Further to my three previous blogs:
Recently I formalised complaints as to these blogs to Minister Jenny Mikkos, Minister Jacintha Allen, as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Berry Street & Regional Directors of both Berry Street & Anglicare St Lukes.
Im pleased to note Minister Mikkos has chosen t make two recent media interviews where she indivates a preparedness to clean up the Foster Care Sector. Minister Mikkos – This simply cannot happen without the Foster Care sector being back under State Government control until such time as some of the old school and dead wood is summararily dismissed.
As I have clearly proven, both Berry Street & Anglicare’s positions are untenable. Berry Street CEO Sandie De Wolf PHONED ME ON “………….with an attempt to intimidate me to back away from the issues I’ve raised, asking also that I refrain from open verbal attack calling to account those staff to which have clearly corrupted both their roles and that of their employer in this vital human care sector. The conversation with Ms De Wolf AO (her self considered to be the ‘darling’ of the Foster Care sector) was heated, although as she persisted in the misguided adventure of protecting her corrupt staff completely bedazzles herself refusing to accept responsibility though at the same time openly admitting she has no idea her Regional Director Steve Johnson, had shamelessly signed his name to a fraudulently written letter by the following:
Johnson asserts I had been deregistered as a foster carer – WRONG ! & that I “failed to work as part of a team – also WRONG. If challenging Berry Street to provide appropriate referrals to Pediatric advice for drug addicted foster kids upsets your bed count each day and as a result, my determination to ,are sure these kids are adequately provided for (at my expense), I’ll gladly wear the wrath of an organisation seeking to dispense with me as a carers by any false means they can, because neglect on their level isn’t a good look how is it ? Better to blame the foster carers after all eh? An easier target & protects the millions of dollars in public money paid each year to CEO de Wolf’s Berry Street agency. It also protects by default a building of mostly genuine paid Case Managers, who themselves must wear the wrath of dirty, under handed & corrupt staff higher up the chain, like for example Suzanne Pickard, as self proclaimed ‘Vetran’ of this sector. Problem is Pickard’s position is insulated by a long standing habit of protecting the ‘old guard’ of her dear mate, Sandie De Wolf, both after all sit glued to their seats on the board of Berry Street. Then there is the now former Manager of Home Based Care Matt Chandler “now no longer wi this organisation”. Might it be because he was accused of assaulting a foster child on Berry Streets Grampians regions grounds in 2014? I’ll sure as hell never know because of course they refuse to say.
strange thing is, the LETTER DATED…….Matt Chandlers name appears as a participant on the select panel for current and former foster carers as one of those who penned his name to my removal as a foster carer. Same man also who took great acception to me seeking authority for (and got from DHS Ballarat Case Manager Irene Padric) and as request by Centrelink Child Psychiatrist – AOD Counselling through “Stepping Out”. You see Matt reckoned it would label the child if I took him for routine counselling and support for drug addiction. What would Chandler have me do when said child comes home daily substance abused. Sit and whistle Dixie and pretend this wasn’t hapoening? I take my role as a volunteer Foster Carer and therefore duty of care very seriously indeed. And yes, I attended several sessions with the young charge all the while Chandler complaining this Counsellor “wasn’t working as part of the team” Problem is Chandler hasn’t even read his own clients file notes. Hard he done this he would have seen that Berry Streets own AOD staffer recommended his counselling be upgraded to the level of the stepping out program. Never mind he remained hell bent on ridding the thorn in his side – ME.
It never appears to be within the level of possibility that Carers are the backbone of the Foster Care system to the paid staff, and that given they appear hopelessly overloaded – Carers are ever willing and able to pick up the slack. Indeed, some paid staff have privately admitted to me on several occasions they’re glad I picked up and ran with the White flag on behalf of Berry Street to an AOD counsellor as they weren’t going to get an “authority in time”. In time for what I wondered? Put simply while the incompetence of paid agency staff is clearly evidenced here & at the highest agency levels, kids are seriously neglected by none other than the system that is supposed to protect vulnerable kids – child protection itself.
