Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents ingly impossible situation improved beyond meas-
ure by the intervention of a loving foster family.
Referred to Wanslea from another fostering
agency after experiencing multiple placements
due to her difficult behaviour, Rebecca, eight, had
survived significant trauma in her home due to
domestic violence and physical abuse.
She had watched her mother overdose on drugs
at the age of three and was placed in foster care
one year later.
Rebecca had very poor social skills, delayed
development and found it very hard to trust
adults. She was verbally and physically aggressive
and would run away from a situation rather than
face a confrontation.
Wanslea specialist carers Joanne and James
committed to have Rebecca in their home with
their two children, Maria and Lachlan.
These two siblings proved to be pivotal in Re-
becca s long-term acceptance in their family home.
"With therapeutic support from a psychologist
Rebecca was able to settle down in the home and is
also improving at school," says Stephan.
There s financial help, too, for those embark-
ing on fostering, with a subsidy for out of pocket
expenses such as extra fuel, bills and clothes. In
Stephan s experience, however, foster carers are not
in it for the money.
"There s significant stress involved in raising
another person s child and a conscious desire to
parent well which is more of a motivating factor
than receiving a few extra dollars every week for
Wanslea in particular is proud of its innovative
record, thinking creatively and in a child-focused way.
"We aren t as hamstrung by legislation as other
organisations and pride ourselves on finding
solutions, not focusing on problems. We want to
work with birth parents but are also conscious of
listening to what the child would like their future
family to be."
For those children who cannot survive in a
family situation at all there is another solution,
albeit it a temporary one.
"Over the past two years residential care facili-
ties have been scaled back up to accommodate
those children who can t cope in a normal family
environment. Homing them here will help stabi-
lise them and get their behaviour, which may be
sexualised, self harming or violent, under control,
so that they will be ready to be fostered. They are
small scale, four-bed homes, not like the large
dormitory-based homes of the past."
Gone, too, are the days when adoption was the
preferred mode of dealing with abandoned children.
"Pre-adoptive placement does happen," says
Stephan, "but it s less than 20 cases a year. There s
a stigma attached to adoption nowadays and there
is significant support available, including financial
help to new parents which encourages them to
keep their babies."
Fostering also offers more support to carers,
providing advice and practical input until the child
is 18, whereas if you adopt, you re on your own.
There s no doubt in Stephan s mind that the
poverty cycle is to blame for the rise in children
desperate for foster families.
"It s a cycle that never repairs itself," says
Stephan. "Poverty issues are never addressed
because the needs of these children slip through
the net. If the parents can t get work, their poverty
is perceived as neglect, prompting them to try to
hide their problems from the wider world.
"In many cases, these kids won t be members of
after-school clubs for instance, to limit the amount
of contact they may have with other adults who
may ask difficult questions.
"They miss out on their immunisations, dental
checks and other encounters with health profes-
sionals, all compounding their chances of getting
into trouble in the long-term.
"Sometimes a situation is obviously highly
dangerous, say in the case of a newborn baby and
action is taken immediately and radically, but in
other cases, it can take years for agencies to
become involved because families in need keep
their children under the wire, avoiding potential
alarm bells being sounded.
"That s when tragedies can happen and that s
why fostering really, honestly saves lives."
GONE ARE THE DAYS THANKFULLY, WHEN WEALTHY
WOULD-BE FOSTER FAMILIES WOULD RING UP
AGENCIES DURING THE RUN UP TO CHRISTMAS,
FILLED WITH A MISPLACED DESIRE TO DO THEIR BIT,
ASKING TO CARE FOR A CHILD OVER THE FESTIVE
PERIOD, ONLY TO RETURN THEM LIKE AN UNWANTED
GIFT WHEN THE TINSEL WAS TAKEN DOWN.
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