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Friday, May 7, 2021

Help care for Canberra’s vulnerable children

Having been a foster carer for over two decades, 2020 ACT Local Hero Julia Rollings said there is a need for more carers for Canberra’s most vulnerable children.

Ms Rollings has looked after almost 50 children in foster care and said that unless you’re involved in the sector, the need is “a bit hidden”.

According to a spokesperson from the Community Services Directorate, as at 30 June 2019, there were 279 children in foster care and 384 children in kinship care in the ACT. In addition, there are 96 children and young people living with their kinship or foster carers on an Enduring Parental Responsibility Order.

“The number of children in foster care in the ACT has remained stable over the last two financial years. However, the number of children entering out of home care has steadily decreased over this period of time, from 196 in 2016-17 to 122 in 2018-19,” the spokesperson said.

When it comes to foster care, a spokesperson for ACT Together said it is a challenge to recruit carers, especially carers for children living with a disability, groups of two or more siblings and young people aged 11-15 years.

“ACT Together is seeking different types of foster carers in the Canberra region to provide safe and stable homes for children and young people who cannot live with their families or their extended families,” the spokesperson said.

“Our need is for carers – single, married, gay, partnered, those with a full house or empty nesters – who are able to care for a child for as little as a weekend a month to the carers who will welcome a child into their family for life.”

While Ms Rollings would like to see more people become involved in foster care, she acknowledged there also needs to be greater support available as carers are “on the frontline with these kids”.

“Foster carers are on duty every day and we need to do a better job of supporting them as they are helping turn kids’ lives around.”

Carers caring through ACT Together have access to support through the Carer Support Program that provides debriefing, advocacy and referral to other services. Carers also have access to training, therapeutic professionals, events and a subsidy towards the cost of care.

Melissa Bell, General Manager ACT Together, said “it is unquestionably our experience that every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult”.

“I think it’s a question we all should consider – whether we could be the one to care and support our communities’ most vulnerable?”

For more information about foster care, visit acttogether.org.au or call 1300 WE FOSTER.

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