FOSTER AND KINSHIP CARER WEEK

It was a great opportunity last week, with activities and events all around the state. Unfortunately, I was only able to get to several of those because of regional areas and time limits. However, I did attend one in the north with the Department for Child Protection where I met many, many carers and was able to thank them firsthand and hear any of their concerns as well as the good experiences they are having with our department.

I also attended an Anglicare event at Grange, where I was again able to meet with carers and discuss issues with them. In fact, several of them raised the possibility of adopting children who had been in their care for many years, and about how excited they were with our government's policy to introduce adoption.

Finally, I also attended the Aboriginal Family Support Services carers' function at Regency Park, which was a wonderful day. We had beautiful weather in a garden setting, and it was wonderful to be able to speak firsthand to carers and hear about their experiences. In the great majority of cases it is great experiences they are having, working with these gorgeous children. I greatly appreciated any feedback they gave for improvement as well, because I truly believe we can always continue to improve what we do as a government and as a minister.

Whilst our government has been putting a lot of effort and resources into early intervention and prevention through our Intensive Family Support Services, family group conferencing and reunification services such as the recently announced Newpin, where it is safe to do so we reunify children, keep them with their family. However, there are still many, many children who are unable to remain at home, despite all the work we are doing, and it is then that we search for family, wherever possible, who can stand up and provide stability and love for that child.

If that is not possible, we look to foster carers, and we have over 1,000 foster carers who have opened their homes and hearts to children. They do an amazing job and we are very fortunate. For the first three full years of our government we have had net positive increases in the number of carers, largely due to the work our non-government organisations have been doing in recruiting foster carers. However, it is also due to the work we are doing as a government to improve things for foster carers.

Some of the things we have done for foster carers and kinship carers since coming into government include increasing the payments up to age 21. Statistically, 30 per cent of children were homeless within a year of leaving care, and that is why our government extended the care repayments to age 21. We have also worked on a statement of commitment with Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers, which is also the first professionally funded peak body. We are very fortunate to have them working on behalf of our carers and advocating for them.

We also doubled the funding for exceptional needs and set up a recruitment and retention task force with DCP and all the foster care agencies to improve our information sharing and our education sharing, and improve our systems to make it better for all carers. We consulted our adoption from care policy, which was greatly received by the majority of foster carers, many of whom already consider the children in their care as part of their family.

We continually look for better ways to support our carers, both across government and across community, in line with our whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach. Things such as the joint action plan with the Department for Education, where we have education champions and specialised teams, as well as our priority services in health and therapies, as well as housing options for children and young people leaving care. We also worked with the community, such as Catholic Education South Australia, for their 200 to scholarships and, more recently, SEDA College SA, which has offered 10 scholarships in sport streams to children in care.

We have expanded ambulance cover to 21 years of age, dental services to 25 years of age and we continue to look for better ways and further ways that we can support our carers. We sponsor the national Foster and Kinship Care Week held in June and recently hosted our fourth cohort of graduates who have participated in a Diploma of Community Services, again through partnerships with the Bradford Institute and subsidised by the Department for Innovation and Skills.