The statesman Benjamin Disraeli once said: "a nation, a community, is best judged by the way it treats its most marginal children".
Currently in Victoria, there are over 6,400 children who for a range of reasons cannot live with their parents, forcing them to live in State care. They are known in the system as Out-of-Home Care Children. They live in statutory arranged conditions with relatives, (usually grandparents) foster carers, or for those unable or unsuitable for those options, in residential care.
Children who are unable to live with their parents often miss out on the ‘ordinary’ parts of growing up. The precious things that we all take for granted. The feeling of love and safety and knowing that you are unique and precious in someone’s eyes, is a critical and dominating factor in the healthy growth of any child.
Children in out-of-home care who can’t live or be nurtured by parents or other significant adults, are shunted around courts and the protective system endlessly. Their feeling of worth diminishes, they simply grow physically but not emotionally, they are just not given the consistent love, support and opportunities to experience the ordinary things of life and build a range of sound and life giving relationships.
The trauma of the life journeys of most of these children means that they require a special kind of love and support and without the generosity, commitment, love and care of kinship carers and foster carers, these children might never feel all the things that normal children, in normal circumstances feel. These carers are our unsung heroes.
Consider a baby removed from parental care because of abuse (physical or emotional) or neglect. Unless a broader family network can come to their assistance, the option is foster care. Foster care can be short, medium or long term. This roller coaster for a child involves uncertainty at the very least and lack of stability can mean further trauma.
Imagine being 14 years old and attending your 10th school, which equates to ten carers, ten accommodation venues, ten peer groups, ten communities, ten forgotten birthdays or cobbled together Christmases. Consider the emotional baggage packed with the failed or tenuous family dynamics. Imagine being singled out, bullied, dragged in and out of children’s court, having to face formal “contact” visits and suffering the humiliation of waiting for a bureaucrat to give permission for a carer to purchase a school uniform or a hockey stick.
Not to belong to, or even want to be claimed by family, or to be claimed and sent back, makes these children feel like lost property at a railway station.
An adult emerging from the care system, understandably, can have immense issues around self-worth. Feeling unloved and worthless usually leads to issues around poor mental health or substance abuse. The perception of the community is often of an angry, addicted or morose person, who loses touch with their impact on others. They can be pushed into a corner and they just don’t care any more. There is a huge potential for changing hurt, angry, untrusting and disengaged kids into positive members of our community.
As a community we can ignore children and young people of this cohort. We can treat them with disdain. We can simply just be thankful that is doesn’t apply to us or ours, because they are the "States’ responsibility". But aren’t we the State…? Aren't we the community ...?
Unless we stretch ourselves and lift the lid off this urn of national disgrace, the whole community wears fault. Simple acts of inclusion and generosity are needed. We can all contribute in some way.
These are the children that the Tee Up for Kids Foundation is committed to helping. There are many ways that our everyday community can assist. Your involvement will help the Tee-Up for Kids Foundation promote their situations and enhance their lives. They are everyone’s responsibility.
Our aim at Tee-Up for Kids Foundation is to help make the linkages that allow and support our children in care to enjoy the benefits of a normal life and help to provide the wonderful opportunities that the broader community offers.
We don’t need experts, just real people who care and want to make a difference. Help us make a difference and donate to the Tee-Up for Kids Foundation.