It is a time to celebrate the meaning of family and to make the most of family life.
Yet, while many children and young people in Australia are doing well and are part of a loving and safe family, it is a matter of deep national concern that over 40,000 children suffer abuse and neglect each year.
The number of children in out-of-home care (OOHC)—that is, in foster, relative and other forms of non-parental care—has almost doubled over the past decade to around 41,000. More specifically, there are nearly 20,000 children and young people in OOHC in NSW alone, with 49% of those children and young people living in the Hunter and Central Coast areas.
Despite growing investment in child protection, children and young people in out-of-home care continue to have significantly poorer educational, health and wellbeing outcomes compared with other children.
The Safe Home for Life reforms recently introduced by the NSW Government aim to address these issues. One of the main areas of change is the Permanency Planning Principles. These principles outline the need to place an urgent focus on identifying a permanent, stable home for children when they are taken into care. The principles dictate that the first placement option to be explored is restoration to the child’s parents or family.
As a result, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning initiated its Family Restorations Project in 2016. The purpose of this project is to provide intensive support to the families of origin, where Family and Community Services have identified family reunification as a viable option and in the best interest of the child. Providing intensive support to these families aids in reducing the time a child spends in care. This in turn leads to better outcomes for the child, the family and our community.
When a child or young person cannot live with their own parents or extended family, a safe place is required for them to stay. Foster carers, like Stewart and Bronwyn- featured in this video, nurture these young people, providing stability and support, empowering them to reach their full potential.
CatholicCare supports the NSW Government’s plans to make it easier for foster families to adopt or become guardians of children in their care. This type of security is exactly what children and young people need to thrive now, and into the future. Open Adoption and Guardianship can deliver to children, young people and their foster families a sense of openness and a better chance of maintaining good relationships with birth parents when restoration is no longer possible. The act of Open Adoption and Guardianship creates new families. To develop a child’s sense of identity and belonging it is essential for foster carers, in becoming the Adoptive Parents or Guardians, to take the time to understand the unique dynamics of the birth family and to build a relationship and connection with them.
CatholicCare partners with our carers, providing them with ongoing support and development opportunities on their path to becoming adoptive parents or guardians. Our plans are always developed with the child in mind. We have a highly qualified and experienced team of clinical psychologists and caseworkers to assess children and provide ongoing support.
We will continue to priorities the safety and wellbeing of the children in our care by constantly monitoring and improving our service to ensure we support as many children as possible in attaining their Safe Home for Life.
There is an urgent need for emergency, restoration, respite and permanent carers for children of all ages. To find out more contact CatholicCare call 1300 590 898 or visit www.catholiccare.org.au