Foster Care Week - ADJOURNMENT
This week is Foster Care Week, which celebrates and raises awareness about foster care across the care services sector and within the wider community. The events and celebrations held during Foster Care Week aim to highlight and appreciate our valuable foster carers and the contribution they make to the lives of vulnerable children and young people in our community. The theme of Foster Care Week 2023 is Heart of Gold, celebrating the generosity and huge hearts of carers and their valuable place in the lives of the children and young people in their care.
As we celebrate Foster Care Week, I have been reflecting on a recent visit I made to Anchor Community Care, based in the suburb of Scoresby, which is in my electorate of Aston. Anchor Community Care assist some of the most vulnerable young people in our community, through services such as homelessness support, foster care, kinship care, community education and family reconciliation. I met with the CEO, Heidi Tucker, and key staff to discuss the crucial issues they are facing. Anchor Community Care's vision is to ensure every child, young person and family experiencing disadvantage can obtain the support they need to have a stable home, thrive and achieve their goals in life. In Aston there are more than 32,000 children under 18 years of age, and, in 2015-16, Anchor Community Care facilitated 847 placements of children in their out-of-home care program. In 2021-22, over 31,000 nights of care were provided through Anchor to children in foster and kinship care arrangements.
I've heard about the nationwide shortage of carers and the increasing number of children needing care. This shortage of carers is becoming urgent. I think Foster Care Week is the perfect time for Australians to consider helping a child in need by welcoming them into their homes. It's a rewarding and life-changing experience for both the carer and the child. While I was at Anchor, I also heard about the complex set of legal requirements that carers must navigate and about how staff at Anchor provide support to foster and kinship carers. During my visit, I met a foster carer and the beautiful baby she was currently looking after. I heard about some of the challenges she has faced facilitating almost daily access visits by family members. This wonderful foster mum spoke about the impact this has on the baby, on her and on her own family life—but not like it was a burden in any way at all. She struck me as having an amazing capacity for caring that seemingly knows no bounds.
I also spoke with a wonderful carer about her experience with kinship care. This is something very close to my heart, as I, too, am a carer, for my great-niece. At the age of 14, Jamilah came to live with me and my two teenage kids, in 2020, when her mum, my wonderful niece Melanie, who was a fantastic mum, died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm, aged just 42. I have direct experience of all aspects of being a kinship carer to a young person. It is something I spoke about during my first speech to parliament. The kinship carer I spoke with during my visit to Anchor Community Care has developed a strong bond with the child in her care. She has spent a lot of time and energy manoeuvring through the legal system, striving to get the best outcome for the child in her care. This process has had its share of challenges and upheavals for her life, and it can easily take a toll on people in this situation, but the strength of character I saw in this young woman was incredible.
These women and many other families in my electorate are performing a wonderful service for the community by caring for children and young people. Carers play an essential role in the lives of children and young people. They give more than just a roof over a head, a warm meal and a cosy bed. They are a safety net, someone to rely on during the time children are away from family. Their unconditional love, kindness and care make an incredible difference to the lives of many. During Foster Care Week and, in fact, every week, I believe they deserve all the support and recognition that we can give them for their incredible and valuable work.