Help light the way for our children

Each day across South Australia there are kids and families who need help getting their lives back on track and this is where foster care can make a difference.

These stories highlight the need for foster care, especially across rural South Australia.

Hieke's story - So much love to give

In retirement people often dream about having plenty of time on their hands; but that is not the case for one special person.

After building a new home in the Murraylands, Hieke became bored, but a glance at the television soon changed her outlook on life.

"On TV there was talk about fostering and that spoke to me," she said.

"So after a lot of phone calls not knowing who to contact I finally found ac.care and put my name down to take care of drug and alcohol affected babies.

"So here we are 12 years later and currently with baby number 35 in my care.

I am caring at the moment for an 11-year-old, a 7-week-old and a 5-week-old."

Hieke said her days were busy but they were also full of love.

"I still love what I do and to help those littlelies to get a decent start in life," she said.

"It is a busy life but so worth it...it makes you realise that there is a whole different world out there.

"My life is totally different than a lot of other pensioners but it is beyond words when those kids look you in the eye and smile at you."

CARING IS ITS OWN REWARD

All children should be entitled to live in a safe, nurturing home where they can grow in a stable environment - unfortunately that is not always the case.

Each day across South Australia there are kids and families who need help - be it long or short term - in getting their lives back on track and this is where foster care can make a difference.

But there is a need for more people to become carers, especially in rural and regional areas across the state.

Foster care comes under the guidance of a number of agencies such as Anglicare SA, Uniting Country SA, ac.care, Life Without Barriers, Centacare, and Lutheran Community Care.

Ac.care chief executive Shane Maddocks said there was a statewide shortage of foster carers across country South Australia, which meant children in care were sometimes forced to leave their home region.

"This means a child is sometimes not only dislocated from their family by the Department for Child Protection for safety reasons, but also lose familiar surroundings, such as their school, sports club or church and connection to friendship groups or extended family if they are placed outside their home region," Mr Maddocks said.

"These things can be really important in children's lives, especially when they have already been disrupted significantly, so we do all we can to place children locally.

"Country-based agencies are in a unique position to work with their local communities and respond to unique needs in their service areas as they arise.

"They are part of the community, employing local people in the regions and partnering with local businesses and stakeholders to meet the needs of country people."

Carers are being sought for not only short term or long term care, but also for respite and emergency care.

The carers are screened through assessments, given specific training and are involved with a network of support, including from other carers.

Any person or family can apply to become carers, from traditional families to same-sex couples and single adult households.

"We do not make judgments based on race, religion, marital status, gender or sexuality," Mr Maddocks said.

He said agencies took great care when matching children with families.

"Each child has different needs and every family has something different to offer," he said.

"When a decision to place a child is made, departmental staff, our placement support workers, carers, child and if possible the family get together to discuss and agree upon a plan for everyone involved."

Children are placed into foster care after they have been taken into the care of the Department for Child Protection, under the Children and Young People (Safety) Act.

For more information on becoming a foster carer visit https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/care-and-support/foster-care

Asking for your help

Finding an additional 50 foster and kinship carers in South Australia is one of the most important targets South Australian Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson is currently trying to reach.

"We're looking for all different types of families and singles who are interested in making a big difference to a child's life," Ms Sanderson said.

"This will reduce the number of children in residential facilities and we know that young people thrive in stable, safe, secure and loving family homes.

"There is no doubt both foster and kinship carers are special people and I extend a huge thank you to all the foster and kinship carers who dedicate their lives to looking after young people who have experienced hardship and neglect."

According to the Department for Child Protection more than 85 per cent of children aged 0-17 years who were in foster care were in a family-based situation.

Department for Child Protection deputy chief executive Fiona Ward said, where appropriate, the department firstly looked at placing a child or children with extended family so they could keep a connection with their family, culture and community.

"Children who live in country locations are more likely to be placed in care within the postcode of the DCP office that received the original notification ... (but some) children may be required to relocate to another location for their safety or for a more suitable placement option," Ms Ward said.

Carers are also looked after with regular phone contact and face-to-face visits by support workers.

"Carers are offered regular opportunities for training through their support agency and receive a carer payment through the department to cover the day-to-day costs of caring for a child," Ms Ward said.

For information on becoming a carer visit www.fostercare.sa.gov.au or phone 1300 2 FOSTER (367 837).