With nearly 48,000 children living in out of home care in Australia, the rate of children needing safe homes is growing faster than agencies can find and train carers to look after them.
Shortage of foster carers is an issue in every state in Australia and foster care agency, MacKillop Family Services, is calling for people to take time this holiday season to consider if they could offer a safe home to a child in need and become a foster carer.
10-year-old Liam* knows he and his little brother Matthew* are in a better place now. Describing his foster carers in his own words, Liam says:
At the start I felt sad about not living with my mother. It was hard going to live with people I didn’t know.
“I now feel better about it – Adele and Russ are lovely people and I feel part of their family. Russ has bought a Suzuki Swift GTI 1994 us to work on. Adele is a kind person and she plays lots of games with us although it is hilarious watching her play. I can talk to either Adele or Russ if I have any worries. We also have a new puppy who is a little bit naughty but quite fun!”
Liam and eight-year-old Matthew had a very turbulent early life. Their parents split up when Matthew was just a baby and their mother tried her best to look after them but was unable to properly care for the boys. They came to live with foster carers Adele and Russell two and a half years ago and have flourished.
“When we first met Liam and Matthew, they would not look up from the electronic devices they were clutching. The boys were not going to school and they found it difficult to interact with new people."
“They are completely different boys now. We have introduced restricted screen time and they have discovered new interests. Liam loves to read and we all play board games together. We also look after two younger children and the boys love the babies. They are very patient with the little ones and it’s lovely to see them reading stories or watching movies together," said Adele.
Adele adds, “one of the best outcomes is that Liam and Matthew love to go to school now. They are doing very well, have lots of friends and their teachers are delighted with the progress they have made. We are very proud of how well they are doing.”
Foster Care Recruitment Coordinator, Sharon McRae, says people are unaware of the numbers of children in their locality who need safe homes.
“There is an urgent need for carers to help us look after vulnerable children,” said Sharon, “and too often people assume they can’t be foster carers because they work full time, don’t own their home, don’t have children of their own, or aren’t in a relationship. That’s simply not true. Foster carers come from all walks of life, the most essential criteria is that they care, have the capacity to create a safe and nurturing home, and have room in their house to support vulnerable children.
Foster carers are part of a larger support network, you’re not on your own. We have therapists, case managers and therapeutic practitioners who all work together to support both the child and the foster carer and once they start looking after children, many of our carers tell me it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.
Foster carer Adele agrees and says foster care has not only made a difference to the lives of the children she and Russell look after, but it has enriched their lives also.
“I was nervous before I became a foster carer, but I’m so glad we did it. If it’s something you’ve been thinking about, make it your New Year resolution to find out more. There are so many kids who just need a home where they feel safe and secure and it’s so good to be able to offer that kind of support.”
*Names changed to protect identity