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In the spotlight with Brenda Boustead

by PeakCare Qld on 1st October 2014

Home -> Articles -> 2014 -> October -> In the spotlight with Brenda Boustead

Brenda Boustead, Team Leader of a Foster and Kinship Care program describes her work at the Indigenous Family and Child Support Service (IFACSS) as coordinating a team effort.

“The strength of our program is that we are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, our people. We take the journey with our own people, walking alongside the children, families, foster and kinship carers; not behind and not in front but side by side,” said Brenda.

“The unique aspect of our program is that all team members have grown up in the area and are well connected with our mob. Our local knowledge means we know the issues, the strengths of our people and we get involved in community events. This means the kids then know us and see us as friendly faces and not only as a worker. This helps in breaking down barriers.”

In describing her day to day work in coordinating and supporting her team across two offices located at Dutton Park and Beenleigh, Brenda explained that her role is to attend to matters such as maintaining compliance with licensing requirements, meeting service standards and liaising with stakeholders such as the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. Importantly, Brenda describes her role as acting as a “sounding board” in assisting support workers to explore options for the best way of approaching individual cases.

“This is important in enabling support workers to focus on their core role while I deal with other tasks. This is challenging work and it is crucial I am here for support workers, to debrief them and to identify training and skills development needs for both the team and the foster and kinship carers.”

Brenda is strongly committed to children and young people being given opportunities to be engaged in decision-making about their lives. “Involving children in decision making is essential and should be part of everything we do, regardless of the child’s age. This keeps children in the centre of all planning. I believe we haven’t got this quite right yet, but making sure we provide space for kids’ voices to be heard is a vital step.”

Brenda’s enthusiasm for her work is motivating and grounded in her everyday practice. Reflecting on where her drive came from, Brenda said, “I have always worked with children, initially in teacher aide roles and now I am in my tenth year at IFACSS. I grew into this job, as my passion drove me to work towards all Murri kids having their needs met and ensuring that every child’s wellbeing is valued. What maintains my motivation is the regular contact I have with the children, young people, their foster and kinship carers and families. This keeps me connected and understanding the challenges first hand. I can always step in and easily connect with the kids, the foster or kinship carers and advocate for their needs.”

The approach Brenda takes in her work is one that is “uniting” – an approach where everyone is “genuinely working together to find out what works best with the community. It is this journey that enriches outcomes for children, their families and our community. It is important everyone is part of the journey.”

Brenda is looking forward to the future, but tempers this with a degree of caution. “It is hard to keep fully informed about all the recommendations of the Carmody Inquiry and how the implementation is progressing. I am pleased and recognise the role that QATSICPP plays for us. I am participating in a co-design group that is looking at ‘placements at risk’. It’s good to contribute but it would be better if there was a consistent commitment by all stakeholders. The contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be valued and go beyond good intentions. It is important to recognise that current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services already have valuable experience, established skills and knowledge that can contribute to future services and programs.

“I really hope that the Inquiry recommendations are fully implemented and family support and early intervention remains a key focus. This will support positive outcomes for children and their families. This is the chance to come together, securely put all the pieces together, create real change for a better future. However, how successful we are lies within a crystal ball at this stage.

“The reforms have the opportunity to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care and provide accessible early intervention and family support services. This will contribute to reducing the numbers of children in care and most importantly keep kids in their homes with their families.”

Brenda’s motto is important for all of us to remain mindful of so we can all take the journey “walking alongside the children, families, foster and kinship carers; not behind and not in front, but side by side.”