The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) says foster families are our community’s most valuable asset when support services are not enough to keep vulnerable families together.
ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum, who is an Ambassador for this week’s National Families Week (May 15-21), says family is the single most influential force in a child’s life and more effort should be channelled into better supporting those who are struggling.
“When the challenges of life start to take their toll it can undermine a family’s capacity to care for their loved ones which may result in children being separated from their parents,” Mr McCallum said.
“Sadly, latest data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals that more than 11,500 children were removed into out-of-home care during 2014-15, with NSW accounting for almost 30 per cent of this figure.
“Investing more in early intervention services that support struggling families earlier so they can stay strong and grow together is the key to stemming this devastating flow of children into out-of-home care.
“As the theme for National Families Week suggests, strong families make strong communities; and everyone benefits from that.”
Mr McCallum said the role of foster carers is critical in cases when family issues run so deep the courts are left with no other option than to remove children from their homes for their own safety.
“We all require a support system in life, and for so many children and young people, foster families fill that need; whether that be through providing a warm, stable haven on a temporary basis until the child can be safely restored with their birth parents or, when this is not possible, by offering them a family for life through guardianship or open adoption,” Mr McCallum said.
“While adverse circumstances can propel children into the care system, foster families can set them back on the road to a bright and positive future. Indeed, they are the child protection system’s greatest asset.”
In NSW there is an estimated need for at least 450 new foster carers, such as Mackillop Family Services carer Christina Muscat, to come on board each year. A single mum and part-time teacher, Christina is currently caring for a sibling group of three children aged under 12 years.
“I’ve always loved kids and knew from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher. Being a foster carer is going that one step further,” Christina said.
“So far it has been a wonderful experience. I find that being a teacher helps me be a better foster carer, but being a foster carer has really helped me to be a better teacher.
“The children I have cared for have a special place in my heart. My son has definitely benefited from the experience. He enjoys the company of the other children, but he is also learning a lot about life.”
People interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer can visit the Fostering NSW website: www.fosteringnsw.com.au or call 1800 236 783.
The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies is the peak body for out-of-home care agencies in NSW.
Fostering NSW is a partnership between the NSW Government and non-government out-of-home care agencies and is managed by ACWA.
To arrange an interview with ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum please contact;
M: 0418 659 525
To arrange an interview with a foster carer please contact:
M: 0413 363 232