More south-west children are in foster care due to an increase in substance abuse and domestic violence in the region.
MacKillop Family Services has experienced a 56 per cent increase in the number of children accessing care in the past 12 months.
MacKillop Family Services out-of-home care training and support worker Tania Ferris said the service supported 23 children in Warrnambool in August 2015. At the same time this year, they supported 41 children.
Staff from MacKillop and Brophy Family and Youth Services – the region’s two foster care providers – attributed the increased need to a combination of domestic and family violence, mental health issues and substance abuse in families.
MacKillop out of home care compliance, training and support worker Yasmin Nurmohamed said the reasons were wide and varied.
“One of the local child protection workers said she could see the result of ice use here in the south-west and of children being removed,” Ms Nurmohamed said.
Mrs Ferris said anecdotally, there had been an increase in the number of parents experiencing substance abuse issues and domestic and family violence in the region.
The Department of Health and Human Services said child protection reports and the number of children in need of temporary or long-term care had been “increasing steadily for several years”.
The department said factors included increased public awareness of child protection matters, family violence and the impact of disadvantage.
Foster Care Association of Victoria figures showed Warrnambool experienced a four per cent decline in carers from 2015 to 2016.
Brophy Family and Youth Services foster care manager Marion Noye and Mrs Ferris said they were desperate for people to fill both short and long-term care roles.
“We need more carers to come through and help these kids because demand is growing and we need to be able to grow with it,” Mrs Ferris said.
Brophy foster care manager Marion Noye said of the referrals the agency received in the past three months, 24 per cent of cases could not be placed.
Reasons could include being unable to find a suitable carer for a particular child or because there weren’t enough carers in the area.
She said if family or friends could not care for the child, they could be relocated away from their school and familiar surroundings.
Mrs Noye said on average 80 per cent of Brophy clients were in long-term care.
“Ultimately we work with these families to get their children home,” Mrs Noye said.
“Our aim is not to have their child in foster care forever, it is about trying to get them linked in with family.”
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