Kirra-Lee Towells, Forster Care Assessor

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Kirra is the new face of foster care in the Mid North Coast. Her job is to promote the most basic of children’s rights in our communities: the right to grow in a nurturing and safe home. Kirra is also running a Shared Lives Workshop in Kempsey April 11-12. Find out how you can help below.

Hi Kirra-Lee. Can you tell me a bit about yourself and why you decided to work to help children in need?

Growing up, I wanted to be a police officer, but later became passionate about working within Child Protection. My career goal has been to find a way to make a difference in children’s lives, and ultimately to help them to feel safe. I completed a Bachelor of Criminology and then decided to further my studies, and have recently completed a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology). I now work for CASPA as a Foster Care Program & Support Officer, and I am also a Foster Carer Assessor. I love the role, as it is challenging, and I am excited about the opportunity to help children and young people in need of care and support.

Why is fostering important? 

There has been a significant increase in the number of children entering out-of-home-care, and right now there are over 20,000 children in NSW who cannot live with their birth families. When a child or young person is away from their birth family, they can feel frightened, stressed, and uncertain about their future. Foster carers provide a safe, secure and supportive environment, which gives the child or young person the opportunity to develop secure attachments, while their birth family seek help to change.

CASPA follows a therapeutic framework, meaning that children in foster care are supported therapeutically to help with any developmental trauma that may be present as a result of neglect, abuse or family breakdown.

How can people help?

It is up to the carer how much time they can give to fostering. If you have never fostered before, you can start as a respite carer one weekend a month. We also have short-term, long-term, kinship and a new modality called in-house. In the in-house model, apart from a rent free house, CASPA covers all costs of utilities, costs for the children, provides a fully maintained vehicle with a fuel card and a generous tax-free carer allowance. We suggest people visit the CASPA website to understand better the level of support, allowance and commitment required for each type of fostering.

How about adoption?

Changes in policy are making this process simpler. Long-term carers can apply and, once approved, they are given all the legal rights and responsibilities of being a parent to the child in their care. All adoptions in NSW are now open adoptions. That means that the children and young people can remain connected to the birth family, helping them to develop a better sense of cultural identity and heritage.

What’s the best place for a child?

In a safe place. This is why we help people to become foster carers. It’s a beautiful thing to do for the child and for the community. Children who are valued and nurtured have greater chances of becoming healthy and productive grown ups. Being away from mum and dad can be traumatic, independently of why removal occurred. Research shows that whenever possible, the children should be back with their biological family, and this is why we work towards family restoration. The idea is to facilitate the connection between the child and the birth parents. When restoration is not possible, then we work together with carers to meet the needs of the child with patience and understanding. The journey of fostering also gives carers a great opportunity to grow as human beings. They learn about child development from a neurobiological point of view, and also the impacts of empathy, connection and compassion in human development. The old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is more relevant than ever. It is also about making Australia an even better place.

Thanks Kirra-Lee.

THE PLUG

SHARED LIVES is a free and comprehensive two-day workshop for people who have an interest in becoming accredited foster carers. Apart from being an amazing opportunity to ask everything you want to know about fostering, it is a mandatory training for all of those who want to become an authorised carer in NSW.

Wed, Thurs April 11-12, Kempsey.

Phone 02 6652 9369 or visit www.caspa.asn.au for more info and to secure your place.

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