Foster and Kinship Care Week: Giving kids a safe, loving home

LOVED: Max* and his foster family on a trip to the beach. More than 350 carer households are currently needed in NSW.

LOVED: Max* and his foster family on a trip to the beach. More than 350 carer households are currently needed in NSW.

Finding safe, loving and permanent homes for vulnerable children is the focus of this year's Foster and Kinship Care Week, which runs from September 13 to 19.

As part of the awareness week, Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward has kicked off a recruitment campaign for new foster carers.

An estimated 350 households are currently needed across New South Wales to meet the state's demand for foster care, with options including part-time care, restoration care, kinship care, guardianship and open adoption.

"When it's not safe for a child to remain with their parents, it is imperative that we find them a safe and stable place to call home," Mr Ward said.

"Our government is prioritising permanency for kids in care through open adoption and guardianship, but foster care also plays a critical role.

"We need people who are willing to open their hearts and their homes to kids in care, either temporarily and permanently, so that we can continue our work to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children in our state."

Foster carers come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and can be younger or older, single or married, renters or homeowners.

Greta couple Michelle* and Jason* have been foster carers for several years, providing care for about 20 children, from overnight and respite stays to long-term care.

Nine-year-old Max* has been in their care since he was a newborn.

After sadly losing their son in infancy 24 years ago, the couple went on to have two daughters (now 18 and 21), and Michelle says Max has been as much of a blessing to their family as they have been to him.

"This little boy just holds our hearts," she said.

"Everyone loves him.

"We are all very lucky and blessed.

"He knows his story, but he knows no different."

BLESSED: Max*, with his foster sisters on a recent holiday.

BLESSED: Max*, with his foster sisters on a recent holiday.

Michelle encourages anyone who is thinking about becoming a foster carer to give it a go.

"There are people out there who say, 'I couldn't hand it back', but it's not about keeping them, it's about showing them love and what life is all about," she said.

"It's about guiding them.

"So many kids need care; it's heartbreaking.

"They can give you as much as you can give them."

"It's not about keeping them, it's about showing them love and what life is all about"

Foster carer Michelle*

The NSW Government is strengthening support for foster and kinship carers through its $7 million My Forever Family program.

More than 550 potential carers were referred to the program last financial year.

"Recruiting, training and retaining foster carers is critical to helping find vulnerable children a home. My Forever Family gives carers the information, education and support they need to help children thrive," Mr Ward said.

For more information on how to become a foster carer, call 1300 782 975 or visit myforeverfamily.org.au.

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.