accessibility, Responsiveness, Emotional-Connectedness) (Pearce, 2016).
Training for kinship carers incorporates four half-day workshops, scheduled two-weeks apart, followed by a call-back session three months after the initial four sessions. The format of the implementation sessions is as follows:
- What is therapeutic care and what does it require of you?
- The importance of achieving connection as a primary task.
- Enriching children’s experience of caregiver consistency and accessibility.
- Self-Care (Part 1)
- Enriching children’s experience of caregiver responsiveness.
- Enriching children’s experience of caregiver emotional connectedness.
- Self-Care (Part 2)
- Addressing behaviours of concern using the CARE Therapeutic Framework
Training for kinship carers recognises that, though it shares many similarities with foster care, kinship care has its own unique characteristics. The language used when delivering the CARE Therapeutic Framework is tailored to the unique characteristics of kinship care. Though the program is trauma-informed, reference to concepts such as trauma, abuse and neglect is de-emphasised, in favour of more generic concepts, such as adversity and children having had a tough start to life. This is considered to be extremely important in the kinship care space, where a sense of family shame is a salient factor. There is an imperative to attract and retain kinship carers in such initiatives, rather than alienating them by invoking experiences of shame.
In addition, there is a focus on supporting carers to develop an understanding of how to implement therapeutic re-parenting in their own individual circumstances. That is, there is a focus on assisting carers to know what to do, and to develop a tailored therapeutic re-parenting Plan. Psychological theory is presented sparingly and only in support of the rationale (and evidential basis) for recommended approaches. Accessibility of the content is supported through a multi-modal approach to delivery that includes practical activities, demonstrations and audio-visual content in support of verbal content. Regular individual and group reflection activities also support understanding of the program content. Kinship care support workers regularly attend sessions with carers on their caseload, further supporting caregiver accessibility to the content and shared experience of the program.
Training for kinship care support workers and psychology staff is similar to that which is delivered to kinship carers, except that there is a focus on the implementation of the Framework in kinship care support workers’ practice with kinship carers, and psychologists’ practice with kinship care support workers. That is, there is a layered approach to implementation, whereby kinship carers experience CARE from their support workers, and support workers experience CARE from psychologists trained in the Framework. This approach is followed to support embeddedness of the Framework in the kinship care program, and fidelity to the Framework.
The CARE Therapeutic Framework promotes human Connection as a primary task (Kahn, 2005), where the primary task is defined as the one task that we need to get right and upon which the success of all endeavour rests. There is a robust and ever-growing evidence base for the role of connection in supporting optimal emotional and behavioural outcomes for young people and adults alike *Dooley and Fitzgerald, 2015; Ottman et al, 2006; O’Rourke and Sidani, 2017),[iv].
The Kinship CARE Project aims include:
- Implement the CARE Therapeutic Framework in the Kinship Care Program in South Australia;
- Establish a common knowledge, language and approach among kinship carers, kinship care support workers, and psychologists who support both;
- Develop competencies related to trauma-informed, therapeutic re-parenting of children in kinship care, and competencies in the implementation of a practice framework that supports fidelity to the therapeutic re-parenting approach;
- Develop competencies in self-care;
- Support empowerment and self-efficacy in the respective roles of participants of the program; and
- Improve connections between kinship children and their carers, and connections between kinship carers and Agency staff who work in the kinship care space.
To access a PDF of the full article, which includes further information about Project content, please click here.
If you are an employee of the Department for Child Protection (DCP) in South Australia it would be great if you could share information about the Kinship CARE Project with carers of children on your caseload who are kinship carers.
If you are reading this and are not in South Australia, please email me to discuss a potential implementation project. My email is email@example.com.
Delfabbro, P. (2017). Relative/kinship and foster care: A comparison of carer and child characteristics. Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study: Outcomes of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care. Research Report Number 7. Sydney. NSW Department of Family and Community Services
Department for Child Protection, Reporting and Statistics
Dooley, B & Fitzgerald, A (2015). My World Survey: National Study of Youth Mental Health in Ireland. UCD School of Psychology, Headstrong
Kahn, W. A. (2005). Holding Fast: The Struggle to Create Resilient Caregiving Organisations. Hove and New York: Brunner-Routledge
O’Rourke, H. M., & Sidani, Souraya. (2017). Definition, Determinants, and Outcomes of Social Connectedness for Older Adults: A Scoping Review. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 439(7), pp 43-52.
Ottman, G, Dickson, J, & Wright, P. (2006). Social Connectedness and Health: A Literature Review. Cornell University GLADNET Collectio
Pearce, C (2016). A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). London: Jessica Kingsley
The Life They Deserve, Hon. Justice Nyland, 2016