TWENTY vulnerable children unable to live with their biological parents in the Limestone Coast could not be placed in long-term family based placements due to a lack of foster carers in the region last financial year.
Regional not-for-profit agency ac.care will host a community forum coinciding with National Child Protection Week at Mount Gambier City Hall on September 9 to highlight the need for more carers to open their hearts and homes to provide safety and stability to children.
“We have a wonderful network of 92 carer households across the Limestone Coast who provide safe homes and positive relationships for 118 children within the region,” ac.care foster care manager Dani Atkinson said.
“These diverse carers truly transform the lives of young people by providing care, safety and support for vulnerable kids when they need it most.
“However, there is a growing number of children coming into state care through no fault of their own and simply not enough carers to meet this demand, so we need to increase the number of people prepared to protect and care for children in our community, from infants through to teenagers.”
Figures for 2020/21 show an additional seven children and young people in the Limestone Coast could not be matched with foster carers for short-term care, along with a further 19 requiring emergency placements.
“We need to expand the pool of carers in the region to make sure the most vulnerable babies, children and teenagers in our community can be placed in caring home-based family environments when the need arises,” Ms Atkinson said.
However, Ms Atkinson said the contribution community members could make did not have to be lifelong, with a broad pool of carers needed for arrangements, including overnight for children in need of emergency care through to long-term placements in some cases.
She said options were limited for children unable to be placed in family-based arrangements with carers either through ac.care’s residential care homes or premises operated by Department for Child Protection and other agencies, including supervision by staff in commercial accommodation.
“Sadly, without enough carers locally, sometimes children who have been removed from their biological parents to protect their welfare and safety have to then also leave the region, including their schools, sports teams, friends and other connections due to the lack of an available local placement,” Ms Atkinson said.
“We want to provide opportunities to keep local kids in their community where they can maintain valuable connections.”
ac.care’s Mount Gambier regional foster care manager Sherri Winter said people from diverse backgrounds could become carers.
“We are looking for people from all cultures and across diverse family settings, from couples with or without children of their own, through to single adults, retirees and same sex couples,” Ms Winter said.
“What matters is whether someone has the capacity to care for a child and we support people throughout their learning and care experience, but that can include people of all backgrounds and be combined with existing parenting, employment and other commitments.
“This is a significant social issue for our community and we hope the upcoming forum allows people to learn more about the local situation and the inspiring difference foster carers can make in young lives.”
A key element of the event will be the premiere of a short film specially produced for the event featuring a family from the region sharing their caring journey.
The inspiring carers will also answer questions from the audience following the screening, alongside ac.care staff and other guests involved in the child protection sector available to share information and answer questions.
“Although there are many challenges in our work to provide opportunities for young people to thrive, we are lucky at ac.care to work with amazing foster carers who truly transform the lives of vulnerable young people,” Ms Winter said.
“We look forward to sharing some of these many positive stories with the audience to show the value of foster care for not only the young people involved, but also the carers, who often find new meaning and purpose in their lives by opening their hearts and homes to young people.”
The Limestone Coast Supporting Vulnerable Children in Our Community forum will be held from 6pm on September 9.
Visit accare.org.au for bookings and more information.
A drop-in information session will also be held from noon to 3pm on September 9 at the Mount Gambier City Hall reception area for anyone unable to attend the evening forum who would like to know more about foster care.