WIMMERA Uniting Care is urgently seeking help to address a shortage of foster carers in the region, revealing about 50 Wimmera children live in foster care arrangements each night.
Home care manager Dianne O’Connor said the shortage was state-wide, with more than 2000 Victorians living in foster care.
She said Wimmera Uniting Care needed more carers to meet the demand which continued to rise steadily each year.
Mrs O’Connor said the region’s foster carers were over-stretched, often caring for two or more children at a time, or without respite.
She said the shortage was simply a matter of demand outweighing supply.
“Some of our carers have provided this service for many years and are ready for a break or are looking to retire,” she said.
“Others are reaching an age where it is becoming too difficult to take care of young people.
"We also see an over-representation of indigenous children in the foster care system so we would love to have some indigenous carers come on board to help provide cultural consistency.”
Mrs O’Connor said there was also a shortage of teenage foster care placements.
“We have a particular need for carers who are willing to take on teenagers or provide emergency placements, which means a child could be dropped at their house at any time of the day or night,” she said.
“Teenagers can present their own set of challenges but, most of the time, it’s just because we haven’t been able to provide consistency in their home life and they need some structure and boundaries.
“We need carers who can hang in there and work with us to create the sort of home life every child deserves.”
Horsham mother Alison Briggs-Miller and her husband have fostered between eight and 10 teenagers since 2010.
She said although foster caring was hard work and time consuming, it was worth it.
Mrs Briggs-Miller said she was keen to see people experience the benefits of fostering teens.
She said there was plenty of support for foster carers and they were well trained.
Mrs O’Connor said Wimmera Uniting Care provided 24-hour support for its carers and reimbursements were available.
She said foster carers came from all walks of life and emphasised being a foster carer did not have to be a long-term commitment.
“There really is no stereotypical foster carer,” she said.
“We need a broad range of people – couples, single people, parents or people without children. You always get to choose whether to accept a placement or not.”
Wimmera Uniting Care will host a foster carer information session on Wednesday night at 28 Urquhart Street, Horsham, starting at 7pm.
Mrs O’Connor said people could visit www.wuc.org.au/programs-services/in-home-support/foster-care for more information.