Barnardos regional manager for Out of Home Care in the ACT, Kate Buckmaster, was interviewed on ABC Canberra radio this week and spoke about the need for foster carers in the Canberra region.
More than 400 children in the Canberra area need a home after being removed from their families due to abuse, neglect and trauma.
Ms Buckmaster told interviewer, Genevieve Jacobs, that all of those children have experienced significant trauma in their young lives.
"These children require safe and stable homes. Carers that are really committed to providing them the safe homes that they require and also helping them heal from the trauma they've experienced," she said.
"Restoration for family is always the first thing that we try if it's possible. Children should grow up within their family of origin, so everything is put into making sure that happens. But sometimes that's just not possible. So we are looking for foster carers that can provide short term care as well as well as that long term care forever for that childhood.
Ms Buckmaster said being a foster carer is 'incredibly challenging' but Barnardos provides a 10 week training program that looks at what children in care have been through and how they can engage in helping to heal them.
"we also want people to know that we need carers - all types of carers - and we want to talk to anyone in the community that feels they may have time to help care for Canberra's kids," she said.
"It can be as little or as much as you can provide. For some carers they might be able to provide a little bit of care. That's respite carers and that's care in their own homes for once a month on a weekend. That sort of care can provide a really strong support for families, for kinship carers and also for other foster carers who are caring for these children full-time.
"And then there's other sorts of care. We require crisis carers who are available to take a child at any time of the day or night. When those children have been removed from their families and are in intense, unstable situations these are the families that are available to really provide that welcoming face. For a period of one week up to one year.
"We care for children from the ages of 0 to 17. So another significant need within the ACT community is for those children who are teenagers. It's often hard for us to find foster carers who are confident enough to put their hand up and say 'yeah we can care for teenagers'. But if you are thinking that way, if you think you have the skills, please talk to us because we provide support, assistance, training, peer support, lots of things that can help you really take on that role."
Ms Buckmaster said Barnardos is looking for foster carers from all walks of life
"The carers we recruit are from every day, every type of person in the community - single, couples, people with children, people without, people who've had their families and now have the experience of parenting but no longer have the children at home with them. There's no real prerequisite for carers except that you can provide safety and stability and you're willing to engage in the training to parent these children in a therapeutic way.
"We also need carers who are willing to care for children on a long-term basis. So for those children that are not able to return home, then we need those long-term, permanent carers who will care for these children as their own and move to a permanent situation."
She said applicants are individually assessed for their suitability as part of the application process.
"We go into people’s homes and we talk with them, we carry out an assessment process and some screening. We do police checks, working with vulnerable people checks and we do home safety checks. We really just make sure you're the sort of person that is willing to work in a team. That you can provide care to children and that you're willing to learn," she said.
Barnardos Canberra runs fortnightly foster care information sessions from 6-7pm at 2 Atherton street, Downer. For more information or to register call (02) 6228 9500.