Uniting Calls for More Coffs Harbour Foster Carers

Helen and David encourage Coffs Coast residents to consider foster caring.


FOSTER care agency Uniting is calling out for carers to support young persons and children as short term respite carers.

Currently in NSW there are over sixteen thousand children in the foster care system and not enough carers to keep up.

Children entering the foster care system are likely to move to over ten locations throughout their time in care, making it difficult to form lasting and meaningful connections.

This is something that first drove Coffs Harbour couple Helen and David to become foster carers.

Helen, originally from Ireland, is a former teacher and lives with her husband, David, an Indigenous Australian who is passionate about ensuring that young Indigenous children can connect with Country and their culture.

Helen spoke with News of The Area, “All children deserve to grow up and develop with as close to the same opportunities as each other.”

Helen and David have now been fostering the same child for six and a half years, and she is as much a part of the family as their own biological son.

“When we started fostering her, we started to realise your job isn’t just supporting this wonderful young person.

“It is helping to foster a connection with her whole family and community.

“We knew from the start that there were siblings too.

“Building a close family relationship between our household and theirs wasn’t a question, it immediately became a priority to see them,” Helen said.

Helen now calls the other carers in their child’s extended family the closest thing to siblings that Helen has in Australia.

According to the couple, being able to share special times with her foster child’s birth parents, siblings and her own family is a key part of their foster child’s upbringing.

Sometimes that might mean three different Christmases, a picnic for ten and trips across town to see each other.

But, everyone knows that any sacrifice that may involve is worth making to help young people mature, grow and flourish.

“My whole family had to be a part of this decision to foster,” David said.

“It has led us down a wonderful path where we have grown in our empathy and understanding for how to support each other.

“If you don’t feel part of a team, you can get lost and feel isolated.

“But at the end of the day, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your effort, and the efforts of your team, result in a happy and confident girl thriving in front of you.”

With the recent announcement in the state budget of an extra $12 million to Permanency Support Programs Uniting are ready to support carers, young people and children.

You can be a part of a child’s team by caring for a child for short, flexible or regular periods, while a child is in a regular placement.

Also known as respite, a carer fosters for a brief time, with the aim of expanding a young person’s support network, or ‘team’.

Without support from short-term carers, many long term carers feel overwhelmed and that can lead to the breakdown of placements.

This then pushes more kids back into the system and continues a cycle of disadvantage.


By Sandra MOON

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