18 April 2024

Can you help a boy who just wants a home and a foster family to care for him?

| Jen White
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Man and boy fishing.

CatholicCare Wollongong is dealing with a critical shortage of foster carers to look after children without a permanent home. Photo: CatholicCare Wollongong.

For more than two years, 11-year-old Ollie* has been living in temporary accommodation, cared for by a rotating roster of youth workers.

Ollie is one of more than 400 children in NSW who desperately needs foster parents and a normal home life.

CatholicCare Wollongong has launched its latest campaign to recruit foster carers. Titled Can You Help Just One Child?, the campaign focuses on the plight of Ollie who’s been living in short-term accommodation due to a critical shortage of foster carers in the region.

Ollie first entered the foster care system in 2012. Since his long-term placement with carers broke down in January 2022, he has lived in temporary, high-cost emergency placements, primarily within an Airbnb hotel type accommodation, looked after by staff.

CatholicCare Wollongong’s Executive Manager Children and Youth Services Michelle Ferrara said it was the toughest she had seen the foster care system in 20 years.

“The unfortunate reality is that kids like Ollie are missing out on enjoying a happy, stable childhood and the care and security of a normal home life,” she said.

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“It’s incredibly sad and we must do so much better for our children now and into the future.

“We recognise the economic hardship that many Australians are currently facing.

“For all of our foster carers, we offer training, financial and emotional support to ensure that we are supporting our carers and the children every step of the way.”

She said the campaign’s focus on one child aimed to personalise the challenge, prompting people to help one child and potentially other children as well, in an effort to meet the need for the community’s most vulnerable children.

Foster carer Anna*, a single administration manager from Bowral, had been interested in becoming a foster carer since she was in her 20s.

However, it wasn’t until a relationship ended when she was 39 that she enquired about becoming a carer with CatholicCare Wollongong.

“I always knew it was something I wanted to do, so I thought, ‘Let’s just go for it,'” Anna said.

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It took less than a year from her first enquiry for Anna to be matched with 16-year-old Emily* for long-term foster care.

“The CatholicCare team stayed constant from my training till my introduction with Emily. Since having Emily, I’ve had a great support worker and she’s always been there for me if I need her,” she said.

“CatholicCare matched us so well. They really listened to what I was looking for and I felt comfortable enough to say what I think I can and cannot manage.

“I just remind myself that I need to be understanding of her mindset, age and what she’s going through.”

If you are interested in becoming Ollie’s foster carer, or fostering other children like Ollie, email [email protected] or call 0418 783 956.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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