With more than 20,000 children in out-of-home care in New South Wales and a shortage of foster carers, 21-year-old Natasha Brown decided to answer the call for help.
The young Inverell resident never saw foster care in her future, but her support work with Pathfinders Non-Placement Support Services inspired her to apply.
“Working with the foster kids during visitations and transporting them to appointments and other respite placements made me want to give the kids a familiar face and place to stay,” she said.
“That’s why I started. I wanted to be that regularity for the children in the midst of an irregular situation.”
Natasha said that despite being young, her family and friends were supportive of her decision and determination to become a respite carer.
“Being young and single means parenting on my own, even if it’s for short-term or temporary placements,” she said.
“Having my mum on board as a positive support in my personal circle of relationships has helped, along with having supportive caseworkers who are open to answering any questions I may have.”
Natasha went through a 10-month screening, training and assessment process with the Pathfinders Foster Care service, a part of the Pathways Out-of-Home Care program, before being approved to provide respite care in August.
“I look back on it, and I’m glad they took that time to assess me because it speaks to the program’s thoroughness in ensuring the care and safety of the kids,” she said.
Pathways Foster Care Coordinator, Kim Smart, said that the first step to becoming a foster carer is to seek information from your local foster care provider.
“Foster carers come from all walks of life and can commit to arrangements that suit them best, whether respite, short-term or long-term care,” she said.
“The first step to helping one of the thousands of kids in care is to ask your service provider for more information to see how you can best provide care for children in need.”
Pathfinders’ Chief Executive Officer, Alan Brennan, said he hoped individuals would follow in the footsteps of people like Natasha Brown who are taking action to help kids in care.
“Foster carers provide a vital role in keeping New South Wales’ vulnerable children and young people safe in stable and caring homes,” he said.
“We commend the individuals and families who have generously taken in kids in care and hope that more people will seek information on how they too can help.”
Foster Care Week 2017 celebrates the work of NSW’s foster carers and raises awareness of the need to attract more foster carers.
People interested in finding out more about the range of ways to provide care for vulnerable children can visit the Pathfinders website at www.pathfinders.ngo/foster-care or contact 1800 314 199.
Pathfinders is a leading not for profit supporting disadvantaged children and families in the New England, North West and Mid North Coast regions. Every week we provide hundreds of families with the help they need to get back on their feet.
Media inquires: Noelia Trujillo firstname.lastname@example.org or 0429371489