Three Stars Who Were Fostered

Children who have been in foster care can go on to do amazing things and be high achievers in any field. Celebrity and stardom do not by any means define success, however it is interesting to note some of the stars that have had experiences in foster care.

Willie Nelson

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Willie Nelson, born April 29, 1933, is one of the most recognized artists in country music. He is also well known as an author, poet, actor, and activist.

Nelson’s mother left soon after he was born and his father remarried and also moved away. This left Willie and his sister Bobbie to be raised by their grandparents. The Nelsons, who taught singing back in Arkansas, started their grandchildren in music. Nelson’s grandfather bought him a guitar when he was six, and taught him a few chords, starting him on the track to great success.

Marilyn Monroe

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Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson (June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962), was an American actress, model, and singer. Gladys, Monroe’s mother, was mentally unstable and financially unable to care for the young Norma Jeane, so she placed her with foster parents. Monroe had numerous foster homes throughout her childhood. She eventually left care and began her a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946 with Twentieth Century-Fox and subsequent fame, which has remained long after she pasted away.

Eddie Murphy

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Eddie Murphy is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, singer, director, and musician. Murphy, 52, grew up in the Brooklyn. His father died when he was young. When Murphy’s single mother became ill, the eight-year-old and his older brother lived in foster care for one year. In interviews, the actor and comedian says that his time in foster care was influential in developing his sense of humour.

You never know where somebody has come from and where they can go.

Lifting The Supported Care Age From 18 To 21

Transitioning from care to independence leaves young people facing many challenges. So often these vulnerable young adults, who have no support networks, end up in dire situations, as we discussed in our previous blog. One recommendation that is being strongly pushed is for age of supported care for foster children to be lifted from 18 to 21.

This push come after examples from the US, where several states have now raised the age of care to 21, show promising results for young people staying in care. These examples have shown that an extra 3 years of support can be crucial in preparing these young adults for independence.

Anglicare and the Create Foundation are two of the youth support organisations that are calling for the age at which young people are supported in foster care to be raised to 21.

As Paul Macdonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria, told Lateline’s Hamish Fitzsimmons: “Between 18 and 21 these are the things where some of life’s big mistakes can happen, over drinking, getting into trouble, making wrong decisions. These young people are still developing, young teenagers into young adulthood. And so we need that family care around them to make sure that when they’ve made the wrong decision, that there’s a support basis in there to pick them up and get them going again”.

Becoming independent is a daunting task for any 18 years old, let alone one who has experienced a traumatic and unstable childhood. This plan would enable the transitional process to be more supported and less rushed, ensuring that these young adults coming out of care are presented with the best preparation and opportunities to achieve goals and be valuable members of our society.

Do you think this is the best idea for preparing young adults in care for independence?

Watch Lateline’s report on the issue:

Issues Facing Youth Transitioning From Care To Independence

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One of the biggest issues facing foster care youths is what their future holds after aging out of the system. By 18 year of ages you are legally an adult, hence when it comes to the current foster care system, you are able to leave care and live independently.

This idea of independence does however hold many bleak prospects. Youth workers say the common path for youth aging out of care is one of homelessness, drug problems, abuse or prostitution. One noted statistic is that almost half of young people leaving care experience periods of homelessness (Maunders, Liddell, Liddell, & Green, 1999).

Joseph McDowall, from the Create Foundation, says: “young people in care are some of our most vulnerable children and young people in Australia. They have been brought into care for all sorts of problems in terms of some abuse, neglect, certainly traumatic experiences in their lives”.

This vulnerability often translates through to early adulthood. These young people move to independence with less support than those who have not experienced out-of-home care and as a result are at a higher risk of homelessness, poor attachments with birth family and/or carer family, low educational attainment, unemployment, dependency on social welfare, imprisonment, young parenthood, drug and alcohol abuse and incidence of self-harm.

Nationally there are several support services in place to help young people making this transition, including Leaving Care and Aftercare Service – Mission Australia, Wanslea Leaving Care Service – Wanslea Family Services, Transitional Support Service: Moving to Independence – Salvation Army Crossroads, Transitional Support Service: Statewide – Salvation Army Crossroads. However too often these support networks are not utilised by those who need them most.

Another support service is Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA). TILA is administered on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations by a number of non- government organisations in each State and Territory. It provides a one-off payment of $1,500 for youth to purchase the essentials to begin living independently.

Many argue that these services are simply not enough and that more need to be done to ensure these young people get the best start as independent adults.

What do you think could be done?

In our next blog we will discuss the idea of raising the foster care age to 21 and how this could benefit youths leaving care.

