Opinion | All benefit when a child is safe

SECURITY: Open adoption and guardianship creates new families. Photo: Louise Kennerley
SECURITY: Open adoption and guardianship creates new families. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Almost 20,000 children and young people in NSW are in Out of Home Care (foster care), with 49 per cent of those children and young people living in the Hunter and Central Coast.  Pause and think about what a safe home for life means to you. I was fortunate to be raised in a home where I felt safe and secure. My parents loved me and wanted me there, even when I was having a bad day. I was fed, clothed and educated and knew no harm would come to me or my siblings. Sadly, for many children and young people, this is not reality.

Now imagine that you are a young child who has been removed from your home and family because it was unsafe to remain there. You are placed with strangers, possibly separated from your siblings, and you have no idea how long it will be before you go home, if ever. This probably means that you have to leave your friends, change schools and adjust to a different way of life. You may feel anxious, angry and scared and so you may act up.

The Safe Home for Life reforms recently introduced by the NSW Government aim to address these issues. One of the main areas of change is the Permanency Planning Principles. These outline the need for an urgent focus on identifying a permanent, stable home for children when they are taken into care. The principles dictate that the first placement option to be explored is restoration to the child’s parents or family.

To address this issue, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning initiated its Family Restorations Project in 2016. The purpose of this project is to provide intensive support to the families of origin, where Family and Community Services have identified family reunification as a viable option and in the best interest of the child.  Providing intensive support to these families aids in reducing the time a child spends in care. This leads to better outcomes for the child, the family and the community.  

When a child or young person cannot live with their parents or extended family, a safe place is needed for them to stay. Foster carers, like Stewart and Bronwyn, nurture these young people, providing stability and support.

CatholicCare supports the NSW Government’s plans to make it easier for foster families to adopt or become guardians of children in their care. This type of security is exactly what children and young people need to thrive now, and into the future. Open adoption and guardianship can deliver to children, young people and their foster families a sense of openness and a better chance of maintaining good relationships with birth parents when restoration is no longer possible. Open adoption and guardianship creates new families. To develop a child’s sense of identity and belonging it is essential for foster carers, in becoming the adoptive parents or guardians, to understand the unique dynamics of the birth family and to build a relationship with them.   

CatholicCare partners with our carers, providing them with support and development opportunities on their path to becoming adoptive parents or guardians. Our plans are always developed with the child in mind. We have highly qualified and experienced clinical psychologists and caseworkers who assess children and provide support.

There is an urgent need for emergency, restoration, respite and permanent carers for children of all ages. Contact CatholicCare 1300 590 898 or visit catholiccare.org.au 

Gary Christensen is acting director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning