A VISIT from Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson last week has brought to light the severity of the foster care shortage on the Eyre Peninsula.
The minister met with service providers in Port Lincoln who told her there was something like 21 children from Port Lincoln that were not able to be placed with local foster carers.
As a result these children have been moved out of not only their homes but away from their friends, families, their schools and more.
But the foster carer shortage is not just a local issue.
The Child Protection Department has struggled in recent years to encourage more extended family members or generous strangers to take in vulnerable children.
It is also no secret that state-run homes are inundated with children who should be living with foster carers but there just aren’t enough carers for these children to go to.
This costs children the opportunity to live in a secure, loving family environment but it is also costing the Child Protection Department which is forced to pay more than $670,000 a year to house a child in a state-run home, compared with $48,000 to a foster family.
Ms Sanderson said some of the local shortage could be due to Port Lincoln’s age demographics – that most of the population is too young or too old to consider becoming foster carers.
But the minister also said the shortage could come down to the way being a foster carer is promoted.
Perhaps even more likely is that there are a lot of misconceptions about foster care.
Most people know or know of a local foster carer and these people, while honest about the challenges it presents, also talk about how rewarding it is so maybe the community doesn’t hear from these people enough.
Foster care is something that puts the old adage that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ to the test and at the moment it looks like we might be failing that test.
Having said that Port Lincoln is lucky to have many hard working dedicated people working in the sector and looking out for local children in need.
These people do amazing work but it should not be left to them to solve what is clearly a foster care crisis.