When asked what the best thing about being a foster carer is, Lin* replied, “You can’t buy the joy and happiness that Dylan* brings me.”
Lin is one of 80 foster carers supported by Settlement Services International's Multicultural Foster Care Service (MFCS) celebrating Foster Care Week, September 13-19.
Kim with her SSI case worker Vanette Vu.
The MFCS specialises in placing foster children of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds with foster carers of the same background where possible.
SSI supports foster carers with initial and on-going training, a bilingual case worker if preferred, support groups, respite care, and a 24-hour on-call phone support service. In situations where the carer is not from the same background as the child, a Cultural Placement Plan is developed.
Manager of MFCS Out-of-Home Care, Ghassan Noujaim said that the service was established to support children in care to learn about and maintain a connection to their culture, religion and language.
“Research indicates that children who remain culturally connected have better outcomes as they grow up because it helps them to develop their sense of belonging and identity, and also helps children settle if and when they are returned to their birth parents,” Mr Noujaim said.
Lin, of Vietnamese background, has maintained Dylan’s connection to his Vietnamese heritage through language, food and her family.
“Because my children are a much older he calls them ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’, and because he is the youngest of all the cousins, he gets a lot of attention from siblings,” she said.
Dylan has Ectrodactyly, or Lobster Claw Syndrome of the hand and feet; a rare congenital disorder characterised by the complete and partial absence of some fingers and toes.
Lin said that initially her family found it difficult to come to terms with his disability but they are now open and loving and have learnt a lot from the experience.
“Some people and some cultures are still ashamed or afraid to talk about disability,’’ Lin said.
‘’It is important to see a child as a child, with the same needs as any other child; the disability should come second.”
When Dylan came into the care of Lin at the age of three he had severe language and developmental delays.
Using her teaching background, and investment in writing and learning aids, Lin was able to support Dylan to catch up to his peers in education and language within 12 months he was going to the local child care centre.
‘’I am not afraid to admit that caring for Dylan can be challenging sometimes,” Lin said.
‘’His challenges are my challenges, though, and I can see that the love I give and the time I spend to help improve his learning and language is really working.”
When asked what the most important thing a foster carer can give a child, Lin replied simply, “love”.
For information about the SSI Multicultural Foster Care Service or details on how to become a foster carer visit the SSI website
*Real names have not been used to protect their privacy