Drugs, alcohol, family violence rife in North East and children are collateral damage

DRUGS, alcohol and family violence have seen a doubling in the number of children forced into foster care in the North East in the past decade.

The fallout from social woes and the flow-on effects of mental health problems were creating a “desperate need” for foster carers, Upper Murray Family Care out-of-home care manager Maria O’Reilly said.

The focus on the demand for foster care coincided with a visit to the Border yesterday from Australian Childhood Foundation therapeutic care national manager Noel Macnamara.

Mr Macnamara said it was a problem across the country.

Ms O’Reilly said about 60 children were in out-of-home care every night in the North East but more than 10 children were still waiting for long-term homes.

“We need people in the community to put up their hands so these children can be given a chance,” she said.

Ms O’Reilly said the increased need resulted from mothers and fathers individually struggling with a wide range of problems.

“Parents are dealing with drugs, alcohol, family violence and mental health issues,” she said.

“In past years the issue might have just been family violence.

“Now we have complex problems where it’s a combination of all of the above.”

Ms O’Reilly said there were fewer available foster carers because people’s lives had become busier and they were worried about how they would cope.

“There is actually a lot of support for carers,” she said.

Mr Macnamara said in the past, children in foster care were able to leave the system after time in care and return to their parents.

But he said fewer children were now in the position of being able to return to their families.

“Every single night there are more children needing places than there are places for them,” he said.

“Foster care is the only alternative for children who are not safe with their parents.”

Noel Macnamara and Maria O’Rielly with a magic kit given to foster children. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Noel Macnamara and Maria O’Rielly with a magic kit given to foster children. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Mr Macnamara said most children in foster care had great difficulty making friends and Border foster carers were introduced to Consentino magic kits to use as an aid in helping young people.

“Being able to do something unusual attracts people to you,” he said.

“Magic is the same across all levels.”

Anybody interested in becoming a foster carer should phone Jeanine Aughey at Upper Murray Family Care on (02) 6055 8000.