CatholicCare aims to address foster carer shortage

The number of children and young people requiring foster care has skyrocketed compared with what was required not even a decade ago. There are more than 20,000 children in New South Wales who rely on the foster care system, and approximately 49% of these children are located right here in the Hunter Valley says the Maitland Mercury.

The foster care crisis in New South Wales greatly impacts older children and teenagers. According to ABC News, of the 20,000 children in the foster care system throughout the state, 11,000 of those are older children and teens between the ages of 8 - 17.

In a recent opinion piece written for the Newcastle Herald, CatholicCare Director, Gary Christensen, asked readers to “pause and think about what a safe home for life means to you.”

Mr Christensen wrote: “Now imagine you are a young child who has been removed from your home and family because it was unsafe to remain there. You are placed with strangers, possibly separated from your siblings, and you have no idea how long it will be before you go home, if ever. This probably means that you have to leave your friends, change schools and adjust to a different way of life. You may feel anxious, angry and scared and so you may act up.”

The Safe Home for Life reforms

The Safe Home for Life reforms were first introduced in 2014. The reforms put the focus on providing children and young people with safe places to keep them out of harm’s way.

Speaking of the Safe Home for Life reforms, Mr Christensen said: “One of the main areas of change is the Permanency Planning Principles. These outline the need for 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.”

Family restoration project

In 2016, CatholicCare initiated its family restoration project in order to provide support to families where Family and Community Services (FACS) had identified reunification as a viable option. The goal of providing aid to families where reunification is in the best interest of the child is to reduce the amount of time these children spend in care.

“When a child or young person cannot live with their parents or extended family, a safe place is needed for them to stay. Foster carers, like Stewart and Bronwyn, nurture these young people, providing stability and support,” Mr Christensen said in his opinion piece.

Who can be a foster carer?

“Carers must have a spare room in their house for a child, but do not need to own the house. They can be singles, couples or a family. You do not have to be Catholic to be a carer with CatholicCare,” Mr Christensen told The Mercury.

Types of foster care

CatholicCare offers a range of foster care options including emergency, short term/restoration, respite and permanent care. Open adoption is also a possibility in some situations.

In permanent foster care situations, the child or teen is not expected to be able to return to their family for a number of reasons. This type of care requires a high level of commitment, but is often the most rewarding for both the carer and the child.

Foster care with CatholicCare

CatholicCare believes in supporting the household in order to support the child. It is the family-based approach which sets CatholicCare apart from other agencies. Ongoing training is provided to all carers and is specifically targeted according to the unique needs of the child.

“CatholicCare partners with its carers, providing them with 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 highly qualified and experienced clinical psychologists and caseworkers who assess children and provide support,” Mr Christensen said.

CatholicCare also facilitates a range of specialised support groups including groups for foster carers, relative carers, and men’s groups. The purpose of these groups is to connect carers with similar circumstances in order to form a strong support network.

CatholicCare also runs regular information sessions related to topics pertinent to foster carers including sessions on self care, child safety, foetal alcohol syndrome, contact anxiety, mental health, repairing trauma and stress, cyber safety and healthy food options.

Learn more about foster care and open adoption

In order to help dispel the misconceptions around foster care and open adoption, as well as to help recruit and train prospective carers who are ready and willing to make a difference in the life of a child or young person, CatholicCare is hosting foster care and open adoption information sessions throughout the Hunter.

These are no-pressure information evenings in which we invite prospective carers to come along and have all of their questions about foster care and adoption answered.

If you are interested in learning more about foster care and open adoption, please register for one of our information sessions, or contact us for more information by clicking here.