By Mary Dickins
Childhood only happens once and for most of us it’s a time of fun, learning, growing, exploring and dreaming about growing up.
Tragically in Tasmania, around Australia, and around the world some children grow up in families where their parents are unable to keep them safe.
The first two weeks of September bring light to both the need to protect childhood and to celebrate foster and kinship carers who step into children’s lives to be a family for them.
This isn’t a time for blame or shame, these weeks are times to reflect on childhood and what it means to be a kid and what kind of world we want our children growing up in.
Recently the Tasmanian Government released its strategy “It takes a village” and reflected on the importance of family and community for our children to enjoy childhood and thrive.
The theme for National Child Protection Week is Every child, in every community, needs a fair go and to do this, we need to make sure every family and community has what kids need to thrive and be healthy.
National Child Protection Week is 5 to 11 September and is quickly followed by Foster Carers Week.
Foster Carers Week raises awareness about foster care in the wider community, and the events held during the week celebrate and appreciate the amazing foster and kinship carers in our community and the invaluable contribution they are making to the lives of vulnerable children and young people and the community.
Both weeks are a chance for each of us to think about the children and families in our communities and if we are offering a village.
It is more than just thinking about addressing child abuse and neglect but thinking about how we can support families before then.
In Tasmania more than 1000 children are growing up in out of home care, that is in foster and kinship care families, and even more are growing up in informal care arrangements.
Foster and kinship carers are regular people in our community who step forward to be a family for a child who needs one.
In Tasmania and nationally, we have a shortage of foster and kinship carers and this is a great time to consider whether you could be a carer.
Carers can be long-term, respite, or emergency and we need all types! Being a carer isn’t easy, but an absolute privilege to step into a child’s life for as long as you need to. Carers can be any age and stage of life, they can be working or home full time, they can own their home or be renting, they can be single or in a couple, they can be grandparents or never had had their own children.
Children need families and you just need to be willing to offer a family for a child.
My husband and I are local foster carers in Hobart. We began fostering when our sons were two and four years old and welcomed a new born into our home, about 17 months later we welcomed his little brother and now we have a home of five boys, two biological and three in care.
Fostering is part of our story as my husband’s mum grew up in foster care and it was a positive placement for just three months of her life that helped reshape her identity and changed the trajectory of her life.
Fostering has shaped the lives of all five boys as they see the world around them differently, they understand trauma behaviour and where this comes from, they see broken families and know this is no one’s fault, but that each person in the fostering journey needs care and community.
Really fostering is just being a family for a child that needs one.
We all deserve to know we are lovable and can love others and be able to dream for the future.
Foster kids are just regular kids and we can be their family.
Many of you are already playing your part every day – as individuals, as community members, as volunteers and as workers – to help create these great communities for children.
When we do this together we can give ‘every child, in every neighbourhood, a fair go’.
If you are interested in finding out more about foster care in southern Tasmania, you can contact a foster care agency:
Department of Communities: www.communities.tas.gov.au/children-youth-and-families/oohc/foster-care
Kennerley Children’s Home: www.kennerleykids.org.au/
Life Without Barriers: www.lwb.org.au/foster-care/
Key Assets: www.keyassets.org.au/about-us/office-location/tas/