14 March 2017

Can you help support a child who needs a home?

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Black silhouettes Family on white background

For most of us, childhood is a time which we look back on with fondness because while many of us experience some hardship, it is generally a happy time.

For a small group of children and young people however, life is much tougher and may lead to the challenging circumstance of not being able to live with their family. This experience can have a profound impact on people’s lives, and if children and young people are not well supported, they can face a life where they are poorer, sicker and more at risk of homelessness and other vulnerabilities than the rest of the community.

Like all parts of Australia, the numbers of children and young people in the formal out-of-home care system has been growing. Of those entering the system, just under half (44%) are four years and under.

These growing numbers and poor outcomes for children has prompted the ACT Government to invest in a new strategy ‘A Step up for Our Kids’ in 2016. This aims to deliver a trauma-informed system and reduce the need for kids to be living away from their families. New services to support vulnerable families have been established and work has commenced to ensure that everyone involved understands and responds to the trauma that these children and young people are dealing with. For kids that are unable to live at home for short or long periods, the overwhelming preference is them to live with people who have a familial or kin connection, and around 50% of children and young people in care in the ACT are in kinship care. For others, long-term foster care is the desired outcome as it can create a stable and secure living arrangement for children and young people. For some families, being able to access respite care and short-term care can make a real difference in keeping kids safe and families together.

Bringing a child or young person into your home, particularly one who has experienced trauma is a significant decision to make. It takes special people who are prepared to share their life, establish relationships with someone else’s child and be part of a young person’s life at a point where there may be particular challenges and hardship. Having foster carers who are prepared to do this is fundamental to the success of this system and there is currently an urgent need to find new foster carers for children and young people in the ACT.

ACT Together, the consortium led by Barnados, that has been created to provide quality services for children and young people who are in out-of-home together is hoping to hear from people able to take on different types of foster carers in the Canberra region, and provide safe and stable homes for children and young people who cannot live with their families. They are especially interested in finding foster carers who can support children living with a disability, groups of two or more siblings and young people aged 11-15 years. There are different kinds of caring that people can be involved in including respite care, short-term placements, and long term foster care.

In 2012, young people who had experienced out-of-home care were interviewed about what makes a great foster care experience. They identified that what they needed most were people who were welcoming, people who encouraged the young person and people who listened to them. Being believed was key and being able to develop a relationship where they were a respectful friend and supporter was key to a great experience. Does that sound like you?

If you are interested in finding out more about being a foster carer, call ACT Together on 300 WEFOSTER (1300 933 678) or find out more via the website at http://acttogether.org.au/

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