I recall an incident in which Matt Chandler former Manager of Home Based Care at Berry Street’s Grampians Region, was accused of assault by another of the kids I’d been asked to foster. Yes this kid had a history, they all do. The allegations were serious & I had been barely briefed by staff (off the record of course) as to what occurred. This Manager was not I was advised in anyway suspended with or with or without pay. I’m not sure of the end result as to whether or not these allegations were considered founded or unfounded, accept that I’m aware a physical altercation most certainly did occur. Chandler says it was required of him to restrain said child on this particular occasion. No matter what though Chandler most certainly should have been suspended with pay and away from the Berry St Office where this incident occured.
Conversely when allegation is made against an unpaid Foster Carer by A Foster child, without question, the Carer is suspended from providing more care. The support provided by the system in this regard is scant to say the least, lip service at best. The documented statements made by paid staff in a Carers file in evidentially indicate ALL support if provided to the Carer. I can tell you for a fact it is not. Allow me to expand upon this example.
One of kids in my care returned to placement after being questioned by Police earlier on the same say for stealing a car in the early hours and taking it for a spin. After 6 hours in Police Custody, said child was released back into the care of Berry St staff. He was in turn then told to return by train to my home. When he returned to placement it was clear the was going to be an incident. It wasn’t a matter of if but when. It wasn’t that this child was angry with me, he was angry with the system. Blame is a big thing for these kids and usually it’s the Carers who cop verbal and physical abuse (often daily as in my case). But we care, so we battle on and survive as best we can. Well as predicted this kid was agro and turned his bedroom in my house upside down. When I attempted to engage the child in an attempt to calm him (sometimes this helps sometimes it escalates the behaviour). He assaulted me and damaged by property and stormed from my home. Out the front exclaimed some hate speech directed to me and punched the nearest light pole. I was then to discover he made an allegation it was me who had assaulted him (not that was otherwise the case) and that the injury he sustained by hitting a street pole was self harm arisen from his own anger.
In the meantime of course, I was suspended from caring and waited several months whilst being interviewed twice. Once by Chandler himself with another staffer & the second time by 4 additional staff. The allegations were eventually dismissed a said child admitted his injuries were indeed self inflicted.
When Foster Kids make these allegations, the allegation stays on the carers file no matter what. It’s then added by person or persons unknown in the agency (Berry Street in this case), that the allegations were either supported or unsupported. Of course it was a false allegation and therefore unsupported.
So, Carers are in effect, suspended, (paid staff at least in the aforementioned) are able to continue in their role. Double standards to say the least. But you see Chandler already had me in his sights. Paid lip service to the investigation in terms of it’s timing and at the same time dragged his feet and dragged this out for as long as he possibly could. The Department, evidently encouraged his behaviour. For Chandler of course, he was a hero in his own lunch box. It allowed him to scapegoat the Carer, by looking good to his masters DHS & at the same time send a warning shot across my bow about Caring through Berry Street whilst on his street as it were. It was payback if you like (read through my previous blogs).
Carers are provided support its said through the Carers Association. A State Government body headquartered in Melbourne. For all the good this office does other than paying lip service to “process” (their words not mine), it may well not be there at all. Carers are also provided with “Counselling” though no referral was ever offered in my case other than scant “if you want it there is go get it”, no back grounding or written referral was ever made. In other words in all said and done, Carers are on their own.
Caring for troubled youth is challenging to say the leat keeps me active, keeps me feeling alive and needed in terms of caring for a fellow human being, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I could walk away from caring for the difficulty in working with beaurocrats. I will not. If all carers walked away without speaking out & fighting stupidity on the part of staff, it would be the agencies and the Govenment of the day first to speak out themselves for the desperate need for Carers.
Any wonder hundreds of Carers are leaving the Foster Carer system for many of the same reasons I’ve written about. Why would they bother ? Simply because like I, they’re passionate about advocating for young (often homeless) people. But advocate too hard and agency staff are exposed for what many of them are hopelessly overloaded at best, at worse blatantly I’m incompetent.
In good health,