CareSouth staff win state award for innovative restoration placement

For the past year, CareSouth caseworkers, clinicians and support staff have provided round-the- clock care for five siblings and their mum, working towards a restoration of their family. The dedicated team of caseworkers and support workers were recognised for their innovative support model last week when they won Outstanding Therapeutic Residential Care Team at the NSW Youth Work Awards.

Illawarra Permanency Support caseworker Jorden Morris and Illawarra Residential team leader Michael Prince were an integral part of designing and running the restoration support program to keep the family together. Jorden and Michael, along with Therapeutic Homes support worker Dot Phillips, were recognised for their efforts, with Youth Work Awards judges commending them for the innovative placement model. Judges said the team created a warm, welcoming home with round-the-clock support and a focus on positive parenting skills, routines and creating long-term community connections and support networks for the family.

The family involved in the pilot restoration support model came to CareSouth with a history of domestic violence and homelessness. Extended family placement for the children, all aged under 15, was not an option. So, the siblings were separated across four foster care placements over two organisations until CareSouth’s Illawarra Permanency Support Program (PSP) team came up with an innovative solution.

Four of the five siblings were placed in a property rented by CareSouth and staffed 24/7 by support workers, while their mum and younger sibling lived off-site until she had completed the steps required to be reunited with all of her children.

Therapeutic Care Home support staff, Illawarra’s PSP caseworkers, Family Connections staff and CareSouth clinicians worked together to help the family build the foundations for a strong restoration placement.

“Our placement goal for this family was to keep the siblings together while we worked with their mum to reunite the family through restoration,” said Jorden.

“We needed to find ways to be creative in this placement and collaborated with every team at CareSouth to do the best by this family. They are such a close-knit unit, so it was really important for us to keep this family together because they had such a strong bond, especially with their mum.”

To achieve this, the team had to think outside the box and come up with what has proved to be a successful placement model.

“Our teams came up with the idea where the children lived in a house staffed and rented by CareSouth,” said Jorden. “This meant they could stay together and were supported around the clock. Mum was able to come into the home to visit alongside a family counsellor who provided guidance around parenting. The purpose of the care model was to increase mum’s visits to the home over time so she could eventually move in full-time with her children and have safe, stable housing.

Michael would like to see the placement model rolled out to more families seeking restoration and struggling with housing.

“I believe this placement model can change the industry as a whole across the country,” said Michael. “It opens the door for so many more families that haven’t been given an opportunity to come back together again because they struggle with accessing basic services like housing and having a network of support.

“We want to see this model become the new norm for families where restoration is an option. We believe this model can potentially break the cycle of children going into foster care and break the cycle of domestic violence.”

Michael said the difference between this placement model and other Therapeutic Care Homes was that staff weren’t only supporting the children, they were also supporting mum and helping her to rebuild her family.

“It was really important to find the right people for the team,” said Michael. “We needed people who would be able to role model for Mum, show her how to put boundaries in place, set routines, and show her how to get the children to stick to these routines. That is one of the reasons this was such a success. In a few months, we will move away from placement support, but this is mum’s forever home, so we want to make sure it works.”

Jorden said the team designed the model based on the needs of the family, which was to create a safe, supportive, loving home for them where they could remain together and mum could visit while she worked towards restoration.

“Previously, the family had not been able to find housing,” said Jorden. “We wanted to make sure that was not a challenge for mum so that she could just focus on parenting and loving her children.

“One of the key reasons we came up with this creative model is because finding secure housing was so hard for this family and became a real catch-22 for mum. She was told that she couldn’t have the kids restored to her unless she had a house, but she couldn’t get an appropriate house unless she had the kids in her care.

“We took her under our wing as family, as CareSouth’s family. Over time mum has gone from visiting the house, to moving in full-time in August. CareSouth will start to step away once she feels confident and supported and safe to live the best life possible with her and her children,” said Jorden.

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