Fostering child wellbeing
A DIRE shortage of foster carers across the state has left many young children fighting to secure consistent housing.
More than 14,000 Victorian children are currently engaged in the foster care system, which has been largely decimated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as carers have continued to withdraw their services for some time out of the fast-paced lifestyle it often entails.
Benalla resident Beck Jones has remained a foster mother, a commitment she made 15 years ago while also raising her own three teenage children, and believes each day as a foster parent remains as rewarding as when she started.
“I started as a single mum to three children, but I wanted to offer support to others,” she told the Wangaratta Chronicle.
“Over my time I’ve offered my home to hundreds of children - I like to share what I enjoy with them, bushwalking, bike riding - I like to get the children involved in the family dynamic.
“It’s very rewarding and also very humbling.”
Ms Jones said raising her own children, which included 15-year-old twins and a 10-yearold son, alongside foster children had been an exceptional formative experience, teaching them empathy and compassion for other children from a young age.
She said she had also provided short-term support to children as they completed their year-12 studies.
“I wanted to teach my children about their own upbringing, as well as provide support,” she said of her now-adult children.
“We did have a young family stay with us, they were two, three, four and five years old at the time, and we looked after them for a number of years.
“To see how all the children interacted with each other, it was very rewarding.”
Leading child welfare organisation Anglicare Victoria currently supports upwards of 1300 young people throughout the state, and chief executive officer Paul McDonald believes now is the perfect time for new families to become involved and ease the stress on existing carers.
“The COVID crisis has put many carers under additional stress, resulting in a number taking a well-deserved break from fostering,” he said.
“In our agency alone, we urgently need around 90 new foster carers to give children a safe, stable and supportive home.
“Across the state of Victoria, the number of new foster carers needed could very likely exceed 700 - the situation is dire.
“Anyone with empathy, compassion, resilience and dependability should consider giving it a go.”
According to Upper Murray Family Care data, 264 children are currently involved in foster care in the east division, which encompasses Albury/
Wodonga, Wangaratta, Corryong, Mansfield, Yarrawonga and Benalla areas.
Some 15 households in Wangaratta currently provide care to a foster child.
When reserves of foster carers dip, vulnerable children are often placed away from their local areas, disrupting their schooling and separating them from friends, siblings and other established support networks.
Anglicare is currently seeking families who are willing to admit children needing short and long term care, which can extend from a few days to a more considerable time period for those who may be unable to return home for some time.
“My children loved having foster children around,” Ms Jones said.
“Anyone with resilience and patience should strongly consider getting involved - I’ve loved the support I have received.
“There’s a spot for everyone.”