Foster Care Week shines a public spotlight on what SSI knows only too well – that foster carers play an integral role in the lives of vulnerable children and young people in out-of-home care.
Deputy federal Labor leader Tanya Plibersek and Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Family & Community Services and Minister for Social Housing, with SSI staff at the SSI/ACWA Foster care Week event.
SSI Multicultural Foster Care is a specialist out-of-home care service for children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds that has a rigorous process by which it matches children with a suitable carer.
Mr Ghassan Noujaim, Operations Manager of Out-of-Home Care, said many factors are taken into consideration when finding the right home for a child in care.
“We look at the child’s cultural connections at the time of placement, their first language, and the relationship with their siblings, among many other things,” Mr Noujaim said.
SSI also researches the home situation of a potential carer, their family and community support, and their cultural and linguistic background to ensure that the two are compatible and that this is the best possible scenario for the child, he said.
“Cultural matching is very important, and we believe this helps to achieve the best long-term outcomes for a child in care, but in the end the most important thing is to find a safe, stable and nurturing environment for the child to be in, whether it’s short or long term.”
On Sunday September 11, more than 200 SSI foster carers and children in care gathered for the annual Foster Care Picnic Day in the Western Sydney Parklands to celebrate the start of Foster Care Week.
Hosted each year by the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) with extensive support from foster care agencies including SSI, the 2016 picnic was ‘superhero’ themed in recognition of the dedication and commitment foster carers offer to children and young people in need.
ACWA Acting CEO Dr Wendy Foote said the theme reflected the ultimate rewards that could flow from giving children the gift of a loving home.
“The rewards of fostering are enormous, and of course providing secure loving care to children can be the one thing that makes a difference in the child’s life and ensures their future,” Dr Foote said.
The picnic was a chance for some children and families to catch up with siblings who are supported by other foster care agencies, and everyone enjoyed activities such as face painting, jumping castles, farm animal petting and hair braiding.
Mr Ghassan said picnic goers, including staff, all had a fantastic day and enjoyed sharing superhero stories.
“It’s such a privilege to work with these wonderful people, and it’s a really special community to be a part of,” he said. “Foster carers are such a vital part of the team that works together to support children in care.”
Children need care for different reasons and for different lengths of time. Sometimes it’s until they can return home to their biological family, and other times it’s until they reach the age of 18.
Foster carers can be single, married, in a same sex couple, empty nesters, working or not working. The most important qualities to have are empathy, perseverance and a commitment to support the child with a stable and caring home for as long as they need it.
SSI is always available to discuss foster caring with people who are interested.