Toowoomba region foster children with complex and challenging behaviours have begun a $2.7 million intensive treatment program trial to move them from residential care and live in a family environment. Toowoomba child welfare organisation OzChild is delivering the state-funded program in the south-west region which aims to help children aged between seven and 11 overcome significant trauma.

Member for Toowoomba South David Janetzki MP said the Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) program was a highly successful behaviour modification model that provided intensive support to children, specialist foster carers and birth families over a nine to 12-month period. “Up to 10 foster carers from the region are being recruited, given specialist training and then work closely with a professional support team including therapists, skills coaches, and a teacher to deliver the program’s strategies,” Mr Janetzki said. “These are some of the most vulnerable children in our community and we need to be providing them with a pathway out of the child safety system,” he said. “This trial is the first of its kind in Queensland and exactly what is needed to give these kids a fair go at living a full life.”

OzChild Assistant Director of Services Estelle Paterson said the TFCO program had about a 70 per cent success rate of settling children back into a stable family environment. Children began the program in December. “Children do best when in family, or family-like environments, however at present, there are few options beyond residential care for these young people when foster, kinship or birth family placements break down,” Paterson said. “The TFCO program is designed to get children back into stable family life and we continue to work with the family for up to three months afterwards to make they are stable and safe,” she said.

Paterson said the program positively influenced children’s behaviour by teaching new ways to control emotions, develop interpersonal skills and encouraged participation in positive social activities within their community. “Kids who experience trauma will present behaviour that is challenging and difficult for carers to deal with,” Mrs Paterson said. “The children we support with this program have really complex needs, behaviours such as aggression and some have been in the child safety system for a long time,” she said. OzChild’s Toowoomba branch hopes to have 14 children from the south-west region placed with their families by the end of the two-year trial. The TFCO program is an evidence-based treatment model backed by 30 years of success in the United States, UK, and New Zealand. The strength and relational-based approach underpinned by social learning and behaviour modification principles addresses behavioural issues, increases participation in school, reduces drug use and even prevents contact with the youth justice system.

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