Social work runs through my blood and is a real part of my identity.
My name is Kay, and I am the Program Manager of the Temporary Family Care Team at Barnardos Australia.
For as long as I can remember, my parents fostered and adopted children through Barnardos UK so I grew up in a very welcoming, open and caring environment. When my family decided that Australia was the place for us, I was delighted to find a job as a practicing social worker with Barnardos, as it gave me the perfect work-life balance I was looking for. After years of ‘front door’ child protection, I wanted to do something different while still making a difference.
Whilst at Barnardos, I have worked predominantly in the Kinship Care space, where children are placed with other family members or people they know when they can’t live safely at home. This was not unchartered territory for me, as I had previously cared for siblings in the UK- but the support I received then doesn’t come close to the support we give our kin carers in Barnardos. The genuine time, effort and care we extend to our carers builds relationships and strengthens bonds. I remember growing up and seeing social workers come and go whilst never really knowing the children living at our house. It would make me so cross. Being able to build positive relationships with young people and families is what makes this line of work so fulfilling. I have had the privilege of being with some of those young people at their most vulnerable, placement breakdowns, sitting on the bed of a dying parent or waiting for a young person to come out of surgery. My heart swells with pride when I witness children achieving amazing things like getting great grades at school, watching them repair relationships with family members and achieving amazing career goals. The one thing that outweighs all of that is when a young person comes back to the office and leaves messages for me, even though I have moved on to a different role.
I’m so fortunate to work with an amazing team of people, from children, parents, carers, and colleagues. What brings me joy is when we get to be part of a child’s success. I’d like to think that no parent gets up in the morning and thinks they want to make decisions that make their children unsafe.
I love that parents know that when they come to us, they will be fully supported. Difficult conversations may be necessary, but they know that they are hearing the truth and that we care for them and their children. We are always working towards wins, be it to watch parents grow and have their children restored to their care, getting permanency for children whether that be safely returned to their parents or other family members, or a safe place they can permanently call home. Ensuring the children continue to be our focus is what’s most important for me. We know that when safe, the best place for children is with their families to ensure their connection is there. This is so important as this allows them to grow, knowing who they are and who loves them.
Whilst being at Barnardos I have received amazing support and encouragement from leaders to grow professionally and to climb the ‘career ladder’, something I wouldn’t normally seek out. This support has allowed me to progress from Case Manager, Team Leader and now Program Manager. But no matter what role I’m in, I want to continue being part of Barnardos and the values they stand for, by supporting children and their families. I believe I will continue to do that.