Geraldton foster carer highlights issues

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Waggrakine mum Erin Jamieson.
Camera IconWaggrakine mum Erin Jamieson. Credit: Geraldton Guardian, Tamra Carr

A Waggrakine mother would like the State to put education for would-be parents at the top of their to-do-list, before they implement a suite of changes to the foster-care system next year.

Erin Jamieson, 44, is a biological parent to five and has fostered between 30 and 35 children in the past 18 years.

She said there was not enough funding, case managers, counselling or foster families, the latter of which meant local children in need of placement were being sent to Perth.

However, she said the State Government needed to act quickly on supporting young mothers, particularly Aboriginals.

“Out of the 30 to 35 kids I’ve had over the years, only about six or seven of them were non-Aboriginal,” Ms Jamieson said.

“You have to start by supporting young mums to keep kids and recognise that some people may need a lot more support than others.

“Sometimes you need to come into homes and teach them. Not everyone learns well in a structured setting.”

Ms Jamieson also suggested that funding more counsellors to address trauma would decrease numbers of children in out-of-home-care doing things not “socially acceptable”.

She said she looked after one child who had unaddressed psychological needs that caused him to purposefully get detention in school, so people would take notice.

“Sometimes foster carers feel they need to fight to get counselling or support,” Ms Jamieson added.

“I’ve seen improvements in the system over the last five years but I think we still have a long way to go. It’s bloody hard work but it’s rewarding.

“Especially when you see the children ‘age out’ of foster care and go on to make different choices than perhaps their parents.”

The State is undertaking a review of the foster-care system, including recruitment, support mechanisms, suitability assessments and how carers, families and case managers can work better together. So far, the State has handed Foster Carers Association WA $150,000 to employ three part-time staff, who between them will provide 30 more hours of work.

The State is also planning to work with Aboriginal communities, the children of which account for 55 per cent of WA foster kids.

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