On November 20, opr worked with Fostering NSW to host a discussion about the important issue of foster care. The Fostering NSW blogger Summit brought together bloggers, industry experts, agency representatives and foster carers to talk about the critical need for 900 new foster carers in New South Wales during the next two years. This need is being driven by the fact that there are in excess of 18,000 vulnerable children in our State in some form of out-of-home care.
The event boasted four speakers, including Andrew McCallum, CEO of the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA), who spoke about the out-of-home system, the changes it is facing and the important role foster care plays within it.
In addition to discuss the changing face of foster care, Judith Cashmore, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, drew on her experience as an expert in child welfare research. She spoke about the need for society to recognise the important work carers do, and the impact a positive family environment has on children who have had a difficult start in life. Judith reflected on some of the heart-breaking stories she had heard from children during the course of her academic life, and informed those gathered about the options available to potential carers, from respite to long-term care solutions.
The final two speakers were two foster carers who joined the event to talk about their very personal journeys with foster care.
David Sim, a school principal, spoke about the nearly six year journey that he and his partner Christopher have experienced as foster parents. Now with four children, David and his partner recently built a new home to accommodate their beautiful family. David spoke of his oldest son, who first came to their home with a speech impediment and had been diagnosed with an intellectual disability that put him in special classes. Today, under the care of David and Christopher, their son is thriving – his speech impediment is a thing of the past and he’s currently in mainstream classes at his school.
In addition, Louise Smithson spoke of her journey with foster care, which began as a young girl. Upon the realisation at the age of eight that there were some people who lived in homes they weren’t born into, Louise made a commitment to open up her own home to a foster child one day. When she reached adulthood, she shared her feelings with her partner and he agreed it was something they should review. Several years and many discussions with a local agency representative later, Louise’s family welcomed a six-month-old boy who is now a happy and vivacious seven-year-old. And, earlier this year, their family was joined by a 13-month-old boy. Louise encouraged people to ask questions and seek advice and guidance about foster care to see if it was something they could open their hearts to in the future.
In the last six months, Fostering NSW, an initiative currently being implemented by the Association of ACWA, has been encouraging NSW residents to “open their hearts” to the idea of foster care. The messages have been well received with a campaign that’s seen:
- More than 12,000 people join the discussion on Facebook
- More than 30,000 visits to the Fostering NSW website, representing an increase of around 300 per cent on the same period last year
- Increased traffic to the Fostering NSW enquiry line, and jumps in online enquiries and direct enquiries to agencies
To learn more about foster care, please visit www.fosteringnsw.com.au or call 1800 2 FOSTER. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter and Instagram via #FosteringNSW.