Source:

Maunders, D., Liddell, M., Liddell, M., & Green, S. (999). Young people leaving care and protection. Hobart: National Youth Affairs Research Scheme.

http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/issues/issues26/issues26.html#young

http://www.dcp.wa.gov.au/ChildrenInCare/Documents/LeavingCareToIndependence.pdf

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-06/barrett-fostercare/4553950

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2013/s3826852.htm

Carer Profile – Jules Allen

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Contestant, Jules Allen, from the latest season of MasterChef is not only a talented cook but also a kind-hearted soul, who over the past 12 years has fostered 29 children.

Ms Allen, 38, who resides in Lennox Head, is now using her newfound fame to create awareness and encourage others to become foster carers.

She was only 24 and had a 2-year-old son when she took in her first foster child, and has continued to foster children since.

“It has been a really big journey, there has been 29 kids come and go in that time and there’s still a big pile of them here,” said Ms Allen in a recent radio interview with Nova.

Ms Allen also discussed the issue of people thinking of becoming a carer but never perusing it, saying: “Anyone I speak to and say I’m a foster carer, they go ‘Oh I would love to do that’, but it stops there, which is such a shame”.

“I was working in child protection so I saw the need for foster homes… There are not enough foster carers in this country; we need good homes to put these kids in.”

Ms Allen’s love for these children is clearly evident in the way she speaks about them. She constantly refers to what they give to her, as opposed to what she gives to them.

“The thing is, it is more rewarding than anything else, that’s what people don’t get,” she said. “You get so much out of it”.

“So if anyone is thinking about doing it, just take the leap, you wont regret it, it is amazing.”

When it comes to being a foster carer there is never a set example of what a carer should do or be. Ms Allen’s advice is: “You’ve just got to have a lot of love.”

“It doesn’t matter what your set up is, if you’ve got a lot of love and you’ve got the time to listen that’s all you need”.

Listen to whole Jules Allen’s whole interview with nova here:

http://www.novafm.com.au/audio/masterchef-contestant-and-foster-carer?app=core%25252525252525252525253Fnova969%25252525

Five Reasons Why You Should Consider Being A Foster Carer

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1. The number of children needing out-of-home care is increasing

The number of children living in out-of-home care has risen every year over the last 10 years, with an increase of 27% since June 2008. Currently there are over 39,000 children and teenagers in out-of-home care however, there is still many more waiting to be placed in loving, stable homes. In NSW alone 900 new carers are needed in the next two years to look after the growing number of children in need.

2. Share your knowledge

Many people feel a sense of responsibility to share their life experiences and knowledge.  Many want to create an opportunity to help others and to watch them learn and grow.  They want to play a part in strengthening their communities and preserving families who, for whatever reason, are in a time of need. Maybe you were fortunate enough to have a wonderful childhood of your own and now you are ready to give back. If this sounds like you, becoming a foster carer is a great way to do this.

3. It’s an opportunity to be light in someone’s darkness

Many children enter the foster care system as a result of experiencing a form of maltreatment. This maltreatment can come in various forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. Becoming a carer presents you with the opportunity to shed some light by providing love, care, positive influence, inspiration, stability, healthy living and much more.

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4. Children don’t discriminate and neither does the system

As a foster carer you can be single, married or in a de facto or same-sex relationship. You can be either Renting, buying or owning your home and working (full or part-time) or not working at all. Carers from any ethnic or cultural background and with a diverse range of life experience are always needed to foster the diverse range of children. You can be a parent or have a strong interest in helping children and young people. Also carers can be younger or older. Age requirements are flexible as long as your health, energy, maturity and desire to foster are up to it. The greatest requirement is that you will be able to provide a caring and supportive environment.

5. Creating a family

Many couples, for one reason or another, cannot conceive their own baby. Fostering enables parents to experience the joys of having a child and becoming a family. A lot of childless couples want to adopt, but this process can be long and demanding. Fostering a boy or girl is a great alternative, and it also gives you the option to change temporary placement for children to a permanent home for the rest of their lives.

Becoming A Foster Carer – Am I Eligible?

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Becoming a foster carer is one of the most noble and rewarding decisions a person can make. With so many children across Australia in need of out-of-home care, choosing to foster a child makes a significant difference to the country’s current deficit in carers, but more importantly you make a significant difference to the life of the child you foster.

Many people do consider becoming a foster carer, but are unsure of whether they fit the criteria. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to being a foster carer. Foster care organisations are always looking for diversity among carers to cater for the diversity and vast differences among children needing loving, stable homes.

