Vulnerable children of Lismore get more support
VULNERABLE children of the Lismore area will now have extra support following the recruitment of 13 new Family and Community Services (FACS) caseworkers.
Recently graduating from the Caseworker Development Program (CDP), the new recruits came from previous occupations such as teaching, the NSW Police, the Royal Australian Navy and early childhood education, bringing significant value to sometimes sensitive and high risk cases.
FACS Lismore manager Lisa Gava said the intake included three Aboriginal caseworkers and was the largest numbers of new caseworkers the Lismore FACS unit had seen.
"It's been great since getting the new graduates,” Mrs Gava said.
"It's improved our capacity to get to more families and to respond to kids where we've heard they might be at risk ... to be able to work with those families to see what services and supports we can put in place.”
She said it was important to have Aboriginal caseworkers employed because they kept staff focused on the importance of culture on consultation with Aboriginal families.
"They bring a perspective and a whole experience from their upbringing and culture and heritage,” she said.
"Even if they are not from the local area, they still bring a very strong awareness about how important identity and culture is and how people need to be mindful of certain sensitivities, traditions and cultures.”
Due to "Lismore's significant indigenous population”, Mrs Gava said it was crucial to see more aboriginal people working in government sectors.
"The Aboriginal staff focus on supporting other staff to be mindful of the impact of things the stolen generation, she said.
"To be very mindful of the fact that most Aboriginal people still to this day are exposed to lots of discrimination ... they feel the intimidation of authorities, particularly ours because of past histories and even current histories.
"They really do support and place a very strong focus on Aboriginal kids being placed with kin and relative care if they can't be safe with their family.
"They are very focused on what we need to do to make restoration work for kids if they come in to care and go back to their parents.”
She said other demographics such as unemployment, homelessness, transient populations, mental health issues and drug and alcohol impacted on child protection issues.
"We have a significant number of ROS (risk of significant harm) reports that come in every week,” she said.
"Not all families we see we interact with for very long.”
She shared one success story as a result from the good work of a FACS caseworkers.
"One of the great things about some of our work has been that we avoid bringing kids into care by encouraging people to make big changes with their lives,” she said.
"One story we had where a mother and father were seriously involved with ice and their child was very much at risk. They were in dire straits financially, their mental health was affected and the child needed some early intervention and wasn't getting it,” she said.
After a FACS caseworker worked closely with the family, the parents entered into an in house rehab program, significantly reduced use and eventually became completely no longer dependant on ice.
"We supported them to get stable housing, and to get the little fellow into early intervention services,” she said.
"Developmentally he's now caught up with his peers and the mum's recently got a job.
"It was such a good outcome.”