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International Care Day 2022: Breaking the stigma

Over 45,000 children across Australia grow up in foster care or residential care. They are often judged simply because they have grown up in the care system. This year on International Care Day we celebrate just one of the young people who is breaking the stigma of what it looks like to be in care.

For reasons beyond her control, 17-year-old Emmy* is unable to live with her parents. In May 2021, after living in several foster and residential care homes, she entered the MacKillop Family Services Supported Independent Living program, where she is now living on her own whilst being supported and nurtured to develop independent living skills.

Currently in Year 12, Emmy was awarded a scholarship in recognition of her outstanding schoolwork and for being a role model for her peers and her cultural community. This year Emmy will also be attending TAFE to complete a Certificate IV in Crime and Justice Studies as part of her pathway to join the Police Force. To complement her studies, Emmy will be undertaking a part-time job in the local Police Station working with the Aboriginal Youth Liaison officer.

Emmy acknowledges the support of MacKillop staff in working towards her goals.

Without them I wouldn’t be able to do anything I am doing right now. They are helping me at home, with my studies and with realising my dreams of supporting others and helping them break the cycle often associated with being in care.

– Emmy

Emmy’s contact at MacKillop, Robin Kelly, is delighted with her progress. She joyfully exclaims, “Emmy is a name to remember. She is going places in this world and is determined to make a positive difference in the lives of the disadvantaged. Emmy is a young Aboriginal woman who has her heart and head focused on being an advocate for her community.”

Emmy’s other passion is soccer. She gets herself to and from soccer training by bus four nights a week and plays games on weekends for her club, that has awarded her with numerous trophies for excellence on and off the field.

Understandably Emmy was nervous about taking the major step to live on her own at just 16 and managing the many tasks associated with looking after herself – tasks that would normally be assumed by a parent or carer. With the gentle guidance from her support team, Emmy has grown in confidence and pride in her abilities. She now confidently plans her weekly menu, drives to the shopping centre, and maintains a budget whilst planning for future expenses, including the registration and insurance for a car that she saved up to buy from working part-time.

Robin remarked, “Emmy has a strong spirited moral compass and acknowledges that the choices she makes influence the direction her life will take. She is determined to make smart choices in her life. Emmy is a shining example of a young woman who, despite the adversity of her life situation, has risen above the many challenges that she has had to overcome.”

Emmy adds, “There is huge stigma about young people in care when really we are just the same as other children. I am proud of what I have achieved, and it doesn’t seem fair that people think badly about me because of my past. We are all just trying to heal, move forward and create a better life.”

International Care Day on 18 February is the world’s biggest celebration of children who grow up in State care. This Care Day, we are helping to break the stigma of being in care and encourage these strong and resilient young people to pursue their dreams, by showing them they’re supported, unique and loved.

*Name changed to protect privacy.