Fostering Connections, the state-wide foster care recruitment service run through The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and Mildura-based Mallee Accommodation and Support Program (MASP) is asking people to make the call and take the first step during Foster Care Week to learn more about these incredibly rewarding roles.
The need for new foster carers is ongoing and urgent, with more than 1,500 children staying in foster care homes across Victoria each night. The roles of foster carers vary, from providing emergency overnight shelter to weekend respite care and short- and long-term arrangements.
The Centre CEO Deb Tsorbaris encourages people who have considered becoming a foster carer to make a call and find out more.
“There are so many ways that foster carers support these vulnerable children and young people, from simple overnight stays, to respite care on weekends, and short- and longer-term placements, and our incredible foster care agencies are out there in the communities to help and support carers,” she says.
Mildura Foster Carers Helen and Rod Martin had thought about becoming carers for a long time before they made their first enquiry but felt hugely supported through the application and training process by their local foster care agency, MASP.
Both work in education, and with their own family leaving home, they had the time and room, and felt fostering local children in need was something they could do to give back to the community.
“We started as respite carers for a 13-year-old boy with intellectual disabilities and when his long-term placement ended, he transitioned to live with us. It was daunting at first, but we felt well supported by MASP, the school and the NDIS,” says Helen.
Helen says there are so many options for caring and that all sorts of people can become foster carers.
“There will be ups and downs and at times you have to confront your own biases, but we get so much out of it seeing a young person develop and thrive, and we have been so well supported along the way,” she says.
MASP CEO Vincent Wilson says the trend towards “contributing” during the pandemic offered important opportunities for both agencies and community members.
“From a community perspective, more people are reaching out to offer to help in various ways, whether it’s volunteering or Foster Caring,” he says.
“Kids deserve to be able to grow up feeling safe and our hope would be that we can build a bigger Foster Carer network in the Mallee so children and young people who need a safe place can stay here in their own familiar communities with their networks and supports around them.
“We believe that it does ‘take a village to raise a child’ and by providing love and support to a young person who desperately needs it, there are huge rewards to experience by giving back.”
Recent findings from Fostering Connections’ market research underscored strong community support for foster caring, with 80 per cent of Victorians saying they believe the community should provide support for children who can’t live with their families.
“Despite cost-of-living difficulties, Victorians have shown they are sympathetic to the plight of children and young people. We know it’s tough out there, and it’s even tougher for some families, which means new carers are needed more than ever.
“Victorians showed during Covid that we can come together as a community and support each other. Even though these are tough times, these vulnerable kids need the support and care of their communities,” says Ms Tsorbaris.
Foster Care Week, which begins on Sunday 10 September, is an opportunity to celebrate the vital role that foster carers play in ensuring that every child in Victoria has a loving home during times when they’re unable to live with their family.
Fostering Connections, a joint initiative between The Centre, foster care agencies across Victoria, and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, is encouraging foster carers from all walks of life to support their community by opening their homes to become part of an incredible network of people supporting local children, young people, and families.
“Foster Carers have an enormous impact on the lives of the children and young people they support. Caring is changing and we see great success in fostering from all types of people, stepping up to meet the needs of all types of children. Anyone over the age of 21 who has a spare bedroom can apply to become a foster carer.”
For more information about fostering a child or to get in touch with MASP Foster Care tea, call 5021 6500.