In the news – the urgent need for foster carers

July 25, 2022

Up to 30 kids from troubled Northern Beaches homes stay in motels each night due to foster carer shortage
Written by: Jim O’Rourke – Manly Daily on 22 July 2022

Up to 30 kids need emergency accommodation each night on the Northern Beaches, but many are forced to sleep in motel rooms due to a desperate shortage of foster carers. As many as 30 children — some aged just five — need emergency accommodation each night on the Northern Beaches. But many are forced to sleep in motel rooms as far away as the Central Coast due to a drastic shortage of volunteer foster carers. The staggering figure has prompted a charity organisation, which helps kids in need of an urgent roof over their heads after a family breakdown, to ramp up its recruitment campaign to sign up locals to open their homes to children in desperate need.

CatholicCare’s Diocese of Broken Bay offices, which run community and social support services, including foster care, on the Northern Beaches and Central Coast as well as parts of the North Shore and The Hills District, provides help to children who are not able to live with their families due to concerns about their safety. Children, including many who have experienced abuse or neglect, are taken into care by agencies such as CatholicCare, which provide temporary support while arrangements are made to safely return a child home, or while a permanent home is found for them. Emergency carers provide immediate crisis care ranging from a single night to a few weeks.

But CatholicCare’s Diocese of Broken Bay Permanency Support Program Leader, Miriam Goldstein, said finding an immediate, or emergency, foster home was not always possible. It can sometimes accommodate children in its stand alone homes, used as part of its homelessness support services, but often the kids end up in motels or serviced apartments if an emergency carer is not available. Ms Goldstein said on some nights up to 30 Northern Beaches kids, who have been removed from their homes by agencies, had to be looked after in motel rooms by paid social workers. “We are losing so many foster carers due to COVID lockdowns and the increasing cost of living pressures,’ Ms Goldstein said.

“Other agencies have told us they have lost 60 per cent of the foster carers in the last two years. “So realistically we do really need an additional 10 to 20 people or families on the Northern Beaches to sign up now as foster carers because we are just not replenishing our carer base. “It would allow kids, who are in a highly stressful situation, to come to a loving home rather than into a sterile motel, with paid workers.”

Ms Goldstein said many Northern Beaches residents think that ‘no, this doesn’t happen here, that’s another area’. “People think Mt Druitt, Fairfield and Penrith, but the problem is equally prevalent on the Northern Beaches,” she said.

Foster carers are needed who can provide emergency, short-term, long-term and respite care to kids. The recruitment campaign is calling on “empty nesters” — older people whose children have moved out of home — young couples, single people without children and families to consider signing up. “If you can help even for one night, one weekend a month or with a short-term or forever home for one of these kids, please give us a call,’ Ms Goldstein said. “These are local kids who need local families. “There are a lot of good hearted people on the Northern Beaches, but we need more.”

Current carer Roz McQueen, who has taken in 14 foster kids over the past 16 years, is urging others to do the same. “There are so many children, through no fault of their own, who don’t have a family to grow up with,” Ms McQueen said. “All you need is a spare bedroom and love, nurturing and support”. “The best thing about foster caring is knowing that you are making such a difference in these children’s lives, to see these children grow, to see them smile, they’re happy. “Just to see the smiles on the faces of these children, you know that you’ve done the right thing.”

For more information on becoming a foster carer visit www.fostering.org.au.

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