Altheas Foster Carer, Clare Penfold
Altheas Foster Carer, Clare Penfold

Foster carers feeling strain

THE Queensland child protection system is failing to keep up with the ballooning number of children requiring state care, new information has revealed.

Queensland Government figures show in the past five years, children from newborn up to 17 years old that had been removed from their homes by child protection officers in Queensland increased nearly 19 per cent from 8631 to 10,248.

In the same period, there were only 512 new carers registered, from 4833 to 5345, equal to about a 10 per cent increase.

Althea Projects is a Townsville-based foster carer agency. CEO Paula La Rosa said the system was under strain catering for children needing a home.

"The increase of children coming into care exceeds the number of people becoming foster carers," she said.

"It isn't new but I feel the last three to four months we have felt more pressure, hence the department has as well, so we have not been able to make placements because we haven't had suitable (family) matches."

Ms La Rosa said a priority for the foster carer agency was to try to find home-based care for children but it could be difficult.

"We are sending little people to residential care simply because we can't find home-based care and that's the real crisis," she said.

"Residential care is just a large house with qualified workers so it's not a family, it is just a youth worker."

Altheas Foster Carer, Clare Penfold
Altheas Foster Carer, Clare Penfold

Over the past two years in the Townsville region, only 13 new foster carers were approved, increasing from 293 to 306 families.

Clare and Wayne Penfold have been foster carers in Townsville for four years.

They are looking after seven children aged between seven months and 10 years old and it is the most children they have ever cared for.

Ms La Rosa said having a foster carer looking after more than six children was unusual and showed the pressure the system was under.

Despite having so many children to look after, Ms Penfold said being a foster carer was a "rewarding and challenging experience".

"Foster caring is about giving them a safe place and letting them be who they are and giving them the basic building blocks," she said.

Ms Penfold said she resigned from her office management job two years ago so she could take on her foster carer role full-time.

Mr Penfold said the family were looking after three different sets of siblings.

"It is concerning … there are so many children out there that need a temporary place or a long-term place, there is more children than carers," he said.