Kate Hawkesby: More needs to be done to help foster carers

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 3 July 2018, 6:38AM
Foster carers do amazing work but get very little in terms of resources. (Photo / Getty)

A huge shout out this morning to foster parents. 

I can’t even begin to imagine the struggle of being a foster carer. Looking after children whose history you may not really ever know in detail, children with all kinds of issues, who’ve witnessed all kinds of horrors, who lack trust. Children who despite all of that, may be easy to love but hard to manage, who may or may not test you and your family to the limit. 

The parents who take on these children, and I know personally many foster parents, they are absolute heroes, selfless, loving kind heroes. What they need is support and resources. 

But are they getting it? Well, sadly no. 

A foster caregiver came forward the other day saying she was forced to give up her foster children over what she says was a total lack of resources. The Ministry for Children apologized to this caregiver, but she’s not the only one. 

Foster caregivers are quitting in big numbers due to what they say is a glaring lack of resources to support them. They say the system is broken. There are more and more children in this country requiring care, and sadly, fewer people to give it. 

Oranga Tamariki admits there’s a problem and says it is watching this trend carefully. It says it’s trying to address the issues by offering more resources to those already in caregiver roles, but the issue is bigger than that. 

More vulnerable children means more caregivers are needed, and when the stigma and the reputation of foster parenting starts taking a hit, it will be hard to garner back those people, or entice more into the role. 

It’s heartbreaking to think there are this many children in need of good loving homes, and that those so generously willing to offer them aren’t backed up adequately to make it work. 

We have more than 6,000 vulnerable children in this country either in care or in need of care. It’s the highest number ever. But we don’t have the resources to meet them. Oranga Tamariki is promising to improve its help for carers, but how many have we already lost and will they come back? 

Taking on board the mantra that ‘there’s no such thing as other people’s children’, the onus is on us, the village of parents, to support each other in raising these kids. If it’s a problem for foster parents, it’s actually a problem for all of us. 

So although the issues sit directly and acutely at the feet of Oranga Tamariki at the moment, we should all be aware and appreciative of those in our communities opening their doors and their hearts to these children, and asking what we can do, to support them.

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