Foster Care Awareness Week begins with excellence awards for foster carers today, culminating with the William Wallace Awards on Friday.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett joined Governor General, Lt Gen Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae in celebrating the achievements of ten foster carers who received excellence awards in a ceremony at Government House.
“Foster carers provide a safe home for children who need it most, usually in a time of crisis,” says Mrs Bennett.
“The ten foster carers being awarded today have provided a critical role in many children’s lives.”
New Zealand has around 3,900 children and young people living in state care and 4,000 foster carers who are available to care for them.
“I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for foster parents. These remarkable people put other people’s children first and open up their heart and their home to vulnerable children.”
Clinical psychologist Nigel Latta also attended today’s award ceremony to help launch Child, Youth and Family’s new DVD for caregivers.
The DVD includes advice from caregivers, child care professionals and young people and Mr Latta’s thoughts on the challenges and rewards of foster care.
The White Paper for Vulnerable Children, released in October, introduced changes to protect vulnerable children and better support caregivers.
“The White Paper recognises the complexity of offering a home for life to children in care and outlines new supports to help people manage the transition from caregiver to family member,” says Paula Bennett.
To ease this transition the Government will contract organisations to support those who permanently take in children through fostering or Home for Life.
Paid parental leave provisions to support adoptive parents and Home for Life families will also be reviewed, and parent child interaction therapy for caregivers of high and complex-needs children will be expanded.
“I am also determined to provide extra financial support to grandparents raising grandchildren and other kin carers,” says Mrs Bennett.
The National Government introduced Gateway Assessments for children in care which are making a significant difference to their health and wellbeing.
“We put $43.7 million towards getting all children in care a proper health and educational assessment so we can address any issues they may have and we’ve also covered the costs of more Early Childhood Education, mental health services and parenting support through the Children in Care Package.”
“The Gateway Assessments have picked up health problems in every single child and more than half were found to have emotional, behavioural and mental health issues which can now be addressed.”
“On behalf of New Zealanders I thank foster carers for the work they do,” says Mrs Bennett.
Excellence in Foster Care Winners:
Marie and Craig Ramsden - Papamoa, Tauranga.
Marie and Craig Ramsden are devoted caregivers who have taken children into their home over the past 12 years. Marie attends Fostering Kids and National Caregiver Training Workshops to ensure she has the skills and knowledge to provide the best care for children and young people.
Tina and Brett Cameron - Papamoa Beach, Tauranga
Tina and Brett have been foster carers for the past six years. Tina is also an advocate for disadvantaged children and is on a committee at her local school dedicated to helping under achieving children.
Steve and Anne-Marie (Annie) Young – Richmond, Nelson
Steve and Annie began fostering for Open Home Foundation in 2008 as respite foster parents, but quickly recognised the real need for full-time care for many children in their area. In June 2010 the couple shifted to manage the Open Home Foundation family home in Nelson and are recognised locally for their on-going commitment and support to families in their time of need.
Val and Rangi (prefers Jim) Marsters – Manurewa, Auckland
Val and Jim have been parents at a Child Youth and Family family home for eight years. Val is also working towards finishing her Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Training (PCIT training) with psychologists at Child, Youth and Family’s Specialist Services Unit.
Ypres and Wattie Peka - Papatoetoe, Auckland
Ypres and Wattie have been fostering for 25 years. They offer a kind, warm and inclusive home for children in their care. They are committed to the cultural development of each child and encourage Te Reo and Tikanga. Ypres and Wattie contribute to professional forums - always presenting the child’s point of view and actively encouraging cultural understanding and enhancement. Wattie is also the Kaumatua for the Dingwall Trust.
Ngaire Taylor - Hei Hei, Chirstchurch
Ngaire is 81 years old and been providing foster care and pre-adoption placement for children for over 50 years. Between 1962 and 1997 Ngaire and her husband fostered many children including pre-adopt babies. Ngaire is unsure how many children she has cared for, but we estimate the figure is close to 200. She currently has one child in her care and this will be the last foster placement before she retires. Ngaire wasn’t able to travel to Wellington for the event, but will be acknowledged by Fostering Kids and Child, Youth and Family at a special event in Christchurch.
Jackie Mills and Heath Brown – Cromwell, Central Otago
Jackie and Heath have been foster carers for two years and have attended training courses through Fostering Kids and Brainwave Trust. Jackie believes that she and Heath were meant to be foster carers; it is something they love to do and do well. They are able to provide a stable, united, loving environment for children of all ages and are a valued asset to the caregiving team in Otago.
Kelly Ottley, Ashburton
Kelly has been involved in foster care for the past four years and has attended training through Child, Youth and Family and Fostering Kids. Kelly has a well-developed relationship with Child, Youth and Family in Ashburton and always feels part of the team. She is a hands-on carer who attends meetings and is always willing to help.
Lynnaire and Andrew Hickmott - Roslyn, Palmerston North
Lynnaire and Andrew have been caregivers for 14 years. Numerous training courses have been completed by the couple and together they have a wealth of knowledge to provide a balanced environment for the children in their care. They have held a foster parent support group in their home and Lynnaire has been a mentor for Fresh Perspective through the Open Home Foundation. She has also helped with training for new foster parents by providing real life experiences. Lynnaire and Andrew provide strong support to the Open Home Foundation staff and help recruit foster parents.
Marianne and Cyril Double - Invercargill
Marianne and Cyril have been actively involved in fostering for 22 years and during that time have cared for over 30 children. They have cared for their foster children in the same way as they cared for their own - providing a stable, warm and nurturing environment, a place that children could call home.