Across Australia, children and young people are at risk of missing out on safe and nurturing homes due to a national shortage of foster carers.
Tania Ferris, MacKillop Family Services’ Victorian State Manager for foster care says the wider community is not aware how the lack of foster carers is impacting vulnerable children and young people.
“Last year in Victoria, 367 foster carers exited the system due to the pressures of lockdown, while only 373 new foster carers were accredited. We know our carers are willing to go above and beyond for the children in their care, but they need the support of more carers in the system.”
Tania adds, “With fewer new carers coming on board, it is more difficult to provide a break for our existing carers. On top of that, we are worried about taking children and young people away from their communities as we don’t have enough local carers.
“It is heartbreaking when a child who cannot live with their family for whatever reason, must also leave their community. The impact of change and upheaval is further exacerbated if they have to move from their school and can’t keep playing with their footy or netball team or stay in touch with their friends.” Tania says.
Victorian foster carers, Lynn and Mark Brierty, support 15-year-old Cara* and her five-month-old baby.
“Supporting Cara and her new baby is something we are very proud of. Cara came to us days before baby Charlotte* was due to be born, and she was frightened and unsure how to cope. When I look at her now and see how confident she is with the baby, I know we have made a difference in both their lives,” Lynn says.
Lynn and Mark, from Jan Juc, have been foster carers for seven years and were already looking after two sisters aged seven and nine.
“I’d wanted to be a foster carer for a very long time, and I was delighted that Mark also believes it is important to support vulnerable children. Once our own kids were grown up, we had the time and investigated how we could become carers. I’m so glad we did it; I’d have hated to have lived my life without going on this exciting journey of foster care.
“People often don’t realise that foster care happens in their suburb or on their street. They think it is something that is needed far away, not in their regional town or their local community. I encourage all my family and friends to get involved,” Lynn added.
To highlight the drastic shortage of foster carers, MacKillop is launching a first ever organisation wide day of action, calling for the community to think about becoming carers.
MacKillop’s Call Out for Carers Day will take place on Wednesday 14 September across VIC, NSW and WA, where MacKillop staff and existing foster carers will do one action to promote the urgent need for foster carers within their networks and communities.
“We will be dropping postcards at local cafés, putting leaflets in the letterboxes of neighbours or sending emails to our clubs and networks. The Carer Call Out initiative is asking all staff and carers across WA, NSW and Victoria to take as little as 5 minutes out of their day to do one action to promote the urgent need for foster care in their community.
“We know that word of mouth is the most effective way to raise awareness of foster care and recruit new foster carers. Through the collective efforts of our staff and carers, we hope to recruit new foster carers who will provide an immeasurable difference in the life of a child,” MacKillop CEO, Robyn Miller.
15-year-old Cara is thinking about her and baby Charlotte’s future. She is taking part in a barista course and planning to pick up her education online next year.
“Cara told me that she never used to think ahead, now she knows she and Charlotte can stay with us for as long as they need to, and we will be there when the time is right to support them into independent living.
“In a very short space of time, she has become a self-assured young woman who sees a positive future; the safe space of foster care has allowed her to gain confidence and believe in her own abilities,” Lynn adds.
Find out more about foster care online at https://www.mackillop.org.au/get-involved/become-a-foster-carer or call MacKillop Enquiry Line on 1300 791 677