There is different eligibility requirements depending on what state you live in and what organisation you seek to foster through. However almost all foster care organisations will deem you eligible for consideration if you are over 21 years of age and an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

You can be:

  • Single, married or in a de facto or same-sex relationship
  • Renting, buying or owning your home
  • Working (full or part-time) or not working
  • From any ethnic or cultural background and with a diverse range of life experience
  • A parent or have a strong interest in helping children and young people.
  •  Younger or older. Age requirements are flexible as long as your health, energy, maturity and desire to foster are up to it.

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Children in out-of-home care remain in foster placements until they are able to safely return home and be properly looked after by their paternal family. This is a varied process that depends on each individual case.

There are, as a general rule, five different types of foster care that you could choose to do:

 Immediate or crisis care

Emergency placements are for children who need an urgent placement because there are concerns for their immediate safety. These placements can occur after-hours and on weekends. Emergency carers need to be able to provide care for very young children at short notice.

Respite care

From time to time, parents and carers need a break from their caring role. Respite care is for short periods of time, eg. school holidays, weekends or for short periods during the week.

Short to medium-term care

These are placements up to six months in duration. Short to medium-term placements have a strong focus on reunifying the child with their birth parents or extended family.

Long-term

These are placements for longer than six months. Long-term or permanent care placements usually refer to situations where the child is not expected to return to their family.

Relative or kinship care

Relative or kinship care is when a child or young person lives with a relative or someone they already know.

So do you fit the broad criteria? Enquire today to become a carer today.

Some foster care organisations include:

http://www.fosteringnsw.com.au/

http://www.barnardos.org.au/barnardos/html/

http://www.fcq.com.au/

http://www.fcawa.com.au/

Push For Permanency Planning And Adoption

There are currently over 18,000 children, in NSW alone, in the foster care system seeking a permanent home. Of these children and young people one third have been uprooted three or more times during their care period.

Leaving children in these types of unstable circumstances may however be a thing of the past, if proposed changes to NSW Care Act are approved. Families Minister Pru Goward has outlined a number of permanency planning reforms. These proposals, which would impact on both child protection and adoption laws, include:

  • Establishing a new preferred hierarchy of permanent placement types (with adoption placed above long-term foster care);
  • Introducing specific timeframes for making decisions about restoration of the child to their family;
  • Creating a new long-term guardianship order that would support long- term relative and kinship placements;
  • Streamlining adoptions, including by removing administrative burdens for existing carers to be approved as applicants for adoption.

What these proposed legislative changes would essentially achieve is the cutting of red tape and granting more power to the courts to consider adoptions of neglected children, rather than putting them into out-of-home care.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Source: The Daily Telegraph

According to the NSW Parliamentary Research Service figures there are 715 children on the waiting list for adoption. Despite this high number of children in need of a loving home, there were only 78 local adoptions last year. Prospective parents are still heading overseas to adopt, as the process within Australia is too strictly regulated.

According to Ms Goward the changes will be debated in parliament next month and she hopes this will encourage people considering adoption to do so within Australia.

“There are children who need permanent, happy homes in Australia – you don’t need to go searching through the backblocks of China, they are in our own backyard,” Ms Goward said.

“We need to say to people you can adopt an Australian child and we invite you to become part of the foster care system and we can make sure that process is as expeditious as possible.”

Adoption of foster children has in the past failed as biological parents involved, despite not being able to take care of their children, resist the adoption.

The new scheme will promote “open adoption”, meaning the child will be raised with another family but their biological parents will always maintain a relationship and connection to them.

These are welcomed changes for us here at Foster For Their Future as there are simply too many children on waiting lists, who simply need a loving, stable home. These reforms could make this possible.

For more information on these changes visit:

http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/0/E717F8520DB8DF57CA257B430012A869/$File/Permanency planning and adoption.briefing paper.pdf

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/nsw-government-adoption-fix-to-save-hundreds-of-children/story-fni0cx12-1226738907149

Foster Child Profile – John Lennon

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John Lennon, born 9 October 1940 in Liverpool, rose to fame as the founding member of, arguably the most influential bands of all time, The Beatles. Lennon was famed most notably for his music with the band, but also received much notoriety for his solo work, political activism, writing and art. A little known fact about John Lennon, however, is that he grew up in a foster care home.

Lennon was, for the first few years of his life, raised primarily by his mother, Julia, as his father was a merchant seamen and often away, even being notably absent from Lennon’s birth. Upon is father’s permanent return he offered to take care of the family, however, Julia rejected this offer as she was now six month’s pregnant to another man.

