Supporting Those Who Care For Our Vulnerable Children
Over 24,000 New Zealand children are currently living in foster or whānau care after being removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect.
Thankfully, thousands of everyday New Zealanders have stepped into that parenting role, opening their hearts and homes to our most vulnerable tamariki – often at very short notice and for unspecified periods of time.
Caring Families Aotearoa (formerly known as Fostering Kids New Zealand), is a membership-based organisation that provides support and training to these special caregivers ensuring the best outcomes for the youngsters in their care.
“The professional support and specialised training we offer helps ‘heal’ a child in foster care not simply ‘hold’ a child in care,” explains Caring Families Aotearoa communications manager Jennifer Kinsella. “This is essential to strengthen the care family and whānau to provide stability for children in care through a healing environment.
“It is widely acknowledged that tamariki and rangatahi in foster care often suffer from developmental trauma (also known as complex trauma), as a result of the early, repeated abuse, neglect, separation and adverse experiences that happen to them.”
It therefore comes as no surprise that caring for a child who has been abused or neglected isn’t like normal parenting. They may display antisocial behaviour, have difficulty connecting emotionally with others, and have a range of high and complex needs.
Jennifer says caregivers can often feel alone and that their needs, and the needs of the tamariki in their care, are not being heard. They also face a wide range of emotional challenges:
“By training and supporting foster and whānau caregivers, we enable them to overcome some of these hurdles.”
Despite the challenges, caring for neglected or abused children is immensely rewarding and can make a huge difference in their lives, Jennifer says.
“Foster parents can help a child recover from trauma and neglect by rebuilding trust, and helping the child regain confidence and return to a sense of security,” Jennifer explains. “It takes time, resilience, knowledge, support, and skills but we know that with our help, it can be done.”
Caring Families Aotearoa has been operating since 1976 and provides advocacy, specialist training and regional support groups nationwide. Critical Support is also available over the phone to foster carers who are dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
A national caregivers conference, hundreds of events for caregivers, the Excellence in Foster Care Awards and a two-day workshop ‘Face Your Future’ for care-experienced teenagers (in partnership with L’Oreal New Zealand), are all available to fostering family members.
In the Bay of Plenty alone, the organisation is supporting 534 foster and whānau caregivers.
BayTrust has granted $15,000 to help Caring Families Aotearoa deliver their comprehensive caregiver services across the region in 2020.
“We rely heavily on the support of grant making organisations, small businesses and a wonderful group of caring individuals to continue delivering our services. Without the support of funding bodies such as BayTrust, we simply couldn’t offer our current level of service to foster and whanau caregivers.”
March 1st marks the beginning of Foster Care Awareness Week and coincides with the organisation’s name change and re-brand.
“As we are growing and expanding, we want to meet the needs of whānau/kin carers who don’t classify themselves as foster parents,” Jennifer says. “Also foster children keep telling us they don’t want to be called foster kids. They just want to be children who are part of a family.”