8 May 2024

“At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping kids safe.” Nikki, Cairns foster carer since 2018.

Image: Photo of staff and carers from the Queensland Foster and Kinship Care Week conference. Six people stand together with a black curtain behind them.

It’s Queensland Foster and Kinship Carer Week (4–11 May) an opportunity to acknowledge and sincerely thank foster carers across Queensland for the care they provide to children and young people in our communities.

As part of this week, the Queensland Foster and Kinship Care Conference was held at Sea World Resort, Gold Coast. Twelve Life Without Barriers' carers from across the state attended the annual conference, including members of the Queensland Carer Advisory Group – Nikki being one of them.

Meet foster carer Nikki

Nikki and her partner Megan have been carers in Cairns since 2018. Due to a career change, Nikki felt she finally had the time to give to become a carer.

Nikki’s paternal line goes back to Birri-Gubba and her maternal line goes back to Quandamooka with her great-great grandfather being in the native police. Nikki’s community is Cherbourg (Wakka Wakka Country) and now she lives in Cairns.

Nikki saw first-hand how the child protection system worked with aunties and neighbours caring for kin and other children and knew she always wanted to give back and become a carer when the time was right.

“I grew up with it (foster and kinship care), I knew we had to do what we can to support these kids,” Nikki said.

“We’ve cared for more than 60 kids during the last six years; knowing that we’ve kept kids safe is why I love it.”

Queensland Carer Advisory Group

Teena Ingram, Executive Director, Child, Youth and Family at Life Without Barriers shares why establishing the Carer Advisory Group last year was important for Life Without Barriers and our foster carers.

“The Carer Advisory Group commenced last year in Queensland and the purpose of it is for me to personally spend time with carers to hear from them about what they need, what the challenges are, what the stresses are, what's impacting them and what we can do differently to support them better,” Teena said.

“There have been times when I've either written to the department or met with different departmental members to share what our carers are experiencing, advocate for change, and raise their issues and concerns."

“For example, the Carer Advisory Group identified issues with the Carers’ App. We were able to raise that with the department and they've worked towards rectifying these issues."

“The Carer Advisory Group is an opportunity for us both to learn what we can do better as an organisation and how we can advocate on behalf of our carers."

Nikki thought it was important to join the Queensland Carer Advisory Group, as she wanted to be a voice for the other carers she was talking to in Cairns.

“I wanted to share what I was hearing from other carers in the northern region and get that information to staff who can make changes.”

“I’m also very interested in changes with SNAICC and delegated authority, which I thought I could learn more about through the group and booked in for the sessions covering it at the conference during the weekend," Nikki said.

“I feel like we can be a bit removed up here in Cairns, so coming to the conference and being a part of the Carer Advisory Group gives me a chance to connect and share carers views from my community."

“Life Without Barriers staff are amazing, we get great support, our worker goes above and beyond and the training and management are always consistent. We couldn’t do what we do without them."

“At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping kids safe.”

Carers spoke, we listened

One of the functions of the Carer Advisory Groups across the country is to ensure that Life Without Barriers listens to what carers need in and takes action to deliver these needs.

“A few of the carers were saying that a basic guide for when they first come onboard would be really helpful,” Teena said.

“Whilst we have training and our child and family practitioners also support carers with information, we felt that it would be beneficial to have something in writing that we could give carers beyond our induction. Two guides are currently being developed to meet this need."

“We also worked with one of the carers in the Carer Advisory Group to establish a checklist that will help carers know what to ask for and check they’ve got everything they need when a child first comes in to care with them."

“Those are a couple of initiatives that have come from the advisory group that we are working towards putting into place.”

Meet long-time carers, Leanne and Geoff

Image: A photo of Leanne and Geoff standing outside with grass and trees behind them. Leanne is wearing a white shirt and has short blonde hair. Geoff is wearing blue polo shirt and has his arm around Leanne.

Leanne and Geoff, from Cleveland, mark 18 years as carers with Life Without Barriers this year. Leanne also mentors new and potential carers at our Springwood office or online when requested.

“When our kids were 15 and 12, we were looking for something to do to give back and a lot of our friends from church were doing mission work, so we looked into that,” shared Leanne.

“There was a foster carer at church also and we would babysit from time to time and as an early childhood teacher I thought this could work for us."

“The first children we provided care for were twin babies who are now about to turn 18 years old, their sibling joined us later as well, it is important to keep siblings together whenever possible."

"We now have seven children in our care, this includes a sibling group of four children aged under ten. We’ve provided respite, short-term and long tern care to over 20 young people over 18 years.

"Seeing the change in the children is the biggest reward."

“I think, ultimately, trying to change the trajectory of their life, giving them hope for the future, setting an example with how we parent that they can take into their own lives when they become parents themselves, giving them hope that things will work out well for them and they can do anything they want is what we all work towards."

“I’m always open to learning, which is why I joined the Carer Advisory Group, I wanted to hear other carers’ perspectives."

“If it’s going to bring about positive change for children and carers by sharing with Life Without Barriers’ management what’s happening with carers – challenges or what’s working well – that’s valuable to have that input and outlet to share experiences.”

A message to potential carers

When asked what she would say to someone interested in becoming a carer, Nikki had the following to say.

“Do it. Don’t overthink it,” Nikki said.

“I think some people overthink it and think about what could happen if they go back to family if that could be upsetting for them. But it’s awesome to be able to unite children back with their parents if it is safe to do so." She said, speaking about reunification.

“This is a child’s life you’re making a difference in."

"If you can give that child five minutes of love, stability and care, it’s worthwhile."

"It’s something they’ll remember. It’s something they needed.”

If you are interested in becoming a carer with Life Without Barriers, you can contact our foster care specialists who are ready to answer your questions. Whether you're looking to start the process or just want more info, our team can help.

You can call us at 1300 592 227 or email carers@lwb.org.au.

Carer Guide

Our Carer Guide provides an in depth look at the day-to-day of being a foster carer

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