Study pipeline for SA foster carers wanting jobs

More than 100 South Australian foster and kinship carers disheartened that their parenting experience “didn’t count” when job searching have graduated from a new course which aims to get more carers working across the child protection sector.

Dec 23, 2022, updated Dec 23, 2022
South Australian foster and kinship carers graduating from a Diploma of Community Services earlier this year. Photo: Supplied

South Australian foster and kinship carers graduating from a Diploma of Community Services earlier this year. Photo: Supplied

Former banker Verity Jaensch was in the midst of planning a career change in 2020 when she was told that child protection authorities had removed a child from her relative’s care.

The Somerton Park woman became the child’s kinship carer – a move which set her plans to go to university to study behavioural science into disarray.

“Every plan that I had, had completely changed when he came onboard because obviously things were a bit tough for him,” she said.

“Even though he’s known me all his life, he hadn’t seen me for a while and we needed to do some really solid foundational stuff.

“All of my own personal plans had sort of gone out the window when that happened, which was OK – I wouldn’t want him to go anywhere else.”

Despite her circumstances changing, Jaensch was still determined to study.

She was encouraged by another carer to enrol in a Diploma of Community Services course set up by Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers SA and run online by the Bradford Institute of Advanced Education.

One year since graduating, Jaensch says she has recently been appointed to a foster care assessment panel and is exploring other jobs in the child protection space.

“Having a qualification behind me means I’m not just any carer, but it actually holds some weight,” she said.

“Before, even though I had this experience of looking after [my relative], I couldn’t see how I could study.

“But this experience was really, really validating because our roles as carers to kids who have experienced trauma is acknowledged and we were able to use our day-to-day lived experience to go towards our placement hours.”

Jaensch is one of 106 South Australian foster and kinship carers who have graduated with a Diploma of Community Services since the government-subsidised course launched in 2019.

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The latest cohort graduated earlier this month, with plans now underway to expand the course and offer a new study pathway specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers.

Connecting Foster & Kinship Carers SA CEO Fiona Endacott said the peak advocacy group wanted more carers to have the option to gain formal qualifications.

“It (the course) came about from carers in our membership actually approaching us and saying how good it would be if their experience as carers could be acknowledged by way of a formal qualification,” she said.

“Whilst they had significant years’ worth of lived experience providing care, they were often disheartened because their experience didn’t count.

“They were pipped at the post by someone who held a qualification but had limited experience of actually working.”

Endacott said since launching the course, a “considerable” number of graduates had since found work in the community services sector or pursued further study in human services, social work, child care and youth work.

She said she hoped the state government would continue offering a subsidy to help carers fund their studies.

“What better way than to have a carer within a child protection team who can speak confidently and professionally about their caring experience,” she said.

“I do feel like there needs to be more of a carer voice in the workplace culture.

“It would just mean better outcomes for support to carers and support to children and young people.”

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