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Call to "open hearts and homes" to foster children post-pandemic

Local

South Australians are being urged to consider becoming foster carers in the wake of COVID-19, as part of a new government campaign to be launched this week.

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The #FosterCareSA recruitment drive will target people who are willing and able to foster children, particularly those in greatest need such as sibling groups, children with a disability, older children and those in regional areas.

In South Australia, 86 per cent of children in care are currently placed in family-based arrangements, compared to the national average of 93 per cent.

The State Government says the social media campaign will aim to address what it describes as an “ongoing” and “strong” need for more people to “open their hearts and homes” to vulnerable children, to help South Australia match the national average.

“COVID-19 has prompted many people to pause and consider what is important I their lives and how they can make a difference,” Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson said.

“We know that stability and permanency is vital for good outcomes for our children and foster care gives young people an opportunity to have a family when they’re not able to live with their biological family, for whatever reason.”

Department for Child Protection chief executive Cathy Taylor said there had been a recent surge of interest for people wanting to become foster carers.

“During this time of the coronavirus, you would think people would be closing the doors, bunkering down and thinking this is not the right time to consider taking on the care of a child or young person,” she said.

“What we are seeing is actually the opposite.

“Even as times have gotten tough and people could be focusing inwards, they are actually thinking about the community they are part of and the world they want to contribute to.”

Seaford small-business owner Glen Davie and his wife Karen decided to grow their family of three just over three years ago when they started fostering an 11-year-old boy.

Davie, who is now an ambassador for the Life Without Barriers’ carers program, said the “rollercoaster” experience has been “incredibly rewarding and frustrating, but definitely worth it”.

“When we first got our young man he was eight years old but the emotional side of the brain was that of a three year old, and he was in a position where he was constantly in survival mode,” he said.

“He was hyper-sensitive and just about anything could trigger him to a rage.

“However, now he is tremendous, caring (and) this morning he got himself ready for school, so that’s light-years from when we first got him.

“Now he is a part of our family and it is an absolute joy to see him changing and becoming what we believe will be a very useful member of society.”

Davie said people who are considering becoming foster carers needed to make sure they want to do so “for the right reasons”.

“It’s about the child, not the carer,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there are some people who want to do this because they need the money or because they’ve got a hole in their lives that they want to fill.

“That can be an issue, whereas, if people have had a pretty good home life and they want to give back, those are the sorts of people that make good carers.

“What I’d like to say to people is just make the enquiry because there’s no harm that can be done just by putting your hand up and saying I’d like to do something rewarding in my life.”

Taylor said people could opt to provide respite, short-term, emergency or long-term care for children.

“All of our foster care agencies are telling us that more than ever, they are getting phone calls and they are getting interest – it is the best of the community standing up right now,” she said.

“Foster carers have the ability to make a positive and lasting difference to children, young people and families and I encourage those interested to visit fostercare.sa.gov.au or call 1300 2 367 837 to find out more.”

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