Power of that one, strong, adult relationship
As ACT Together celebrates Foster Care Week (September 8-14), and the invaluable support of foster carers in our community, regional manager Rebecca Jeffrey appeals to others who might consider becoming a foster carer.
"Every child is one adult away from being a success story. Could you be the one?" she asks.
"There is a growing body of evidence that suggests every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.
"The power of that one, strong, adult relationship is a key ingredient in resilience, according to the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child.
"I think it's a question we all should consider whether we could be the one and give in this way to support our community's most vulnerable." Rebecca admits that recruiting carers for Canberra's most vulnerable children is a big challenge and the need for carers is great.
"We need more people to be the protectors, the nurturers, the 'for now' or the 'forever' mums and dads," she says.
"ACT Together is a consortium of agencies established in 2006, that has been created to provide quality services for children and young people in outof-home care... [It] is led by Barnardos Australia and we work with the Australian Childhood Foundation and Ozchild," says Rebecca.
In the ACT there are more than 800 children living in out-of-home care due to issues of abuse or neglect.
Rebecca says this shows that as a community we are vigilant and responsive to the needs of children and ensuring they are safe.
"From littlies to adolescents, we see great outcomes for children thanks to our foster carers," says Rebecca.
Rebecca says that the options of fostering give carers more flexibility and choice.
"We work with people around their work and life commitments," she says.
Many new foster carers will start out by providing respite care by caring for a child over a weekend, once a month for 12 months. Respite care gives kinship carers, who are usually grandparents caring long term for their grandchild, a weekend break.
Short term or crisis carers can care for children anywhere from one night to two years. These types of carers are crucial at the time of emergency action so need to be prepared on short notice to look after children and might even get a call in the middle of the night to help a vulnerable baby, toddler or teen.
Concurrent care is where you are supporting restoration while also being committed to caring for a child permanently if restoration is not successful.
"However, when all options have been explored, and there is no alternative for restoration to their birth family, long-term foster care is a 'forever' commitment to a child," she says.
There are currently around 60 children in the ACT needing long term foster carers.
Rebecca says carers tell her that fostering is life-changing.
"They tell me they wish they had fostered when they were younger. They say that they aren't saints or superheroes, just people able to give a child a childhood experience and let them just be kids," she says.
The application process to become a foster carer involves a three-day training course where carers are given information on trauma, and the impact it has on children, as well as parenting. There is also a series of interviews and compliance checks.
Rebecca says the process can be as fast or slow as the carers want it to be.
"We work with the applicants on what type of care and the age group they want to foster, to fit into their family and circumstances," she says.
Carers are eligible for a subsidy to support the cost of fostering a child. ACT Together has a carer support team and holds regular events and training sessions.
"Often people have thought about fostering but hadn't given it the time to really think it through, or ruled it out as they think you have to only be available for crisis care, or you have to be in a relationship. That's not the case, and I encourage people to get in touch with us to discuss," says Rebecca.
Call 13 WEFOSTER to discuss foster care or find more information at acttogether.org.au
(This article first appeared on Canberra City News)