In early 2003, retired social worker Joe Goerke commenced providing counselling, support and advocacy services to parents with children in ‘out of home care’ i.e. foster care. This voluntary service was delivered through the Gosnells Community Legal Centre. He soon linked up with other like-minded professionals, Erica McKinnon a social worker and Sharynne Hamilton a housing support worker. They were part of an informal group called Parents of Children in Care (POCIC); this group was meeting on a monthly basis at Anglicare WA’s community centre Daisy House in Girrawheen.
This group of professionals, alongside the parents they were supporting, met with other service providers to plan and implement a way forward for the eventual development of a specialised service to meet the unique, varied and overwhelmingly complex needs of parents with children in care.
Whilst movement was occurring here in Perth a similar group was meeting in Townsville, Queensland calling themselves the Family Inclusion Network (FIN). A link between the two groups was quickly formed and it was decided the Western Australian group adopt the same name to ensure national consistency with the notion that one day national networks would exist around the country.
In October 2006 the group registered the association name ‘The Family Inclusion Network of Western Australia Inc.’ (Fin WA Inc.). Following incorporation of the association, its volunteer members promptly commenced distributing communications to referring and helping professionals requesting they become members. Within six months the group had rapidly grown into one with over 60 members of which many were academics and professionals from the community service field; six individuals who constituted the management committee.
Fin WA participated in a community ‘Open Space’ event to discuss the increasing numbers of babies being removed from their mothers at birth. This meeting further identified the need for independent advocates for parents involved in child protection systems.
On behalf of Fin WA, Anglicare WA submitted an application for a research grant from Lotterywest to examine the experience of parents with children in foster care. This application was successful and the research paper was completed in 2007 by Associate Professor Maria Harries. This research provided the basis upon which further funding applications were made.
Further lobbying and demonstration of need was made to key politicians in particular to Sue Ellery the then Minister for Child Protection; Communities, Women’s Interests; Seniors and Volunteering. In early 2008 an agreement was reached that provision of a grant from the Department for Communities would be made for the purpose to assist in setting up an organisation; a further and successful application was made to Lotterywest which provided the first year of funding for service delivery in October 2008.
In October 2009 the department of Child Protection & Family Support entered into a service agreement with Fin WA. The decision to accept funding from a statutory authority was not taken lightly and with thorough consultation the membership of Fin WA accepted the agreement believing it offered the voice of parents a legitimate and rightful place within the child protection system.