Pictured: Alison Ewington with two-year-old twins Lachlan and Tommy (at right) and business partner Tammy McKee with Bodhi, 1, and Zoe, 3. Credit: ORLANDO CHIODO
Foster carers can now complete mandatory training online thanks to two Illawarra mums who have created Australia's first web-based course for carers.
Social worker Alison Ewington and psychologist Tammy McKee identified a need in the industry while working with a Wollongong agency in out-of-home care for children and teenagers.
The work colleagues decided to give up their full-time jobs after having their own families and deciding to create opportunities for themselves to work from home.
Foster Care Online Training Australia (FCOTA) offers 12 courses, including how to cope and deal with grieving children, anxiety disorders, child protection issues and the impact of trauma on brain development. Other courses examinee challenging behaviours, attachment and bonding issues, babies born to substance-abusing mothers and how to support a child who has suffered from sexual abuse.
Each course takes one to two hours to complete and carers are issued with a certificate after passing a short online examination.
"Everyone leads busy lives," says Ewington. "Carers can't always attend face-to-face courses because they work or have child minding issues. Even when they do book to attend a course they'll often cancel it because of time restraints. Life just gets too busy for them."
Foster carers need training to help them better meet the needs of the children in their care. In NSW each foster carer must complete two courses annually.
With 17,800 children and young people unable to live at home in NSW, foster carers help create a safe and nurturing environment for children, many of who may have suffered some type of trauma.
It's hoped FCOTA will help carers to gain valuable knowledge in the comfort of their own home.
Ewington says the skills and knowledge help foster carers feel empowered in the work that they do with vulnerable children.
"By giving carers the tools they need to deal with a range of complex issues they are more likely to remain as carers because they feel supported and valued," says Ewington.
"Even a little bit of knowledge can make them feel like they're not alone in dealing with what can sometimes be difficult and frustrating behaviour."
FCOTA is currently not available to the public and can be purchased only through a foster care agency.
Being a foster carer can be very rewarding, McKee says.
"With the right tools a carer can make a big difference in the life of a young person."