During 2020 Foster Care Week, BCYF celebrates and thanks foster carers for the amazing difference they make in young people’s lives. BCYF also encourage others in the community to consider foster care to help meet rising demand that may come from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, especially, has been challenging for all of us, and we want to thank our wonderful foster carers for their resilience and the continued care and support they have provided to our children and young people during this uncertain time,” BCYF Manager Out of Home Care, Jo Dumesny, said.
The number of children entering out home care has continued to rise in Victoria and a new research paper by Social Ventures Australia published online in August 2020, predicts the COVID-19 pandemic could see a 20 per cent increase on current rates in demand for child protection for five years.
According to statistics published in the 2018/2019 Child Protection Australia report released in March 2020, “the number of children in out of home care in Victoria rose to 8,490 in 2019 and we’re now seeing evidence that COVID-19 is intensifying many of the risk factors for families that often lead to child abuse and neglect. This Foster Care Week we really want to highlight the urgent need for more people to become foster carers here in the Barwon region,” Ms Dumesny said.
While foster care is a life changing experience for a child or young person who needs a safe and loving home, BCYF also want to highlight the impact the experience has on foster carers can be just as life changing.
Vicki Linnell has been a BCYF Foster Carer for eight years. She remembers the moment she decided to be a carer vividly.
“I had an accident that left me with a badly broken arm, a big recovery and lots of time to re-think my life and priorities,” she said.
“I just didn’t want my life to be about just work anymore.
“I had room in my house and room in my heart to have a child or young person around, who needed a safe place to stay and a mentor in life.”
Vicki started with respite care, taking care of a young person one weekend a month, before moving to being a full time carer.
“It has been an amazing journey that I have loved,” she said.
“I generally look after teens – I love to work with young people and help mentor and guide them into adulthood and really enjoy talking through issues and seeing the young people in my care blossom with connection and encouragement.”
Taylor found herself couch surfing at just 12-years-old. She explains how being put into Vicki’s care changed her life.
“I was 14 when I was placed into foster care,” she said.
“I spent two-and-a-half-years with an amazing carer who took me in and helped me get back on my feet.
“Within a few weeks I was enrolled at school and given all the opportunities I thought I had previously lost.
“I liked knowing I could tell her anything or even nothing at all and she would just be there.”
Although now an adult, who has found her own independence and lives in her own home, Taylor still regularly keeps in touch with Vicki.
“I know that no matter what, my carer will always be there for me,” Taylor said.
“We are still very close and talk on the phone as often as we can.
“I will forever be thankful for everything she has done for me and everything she has taught me and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to show me the way.
“For anyone considering it, please do it. There are so many kids that need just one person to show them some kindness and it will make the biggest difference in their world.”
Last year, Vicki was appointed as the Carer Wellbeing Officer at BCYF, which gives carers a dedicated resource for practical and sometimes emotional support in their caring journey.
This role was made possible through philanthropic support as well as from the proceeds of BCYF’s Foster A Future fundraising campaign, which is in its third year.
“As a Foster Carer, a big part of my journey was the help, support and friendship I received from other carers, who are some of my best friends today,” Vicki said.
“This role is for carers to feel connected with each other as a community and work together for the children and young people in our care.
“This role offers carers a dedicated person for the carers to talk to about how they are going, what they need, to help them access training, to organise supports outside of the casework and organise some social connections too.”
Vicki, alongside the Out of Home Care team, has ensured the cohort of Foster Carers have stayed connected virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure each carer feels supported during this uncertain time navigating a new normal and remote learning.
“To work in a field that I am so passionate about is a blessing every day,” Vicki said
BCYF provides foster carers with ongoing training, education, and 24-hour support. There is a need for all types of carers, from overnight or emergency care, respite, through to longer term carers. BCYF also welcome foster carers from all walks of life.
“There is no such thing as a typical foster carer. Our BCYF foster carers come from all types of households, family units and backgrounds. What’s important is that you can provide a safe and loving home for a child.” Ms Dumesny, BCYF Manager Out of Home Care said.
This year during Foster Care Week, BCYF is also calling on the local Geelong community to make a generous donation, to help provide safe, more stable and longer term foster care homes for children and young people in Geelong with the launch of its ‘Foster a Future’ appeal.
“Not everyone can become a foster carer, but by donating this Foster Care week you can foster a child’s future.” Ms Dumesny, added.
Foster Care Week runs from September 13-19 2020 and raises awareness about Foster Care in the wider community. During Foster Care Week anyone considering becoming a Foster Carer is encouraged to contact BCYF to find out more by calling 5226 8900 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate to the Foster a Future appeal visit bcyf.org.au/foster-a-future