CatholicCare has a mission to build a stronger, fairer and kinder society that values children, young people, families and individuals. We seek to provide opportunities for people to “have life and have it to the full”.
Any parent or carer of children knows that the pathway to “growing up” healthy, happy and resilient children can sometimes be a rocky, winding road. There are no manuals supplied and the compass that provided a smooth and fairly direct path for one child can seem to lose its magnetism for subsequent offspring. Sometimes, as parents or carers, we are impacted by issues that mean we are not in a position to offer “good enough” care for our children. The reasons can be varied and many but regardless of the reasons the pain, the shame and the hopelessness associated with having children taken out of your care is universal, and it is heartbreaking.
In July 2016, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning launched its Restoration Project. This project is unique in that it sits in CatholicCare’s Early Intervention service stream rather than Out of Home Care (commonly referred to as foster care). Our Restorations Team works intensively with birth parents (where appropriate) supporting them to make the significant and sustained changes needed to provide a safe and stable home environment for children to return to their care. We actively engage with birth families in the very early stages of their involvement with Out of Home Care Services to offer a sense of hope and clarity. Our aim is to provide support and practical assistance to families so separation or family disconnect is minimised.
We are seeing an expansion of the Restorations Project into kinship placements whereby we support extended members of the child’s birth family to become permanent carers. If it is not safe for a child to be restored to his/her birth parents, our next priority is to reunify the child with other kin. This may be a grandparent, aunt, uncle or an older sibling. This arrangement allows the child to maintain the connection to family and culture and places the child with the child’s people. It also encourages an ongoing relationship between the child and birth parents, leading to better long-term outcomes for the family as a whole and the child in particular.
The NSW Minister for Family and Community Services has communicated a clear direction to all Out of Home Care providers that they make the reunification or restoration of families their top priority when exploring permanency options for children in care. CatholicCare wholeheartedly supports this evidenced-based position. It is our firm belief that the best outcomes for children are achieved when they are returned to their birth families, when it is safe for this to occur.
Research has demonstrated that restoration strengthens the child’s sense of identity, belonging and security. This is especially true for our children and young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds and from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities. The safety and wellbeing of the children in our care will always be our first priority but we make every effort to support them in being returned to their family… by “putting them back into a former position”.