Answering the call to foster care
Samaritans is urging locals in the Hunter Region to consider foster care this National Foster Care Week as demand reaches an all-time high. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, across 2015-16, there were 55,614 children in Australia living in out of home care- sadly, a growing statistic.
Every child deserves a permanent home- a safe and loving place to belong, to feel secure and happy. Foster care is about providing a nurturing environment for children and young people who are not able to live with their family. With statistical growth backing the lived experience, Samaritans has identified a huge need to recruit more carers who are able to provide a safe home for vulnerable young people.
Unfortunately the experience for young people in care is not always smooth and more needs to be done to attract good carers, as well as the establishment of effective and helpful external supports. The government’s commitment to increased funding to early intervention and prevention services to families in need will go a long way to addressing the ever-increasing numbers of children requiring out of home care.
The system has long been criticised for the lack of family and community support for young people when they leave care between the ages of 14 and 18. Too many are leaving foster care and experiencing homelessness and a lifetime of disadvantage. Too many are coming into contact with the justice system where children from care settings are over represented in our gaols and juvenile detention system. This is unacceptable.
Samaritans is calling for all young people leaving care to be guaranteed after care support at least until the age of 21. Programs such as the Premier’s Youth Initiative, of which Samaritans is a lead agency, will go a significant way to providing this vital after care support to young people leaving care. In partnership with Path2Change, Youth Connections and My Foundations Youth Housing, Samaritans is working on this pilot program for a three year period to June 2020.
The program aims to provide wrap around support to 130 young people as they leave care and transition to independence, with the provision of mentors, advisors and transitional support workers. This is much like the experience and support network that most children would experience from parents, relatives and friends post leaving school, which sadly is not the case for children leaving care.
To maximise positive outcomes for young people, we need to ensure that the value of this program is realised and that there is a long-term commitment to its funding. We recognise that there are far more people to support than we are able to through the life of this particular pilot, and so as well as maintaining the program beyond the three years, we also need to look at how we support all children leaving care.
Family and Community Services have suggested that there has been 382 carer adoptions over the last five years. For some children where there is little hope of permanent family restoration, open adoption may be a good option and this needs more attention and support to provide more permanent solutions for young people.
Above all, where it is unsafe for a young person to live at home, we need more foster carers. Foster carers come from all walks of life- we have single people, empty nesters, older and younger people, and people from many different cultural and religious backgrounds. These people have one thing in common- they want to make a difference.
Samaritans offers full training, financial and emotional support to help meet the needs of the foster child or young person for which you would be caring. If you’ve ever considered foster care please click here to submit an enquiry and find out more about becoming a carer. We need good people to make a difference.