Residents asked to open their homes to foster care

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Barnardos are looking for new foster carers on Waiheke, with an increased need forcing children to be placed off-island, social workers say.

An information session will be held in early December at the Waiheke Community Library.
Barnardos social worker Terry Tottman says the session will be very casual and is for people who want to learn more about foster care

He says a common misconception about foster care is that caregivers need to be available 24/7 for a number of years, when the reality is that it’s very versatile.

“We need people who can open their homes and hearts for a few hours, a few days, weeks, months or years. The caregiver can specify length of placement, age, gender and level of complexity and always has the final say about whether or not a child is placed.”

Terry says there has been a recent surge in child protection issues on the island.

“Unfortunately, this sometimes means that children are removed from their biological parents’ care, and in most cases, from Waiheke altogether.

“The result is that children are placed with non-whanau carers, often in Auckland, which means they no longer attend their school. The impact of this on the children is dramatic and long lasting.”

To help address this, Barnardos are heading a recruitment drive to identify, assess and support prospective foster carers on Waiheke.

“If successful, more foster carers on the island will mean fewer children being removed from the island. The advantages of this are that the children won’t need to leave their school and can maintain their relationships with staff, peers and so on.”

Local teachers Fhiona and Phil Wainwright are both Barnardos foster carers, which means they take in children who are for one reason or another unable to be safe and well looked after in their own homes.

“I have had so many children in my time as a teacher at Te Huruhi who have been taken off island when their family life breaks down because there are no carers to place them with on the island,” Fhiona says.

“This means they not only lose the security of their family – but also of their friends, extended family, teachers who care about them, and school. It’s heartbreaking and so unfair.”

Another local foster carer who asked not to be named attended an information evening with her husband last year, and while full time foster caring wasn’t for them, they asked about respite and part time care.

“We have some space in our life, our kids are older, and we both run our own businesses but they are both quite solid.”

So they started provided respite foster care for full-time carers who needed a break on the island.

“It was a fantastic process to go through for us as individuals, a couple, and as a family. We’ve had some challenges and interesting behaviour, but it’s been good for us to experience it.

“You don’t need to be a Mother Teresa type to do this, you’re human, and that’s ok.”

The coffee morning is at 10am on Saturday 2 December at Waiheke Library. Call 027 289 0362 for more information.
Safia Archer

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