In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)

In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)
ACT Public Hospitals

Canberra Hospital

5124 0000


Calvary Hospital

6201 6111

Mental Health

Call Mental Health Triage on

1800 629 354

(free call except from mobiles or public phones) or

6205 1065

Poisons Hotline

For a poison emergency in Australia call

131126

Drug and Alcohol Help Line

The Drug and Alcohol Help Line is available 24-hours, 7 days a week on

5124 9977

Health Protection Service

For after hours urgent public health matters including environmental health, radiation safety, food poisoning and communicable disease management phone:

(02) 6205 1700

healthdirect

24 hour health advice

1800 022 222

ACT State Emergency Service

Emergency help
during flood or storms

132 500

Caring for Carers


In this section: Learn about the importance of taking care of yourself and the supports you can access to help you in your carer role. Also discover important information about working with your case manager.

Taking care of yourself

Being a carer is rewarding, but it can also be demanding and challenging. When you look after someone else, it can be easy to put your own needs last – it is recognised that carers can give up a lot of themselves to care for a child. It is also understood that sometimes being aware of the trauma experienced by the child in your care can take its toll on you. As you go through your carer journey, it is important to know that taking care of yourself is very important.

Caring for yourself means looking for signs that may mean you are feeling stressed – things like a short temper, mood swings, withdrawal from friends or family, feeling overwhelmed or drained. Use these signs as a reminder to take some 'me' time to unwind and refocus. By looking after yourself, you will be better placed to care for the child in your care and better able to manage the other things in your life – such as work, family, household responsibilities and your health.

It is good to try to do things regularly and build them into your routine. They don’t have to take up much time or cost you money. We are all different, so think about what works best for you and what will help you cope with the stresses of being a carer.

Taking time for yourself is not seen as a failure or that you are not focused on caring properly for the child. It is a proactive and sensible way to help you be at your best – physically, mentally and emotionally – for yourself, the child in your care and everyone around you.

Most importantly, know you are not alone. There is a range of support, both informal and formal, you can access.

Visiting your GP may be a good place to start, or reaching out to Carers ACT who deliver the independent Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service. This service can provide you with supports to help ensure your voice is heard and link you to other useful information and services.

For an extensive list of help available, see ‘Supports and services’ and speak with your case manager if you are ever unsure.

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The role of a case manager

Whether you are a kinship or foster carer, the child you care for will be assigned and supported by a case manager. This person is your first point of contact. If you are caring for more than one child, you may have more than one case manager. You may also have a carer support worker.

Your case manager will work closely with you, the child and the child’s birth parents to provide a clear plan for the care of the child. This plan will also link the child, you and your family with any appropriate services that can help. The focus of the plan will either be restoration, permanency or transition. These goals will be captured in the child’s Care Plan.

Your case manager will be from CYPS or ACT Together – which one is determined by whether you are a kinship or foster carer and what type of Care and Protection Order is in place for the child.

If the child you care for is on a short-term or interim Care and Protection Order and you are a:

  • kinship carer
    • CYPS is responsible for your assessment and support, and the ongoing case management of the child and their Care Plan. This includes coordinating contact arrangements with birth family and appointments for the child. At this stage, it is likely the goal of the child’s Care Plan is restoration to their birth parents.
  • foster carer
    • CYPS is responsible for the ongoing case management of the child and their Care Plan. This includes coordinating contact arrangements with birth family and appointments for the child. At this stage, it is likely the goal of the child’s Care Plan is restoration to their birth parents.
    • ACT Together is responsible for your assessment, coordination, liaison with CYPS and carer support.

If the child you care for is on a long-term Care and Protection Order and you are a:

  • kinship or foster carer
    • ACT Together is responsible for your assessment and support, and the ongoing case management of the child and their Case Plan. This includes coordinating contact arrangements with parents and appointments for the child. At this stage, it is likely the goal of the child’s Care Plan is either permanency or transition out of care.
      • A permanency plan recognises attempts at restoration have been unsuccessful, and the child requires a stable and long-term care arrangement.
      • Where a child is 15 years old or over, the Children and Young People Act 2008 requires a Transition (from Care) Plan. This goal recognises, most parents are seeking to encourage independence in their children from the age of 15 and prepare them for the possibility of independence at the age of 18.

The table below visually shows you where case management responsibility lies and who will work with you.

CASE MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITY

Care arrangement

Interim order

Short-term order

Long-term order

Kinship care

CYPS

CYPS

ACT Together

Foster care

CYPS

CYPS

ACT Together

Visits from your case manager

CYPS and ACT Together have a legal responsibility to ensure children in care are visited regularly and the child’s views and opinions heard. The frequency of visits depends on the orders in place for the child and how long they have been in care. As a guide, for a child on a long-term order in a settled care arrangement, a visit once a month is standard.

