The COVID pandemic has put added pressures on families and more than ever, Australia has a shortage of foster carers. During Foster Care Week, leading child welfare organisation Anglicare Victoria is shining a spotlight on the urgent need and great reasons why people should give foster caring a go.
Today, around 46,000 Australian kids are in foster care. Most of these children enter the foster care system through no fault of their own; often they are under a child protection order. Many are deemed to be at risk of violence, neglect or abuse in their family environments. Some families may simply not have the capacity to provide their children with the care and protection they need due to illness, financial reasons, or an unexpected change in circumstances.
Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria says Foster Care Week is the perfect time to consider opening your home and heart to kids in need.
"In Victoria alone more than 14,000 children and young people are under care and protection orders. The COVID crisis has put many carers under additional stress, resulting in a number taking a well deserved break from fostering," Paul McDonald said.
"Last year Anglicare Victoria's foster carers supported close to 3,000 foster care placements. In our agency alone, we urgently need around 90 new foster carers to give children a safe, stable and supportive home. Across the state of Victoria, the number of new foster carers needed could very likely exceed 700. The situation is dire."
When reserves of potential carers run low, kids end up being placed away from their usual local areas, disrupting their schooling and taking them away from their friends, siblings and other support networks.
Laura Baxter, from Melbourne's eastern suburbs, is a high school teacher and a mother-of-two. Her family has been fostering teenagers for around six years and they have cared for around 15 young people. She says that foster caring brings a lot to her family's life.
"The overall experience of foster caring for us has been amazing. We've had a lot of highlights over the years. Watching the interactions between our own children and the young people that come to stay with us is particularly special. I remember when one of the 16-year-old boys we had living with us would lift one of my little ones onto his hip and introduce them to his friends as his brother or sister – that's a massive thing for a 16 or 17 year old to do.
"Foster care is great because it gives the kids a chance of experiencing a consistent home environment and parent figures. I feel like it creates a genuine family environment for them to grow up in. We get to experience these amazing moments and I love watching their personalities shine as they come out of their shells. They are lovely kids and they become part of our family when they've been with us for a while."
Foster care can take the form of short term care which varies from a few days to a few months, long term care which is needed when a young person cannot return home for some time. Emergency care is usually for a night or two before a more permanent home can be found, and respite care is used to give full time carers a break, for a weekend each month, or a week during the school holidays.
It normally takes three to six months to go through the assessment and training process. Foster carers are reimbursed for out of pocket expenses related to the care of the child or children, and are supported throughout the process.
Anglicare Victoria is currently looking for all types of foster carers, but particularly those that are willing to take in children for a short to long term period. School aged children are often the most difficult to place and carers willing to take in such children are urged to reach out.
Foster carers can be adults who are single, married, in same-sex relationships, older, younger, with or without their own kids. "Anyone with empathy, compassion, resilience and dependability should consider giving it a go," says Paul McDonald.
1. WE NEED YOU! There is currently a shortage of foster families in Victoria and our kids desperately need more families to step up and help.
2. APPRECIATION. Foster caring teaches your own family about compassion, care and community. By helping others in need, we can experience real joy.
3. CREATE BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES. Foster caring can be great fun! Inviting children and young people into your home can help create some of the moments your family will cherish forever.
4. FEEL GOOD! By becoming a foster carer, you can give kids in need the security of a loving family and feel good about making the world a better place.
5. REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Foster carers make a huge difference in the lives of our vulnerable young people. Be part of the solution.
6. PAY IT FORWARD! Find space in your home and heart for a child in need of care and watch them thrive.
7. BE THE HOPE THEY NEED. Kids in need of foster care often just need someone to believe in them. Be the hope a young person desperately needs.
To enquire contact Anglicare