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More foster carers needed: MP

Wednesday, 20th May, 2015

Foster carer Anne-Marie Mundy (far left) with Di Healey, case manager Jacki Stewart and Linda Griffiths from Lifestyle Solutions. Foster carer Anne-Marie Mundy (far left) with Di Healey, case manager Jacki Stewart and Linda Griffiths from Lifestyle Solutions.

By Andrew Robertson

A senior NSW politician has issued a plea for more locals to “step up to the plate” and become foster carers to reduce the number of children being taken away from the region.

Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard said yesterday “too many” children requiring foster care were being “taken out of country” because local homes could not be found.  

Mr Hazzard, who was in the city yesterday, said while being a foster carer had its challenges, the exodus of children would continue as long as more people were not willing to become carers. 

“I understand there may be particular challenges but unless we actually get those partners to care for children then the sad truth is a lot of those children will have to be unfortunately taken out of country and that’s not good,” he said.

“We need people to step up to the plate if you’re interested in making a difference.

“My plea to the people of Broken Hill is to seriously think about coming forward and offering yourself as a foster carer.”

His comments were echoed by the head of Lifestyle Solutions, which will begin delivering out-of-home-care services, including foster care, to the Broken Hill region from next month.  

The not-for-profit organisation’s arrival follows the NSW Government’s decision to move the provision of OOHC services to the non-government sector.

Managing director David Hogg said Broken Hill’s isolation had led to a significant shortage of services in the area and the “challenge” of placing children in need locally was ongoing. 

A case manager had already begun an assessment of carers in the Broken Hill area, he said, with young people set to begin transitioning to its OOHC services in early June. 

The organisation has been allocated three funded foster placements by the end of the current financial year, and a further 20 next year.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Mr Hazzard said the feedback he had received from other parts of the state was that the transition was on track.

“The transition so far has been going well and I would anticipate that it will go well here ... there’s a positive feel here generally that it will offer all sorts of new opportunities so I think something new and with new energy, with new excitement it is a good thing.”

Lifestyle Solutions’ regional manager Di Healey said the biggest strength of the non-government sector in providing OOHC services was its ability to “think outside the square” and not be under the constraints of government structures.  

“And we can bring our expertise from other states where we are running different models and say ‘look this is working and this is why it works and why we think it will work here’.

“So there’s a chance to add services as the need develops.”

Initially a provider of disability services in the Newcastle region, Lifestyle Solutions now delivers community services across the nation, except in SA, employing about 1600 staff.

Executive leader with Child and Family Services Linda Griffiths said the organisation supported about 300 children and their families.

“Being a large national organisation we’re able to bring resources that we have in other parts of the country here...”

She said there were plans to recruit a therapeutic specialist who will be based in Broken Hill and support local families.

“It’s something the community have identified that there’s not enough of that here for children and families,” Ms Griffiths said.

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