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    HERE TO HELP: Uniting Wimmera staff, from left, carer support Mel Russell, team leader Con Vettos and case manager Katrina Janetzki want more people to become foster carers. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Children in need of caring homes – foster care call out

The entire September 15, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

By SARAH MATTHEWS

Uniting Wimmera leaders are calling on community members to provide stable, caring homes for vulnerable children and youth who have experienced trauma or abuse.



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VicTas senior manager of child, youth, families and residential in the Wimmera, Philip Yew, said Foster Care and Kinship Care Week – which runs until Sunday – was a perfect opportunity to highlight that now more than ever, vulnerable children needed safe and secure homes.

“Children and young people living out of home are among the most vulnerable people in our community,” he said.

“During Foster Care and Kinship Week, we celebrate all carers and the dedication and commitment they continue to show to children in need.”

The theme for 2021 is ‘Adaptability: Caring through COVID and the changed care environment’.

Mr Yew said a rise in domestic-violence levels had been well reported throughout the pandemic and had increased demand for care.

“Even though we’ve been in a pandemic, there have still been many children and young people who have needed care, whether for a short or a long time,” he said. 

“The carers take care of young people 24-7 and in the current environment, this has included home-schooling.”

Mr Yew said Uniting was particularly looking for short-term carers, who could do placements of up to three months; placements from three months to a year; and carers for youth aged 12 to 18. 

“We keep seeing a lot of requests for these sorts of placements,” he said.

“Short-term care or respite care can be from an overnight stay or months at a time, long term can be up until the child is aged 18.

“Carers come from diverse backgrounds and family types. They might be single or in a relationship, have children of their own, be working, studying or retired, and come from any culture, religion or sexual orientation.

“We have a diverse range of carers, right through the Wimmera, including Stawell, Horsham and Nhill.

“Our carers are so amazing – we honestly have some of the most wonderful, caring people in our community who support as many young people as they can.

“All of the children involved have experienced some form of trauma. They are not in care because they want to be there, but they need a safe place to stay. 

“Our foster carers are volunteers, they get reimbursed, but not paid. They do it because they want to provide the support and safety that young people need.”

Mr Yew said becoming a foster carer took about three months.

“There are lots of checks and balances – it is a fairly stringent process, but there is someone there to support you through it the whole way,” he said.

“The support person can take you through what being a foster carer will look like and they will be with you for the whole journey. 

“It’s not for everyone, but if you’re the type of person who wants to help provide a safe, supportive environment for young people, then give us a call. 

“It can be at any time of the year. Foster Carers Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the wonderful work of our carers, but we are happy to add to our community at any time. 

“It’s hard to fathom what effect it can have on a young person to have a safe place to be.”

Celebration

Mr Yew said the Uniting Wimmera foster care community involved about 40 families, who would be celebrated this week.

He said program leaders had planned a get-together at Up Tempo café in Horsham, however, COVID-19 restrictions had forced the event online.  

Carers will receive certificates honouring one, five, 10 and 15-year milestones and each family will receive a hamper featuring regional produce and hand-made soaps as a thank-you gift.

Mr Yew said regional cafés would be giving away cookies to raise awareness of foster care opportunities.

He said the easiest way to become a foster carer or register interest was to call Uniting Wimmera on 5362 4000. 

“We have a specialised team of workers who will start the process, or simply provide more information,” he said.

“Even if people just want a chat or an information pack, there is no commitment to become a carer.

“Foster care can sometimes be challenging, but with the right support our carers tell us the rewards far outweigh the tough times.”