Meaningful connection for children in Foster Care

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A word from our CEO, Brad Webb:

Families take various shapes and forms, and one opportunity to celebrate unique families that focus on helping children thrive is Foster Care Week.

Samaritans proudly supports more than 180 families that foster children across Newcastle, the Hunter, the Mid North Coast and out to the Central West in Mudgee and Coonabarabran.

One of the crucial parts of foster care is securing a sense of permanent support for young people. The best way to do this is by creating connections to birth families, wherever possible.

Samaritans works with the Family Finding model, offering methods and strategies to locate and engage relatives of children currently living in out-of-home care. The goal of Family Finding is to connect each child with a family, so that every child may benefit from the lifelong connections that only a family provides.

Core beliefs inherent in this approach are:

  • Loneliness can be devastating, even dangerous, and is experienced by most children in out of home care
  • A meaningful connection to family helps a child develop a sense of belonging
  • The single factor most closely associated with positive outcomes for children is meaningful, lifelong connections to family
  • Every child has a family, and they can be found if we try

Last week the theme and message from Child Protection Week was Play your part – I believe at Samaritans we  play an integral part in keeping children safe and also supporting them to thrive.

Developing family connections through programs like Family Finding is a great example of how foster care recognises the importance of connecting children with their birth families and the importance of all of us to Play Our Part.

I recently heard the story of Elle*, who is now 18 and Samaritans has supported since 2013. She speaks so fondly of the support she has had from her Samaritans caseworker and the relationship she was able to maintain with her birth mother. With permission I have included below a snippet of her story.

I came into care when I was about 18 months old. My biological parents had troubles with drug use and my biological mum had mental health issues from going through domestic violence with my father.

I had a really good relationship with my mum, so did my foster parents. We had a good connection together, I found it really amazing, even my mum saw my foster mum as a mother figure. This closeness has helped to this day. My mum passed away recently, and my foster mum can sit down with me and talk to me about my real mum and share stories.

Samaritans has been a massive part of my life. Sara (Samaritans Case Manager) is just amazing. Even with small things, like she’d just message me out of the blue asking how I was going with school and she’d always ask if I need her to come down for a visit to chat.

Life is going really well now. I’ve always wanted to work in childcare and so I went to the same TAFE my mum went to before she passed away, and now I’ve got a full-time job in childcare. It’s amazing.

I’ve got friends in foster care not doing too well, falling down the same path as their birth parents, into drugs. I was determined from a young age that that wasn’t going to happen to me.

As we can see in Elle’s story, family heritage, stories and connection are crucial to young people who have had to live away from their birth families.

We recently wrote a blog on the top 3 Benefits of Fostering a Child. Of course there are vastly more than three benefits to welcoming a child into your home and Samaritans is looking for those special people who are prepared to support young people through becoming foster carers.

If it interests you, you can read more about it on our Permanency Support Program page.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the person we support.