Time in the sun

Shin­ing light on fos­ter chil­dren

Comment News (Gosnells) - - Front Page - Ben Smith

AS some­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced it first-hand, Op­er­a­tion Sun­shine WA founder Leah Atkin­son knows the im­por­tance of mak­ing chil­dren in fos­ter care feel val­ued.

Mrs Atkin­son spent time in fos­ter care “on and off” and said they were some of her most fond child­hood me­mories. Now she is en­sur­ing the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren in fos­ter care re­ceive the same level of love she was given.

The Madding­ton res­i­dent is pres­i­dent of Op­er­a­tion Sun­shine WA, which sends out care pack­ages, or ‘sun­shine packs’, to chil­dren in group homes, res­i­den­tial care or fos­ter care. The packs con­tain a back­pack, py­ja­mas, un­der­wear, books, pen­cils, tooth­paste and a tooth­brush, with re­cip­i­ents also re­ceiv­ing age spe­cific items, such as de­odor­ant for the older kids.

Mrs Atkin­son said know­ing the packs made a dif­fer­ence in the chil­drens’ lives was a spe­cial feel­ing.

“I have that linked ex­pe­ri­ence and I know I didn’t have any­thing like these packs. The packs were an idea of com­mit­tee mem­ber Erin Tan and straight away I knew this was some­thing we wanted and needed to do,” she said.

Mrs Atkin­son said the feed­back they re­ceived from fos­ter fam­i­lies was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive.

“We’ve had feed­back from one carer with two young chil­dren in care both be­sot­ted with these packs; the lit­tle girl would not leave house with­out her back­pack,” she said.

“I ac­tu­ally saw chil­dren at a park with their car­ers and both had their back­packs. Each one had to have all the stuff in their bag and be­came quite dis­tressed if some­one took some­thing out of their bag.”

“Own­er­ship is what it’s all about, giv­ing them that sense of own­er­ship, giv­ing some­thing they’ve never had, all brand new and show­ing they are val­ued.”

Op­er­a­tion Sun­shine WA is look­ing for vol­un­teers to help out with a pack­ing day in Hunt­ing­dale on Au­gust 19. It is hop­ing to cre­ate 144 packs and has also asked for fi­nan­cial do­na­tions to en­sure it can con­tinue to pro­vide sun­shine packs.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the sun­shine pack ses­sion or the or­gan­i­sa­tion, visit the web­site at www.op­er­a­tionsun­shinewa.org.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son d485137

Venetta Atkin­son, Casey Grant, Kylie Lynn, Leah Atkin­son and Kristina Ham­mond from Op­er­a­tion Sun­shine WA.

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