A toddler had to be cared for outside their region, siblings were separated and primary school aged children placed in a staffed residential care unit because Albury-Wodonga didn’t have enough foster carers.
Upper Murray Family Care service manager, out of home care, Maria O’Reilly said the regional shortage of foster carers had reached crisis point this Christmas holiday period.
“This is probably the most difficult I’ve seen it, I’ve been working in this area for eight years,” she said.
“We’ve got referrals for placements coming in for children, very vulnerable children, and we haven’t got the carers locally to keep the children in area.
“Children five and under, eight and under, we’ve usually been able to find placements for (previously), but we’ve been really struggling.
“We’ve had a two-year-old recently that had to go out of this area.”
Children and adolescents were put in residential care only after all kinship (family) and foster care options had been explored.
“The closest area for us is Shepparton and if they’re struggling as well to find placements, we’ve had children end up in Melbourne,” Ms O’Reilly said.
Upper Murray Family Care aims to recruit 30 new foster carer households, with a free information event, Conversations with Carers, planned for Wednesday, January 23, at 5.30pm, 29 Stanley Street.
Carer management team leader Jeanine Aughey said adults of all ages and backgrounds could become foster carers, including married or same sex couples, singles and people with or without children.
“Some people are worried that they’ve got pets or that they rent or they live on a farm,” she said.
“Everyone’s situation is different and we can answer their questions individually and we’re happy to, but the more difference we can get in our carer pool it’s better for us because we do try and match kids.
“The greater diversity, the more likely the placement is to succeed.”
Wodonga foster carers Kelly and Ash Stokes, parents of three, have cared for three more children separately over the past six months.
“I was very surprised just how quickly they slotted in,” Mrs Stokes said.
“Our kids love it because it’s an extra little friend for them.
“Foster care was something we’d been thinking about for a long time, even before we had children of our own.”
Mrs Stokes encouraged others to consider such a move, saying the support she received from Upper Murray Family Care was great.
“I haven’t felt like any question is too silly,” she smiled.
“Make the call and find out more and see if it’s a good fit for your family.”
RSVP for Conversations with Carers to (02) 6055 8000 or bit.ly/umfc2019
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