Visits happen in a variety of settings. They may be at home with you, or elsewhere at an activity. Wherever visits happen, the primary aim is for your case manager to form a trusting relationship with the child and to support their time with you.

Your case manager will want to speak to the child and you together, and individually. They will also want to see you interact with the child to see how you are getting along and help with any issues that may come up. Speaking individually with the child is an opportunity for your case manager to get to know the child one-on-one and to see if there is anything they need or if they have any concerns about their placement. Where appropriate, your case manager will let you know about these discussions, with the child’s permission, and if any follow-up is required. This is the same for when your case manager speaks individually with you.

Visits will happen at an agreed time between you and your case manager. If your circumstances change and you can’t make a visit, you need to contact your case manager as early as possible to arrange another time. Your case manager will also let you know if they are unable to make a visit and organise a new time with you. Occasionally, circumstances can change suddenly and visits need to be cancelled at short notice. Visits are very important and should only be cancelled by you or your case manager in exceptional circumstances.

Both you and your case manager are important role models for the child in your care. Working collaboratively with your case manager, during visits and at all times, demonstrates the importance of teamwork and how to build and maintain trusting relationships. Regardless of how long the child is in your care, they will always learn from you, and seeing adults respect one another and involve each other in decisions is invaluable to their development.

Contacting your case manager

Your case manager is your first point of contact regarding questions you have about the child in your care and your role and responsibilities as their carer. Depending on your question, your case manager will either help you directly or link you with the best-placed person or service to assist.

You can use the numbers below to contact your case manager. If your case manager is from CYPS, they will let you know which team (North or South) they are in. Emergency after hours numbers are also provided.

Agency

Phone – business hours

After hours crisis services

CYPS

North team: 6207 1069

South team: 6207 1466

1300 556 729

This a 24-hour after hours service for emergency or serious incidents only.

ACT Together

6110 2200

0402 036 254

This number is diverted to the after hours worker. Text messages are not received.

Alternative contact

If you are having difficulty contacting your case manager, use the same numbers above and ask to speak to your case manager’s team leader. The person who takes your call will know who your case manager’s team leader is.

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Training opportunities

Whether this is your first time as a carer or you have been doing it for a while, you are encouraged to participate in relevant training as opportunities come up. Training is a useful way for both kinship and foster carers to gain and share valuable knowledge and skills about caring for a child, and to help you feel more confident in your role. Training can also be a good way for you to meet other people in similar circumstances.

Throughout the year, CYPS and ACT Together will let you know about upcoming training through newsletters, phone calls or email. Different topics are covered during the year, such as understanding trauma, so keep an eye out for topics that interest you. At various times you may be asked for feedback on what training or information may help you, as CYPS and ACT Together are always looking for ways to improve their services.

Many other community organisations also provide training helpful for carers, for example parenting courses, which you can access.

If you are interested in training, speak to your case manager about what is available through CYPS and ACT Together, as well as referrals to external training opportunities.

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Taking a break: respite care

Just as everyone needs some help from time to time, or a break from daily life, kinship and foster carers need a break too. Respite care aims to give you a break from the daily demands of being a carer and helps you to recharge and manage unforeseen circumstances, such as periods of illness. Many families have opportunities for a break through their own networks, such as a child having sleepovers with grandparents or other family members, time at friends’ houses, childcare and sometimes babysitting. There are many ways you can take a break and you will need to consider what will work best for your situation and the best interests of the child in your care.

Talk to your case manager about planning for respite opportunities. Some options to think about are:

  • having an extended family member (birth or carer family) or friend look after the child
  • using a licensed childcare service or after school care
  • enrolling the child in camps or other recreational activities (where they are appropriate to the child’s age, capacity and wishes)
  • organising another authorised kinship or foster carer.

Depending on the circumstances and what is best for the child, it may also be possible to plan for and access regular respite. Discuss this with your case manager.

It is important to be aware that any extended family members or friends who are willing and able to provide regular respite care for a child, must be assessed to become an authorised carer. Your case manager can help with this process.

It may also be possible to request short-term assistance in your home if it is recommended the child would benefit from more focused time with you to help them through a particularly tricky period.

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Support and advice

If at any point during your time as a carer you require assistance, please remember help is available.

In addition to your case manager, the following groups are your key ‘go-to’ people for day-to-day help:

  • ACT Together Carer Support Team – provides emotional and practical support, as well as advice and advocacy for all foster carers, as well as kinship carers caring for children on long-term orders.
  • CYPS Carer Liaison Officer and Kinship Assessment and Support Team – supports kinship carers caring for children on short-term or interim orders.

There are also organisations independent to CYPS and ACT Together that can help support you through advocacy and advice. This includes:

  • Carers ACT, Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service
  • Australian Red Cross Birth Family Advocacy Support Service (kinship carers)
  • The Foster Care Association of the ACT.

See ‘Advocacy and advice’.

And don’t forget about the ‘Supports and services’ section at the end of this handbook.

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