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Fostering culture

This Harmony Day, we reflect on the theme ‘Everyone Belongs’. A sense of belonging is critical for children and young people as they grow to have a strong sense of self and identity.

This is often a challenge for children growing up in care, who have been removed from their family, and can move from home to home. For children in care from different cultural backgrounds, their experience can be isolating.

Foster carers, Denis Moriarty and Brendan Shanahan, care for two young boys from Vietnam and Sri Lanka, and have supported them to connect with their community and culture.

“What surprised us when we first started foster care was seeing the disconnection and isolation children in care can feel at times,” Denis said.

“They are not only disconnected from their culture, but their family and – if they are moved to a different community – their friends and school. That can be incredibly isolating,” Denis said.

Brendan and Denis became carers because they are both passionate about giving back to community. They understand and value culture and consider providing culturally-safe care ‘common sense’.

“We went to Vietnam with the boy in our care, and he loved it. It was the first time he had been, and he owned every room he walked into. He was proud, if not a little cheeky,” Denis said.

“We use food to enrich the culture of the boys in our care, and we look at the history of their countries together.”

Focused attention and helping children feel like they belong is a small thing to do, but can have big outcomes.

As a foster carer, every day provides an occasional bit of wonderment. It is such an authentic way of giving in a real practical sense – a moment of energy you give you give to a child in care, can see them blossom; their eyes shine with lessons you’ve taught them.

– Denis

“The best thing you can do is show them love; they’re kids like anyone else. Everyone wants to be a part of something, and our foster children are now part of our family,” Denis said.

If you’d like to find out more about foster care, contact MacKillop Family Services.