Lennon was placed in the care of his aunty Mimi Smith, after she complained twice to Liverpool’s Social Services, leading Julia to hand over the care of John to her.

John Lennon as a child

John Lennon as a child

In July 1946 Lennon’s father visited Smith and took his son to Blackpool, secretly intending to immigrate to New Zealand with him. Julia followed them and after a heated argument his father forced the five year old to choose between them. Lennon twice chose his father, but as his mother walked away, he began to cry and followed her. It would be 20 years before he had contact with his father again.

From that point onwards Lennon lived with his aunt Mimi and her husband George, who had no children of their own. Mimi and George purchased volumes of short stories for him, a mouth organ and engaged him in solving crossword puzzles, focussing strongly on his education.

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John stayed in contact with his mother, she regularly visited him and after the age of eleven he often visited her. Julia bought Lennon his first guitar when he was sixteen and encouraged him to play and pursue music. It was however, fundamentally his aunt and uncle who raised and influenced him.

 “I did my best to disrupt every friend’s home … Partly out of envy that I didn’t have this so-called home … but I did… There were five women that were my family. Five strong, intelligent, beautiful women, five sisters. One happened to be my mother. [She] just couldn’t deal with life. She was the youngest and she had a husband who ran away to sea and the war was on and she couldn’t cope with me, and I ended up living with her elder sister. Now those women were fantastic … And that was my first feminist education … I would infiltrate the other boys minds. I could say, “Parents are not gods because I don’t live with mine and, therefore, I know.”

– John Lennon reminiscing about his childhood and family situation, 1980

References

Sheff, David.pp.134-136. Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Playboy. January 1981 [archived 25 September 2010].

Spitz, Bob. The Beatles: The Biography. Little, Brown; 2005. ISBN 0-316-80352-9.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon

Facts and Figures

“When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.”

― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

The words of Patrick Rothfuss highlight the habitual nature of children to enjoy the simple things in life and never worry about what the future may hold.

However as the Rothfuss points out, once we begin to agonise over what the future may hold, childhood becomes a thing of the past. This is, for many Australian children, the sad truth. Many children around Australia are in a constant state of fret. Worrying about abuse, maltreatment, neglect, where they will sleep tonight and even when their next meal will be.

Enjoying the present without anxieties about their future is for many children unattainable. And alarmingly the rate of children experience these circumstances of neglect and abuse are on the rise, so too their need for out-of-home care.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s annual report has noted that during 2011-2012 there was 252,962 notifications of suspected child abuse and neglect made (a rate of 34.0 notifications per 1,000 Australian children), which is an increase of 6.6% on 2010-2011. Investigations into these notifications found there were 48,420 substantiations across Australia.

So what kind of maltreatment do these children experience? The four most common types of harm to children are: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. The two most common substantiated forms of abuse across Australia are emotional abuse and neglect.

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Emotionally abusive behaviours included verbally abusing, terrorising, scape-goating, isolating, rejecting and ignoring. Children who witness domestic violence are also typically categorised as having experienced emotional abuse.

Neglect refers to the failure (usually by the parent) to provide for a child’s basic needs, including failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, supervision, hygiene or medical attention. Neglectful behaviours could be physical, emotional, educational or environmental.

As a result of these circumstances of maltreatment many children are removed from their homes by child protection authorities and placed in out-of-home care.

Source: AIHW, 2013, p. 76.

Source: AIHW, 2013, p. 76.

Nationally, since 2000 the number of children living in out-of-home care has risen on a yearly basis. There were 39,621 children in out-of-home care in June 2012, which equates to a rate of 7.7 per 1,000 Australian children. The rate of children in out-of-home care has increased every year, with an increase of 27% since June 2008. Almost half (43%) of these children are aged less than 5 year old.

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The rise in children who are living in out-of-home care is a reflection of the number of admissions outnumbering discharges and remaining in out-of-home care. This consistent rise essentially means many more foster carers are needed. ACWA stated 900 new foster carers are needed across the next two years. Could you be one of these urgently needed carers?

Read more information at: http://www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/pubs/factsheets/a142086/

References

Australian Institute of Family Studies. (2013). Child abuse and neglect statistics. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies. Retrieved from<http://www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/pubs/factsheets/a142086/&gt;

Child Family Community Australia. (2012). What is child abuse and neglect? Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies. Retrieved from <www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/pubs/factsheets/a142091/index.html>

Holzer, P. J., & Bromfield, L. M. (2008). NCPASS comparability of child protection data: Project report(PDF 1.4 MB). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies. Retrieved from: <www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/reports/ncpass/ncpass.pdf>.