BCYF seeks ‘village people’ to support children in care

When it comes to raising children, a little help can go a long way, hence the term, “it takes a village to raise a child”.

This is why BCYF (Barwon Child, Youth & Family) are launching a Children’s Village to support children and young people in care with a special call out for the community to join the village.

Not everyone can be a foster carer, but the Children’s Village is a way for people in the Geelong region to volunteer as little as a couple of hours a month for a rewarding experience in supporting children and young people in our community.

Volunteers or “villagers” become part of an extended “family unit” like aunts, uncles, grandparents and other trusted adults by taking on simple and practical activities with a child in care.

A villager could help with school drop-off and pick-up, after school activities, homework and mentoring. This will create positive opportunities for children and young people, while also giving carers time off from caring so they can go out, cook, or catch up on jobs.

Foster carer *Mary knows all too well the significance of having a little bit of extra help.

The single carer has been caring for *Tom for the past six years. About three years ago, she realised she wanted a little extra support.

“Tom needed a bit of a male influence and so BCYF assigned *Nathan to him,” she explained.

Tom and Nathan spend time together most weeks. From playing with Beyblades, to building with construction-type toys, to just having a chat, the pair have formed a close friendship.

Mary said she noticed a difference in Tom straight away.

“He seemed a lot happier, he felt a little less lonely,” she said. “It’s wonderful, it definitely made a huge difference in his life.”

Tom sees Nathan like an older brother. “He’s really caring,” he said.

Having seen the difference extra support can make for carers like Mary, BCYF was keen to expand the idea, and so the Children’s Village was born.

The Children’s Village is facilitated by a dedicated coordinator, Helen Baker, funded by a grant from the Anthony Costa Foundation.

“It’s a project which has the potential to be transformative in terms of helping children who have often had some exceptionally difficult life circumstances,” Ms Baker said.

“The time they will put into this endeavour will potentially bring so many rewards not only to the children who will benefit by having more social and educational opportunities in their lives as well as the friendship and mentoring of a trusted role model, but also assist the foster families at a very practical level.”

Child Protection Australia reports that at 30 June 2021, more than 46,000 children in out-of-home care across Australia, 9146 of which were in Victoria. Every night in the Geelong region there are many children who don’t have a safe and loving home.

The Children’s Village is a great opportunity for people who are interested in helping children and young people in foster care, but may not feel ready or are unable to make the bigger commitment of being a full-time carer.

Manager Out of Home Care Jo Dumesny said the Children’s Village was designed to increase support to BCYF’s hardworking foster carers.

“A network of family, friends and community are crucial supports for foster parents, just like for any family,” she said.

“Every parent, regardless of their circumstances, values a supportive network around them while raising a child. And children need to be able to build a network of support as they find their place as young adults.”

“We encourage anyone interested in foster care, or using some of their spare time to help others, to contact BCYF.”

There will be a Children’s Village information session on Thursday, December 8. To register, contact the BCYF Foster Care team on 03 5226 8900, or email fostercare@bcyf.org.au

*Tom, Mary and Nathan’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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