Foster carer Danielle O’Reilly is one of a growing number of South Australians aged 30 to 39 putting up their hands to become carers.
As at 30 June 2021, the state’s total number of foster carers had increased again by 78 to 1458 carers.
Of those new carers, the biggest cohort – more than 30 per cent – were aged between 30 and 39, followed by the 40 to 49 age bracket with more than 28 per cent.
The new data has been released coinciding with annual Foster and Kinship Care Week, which celebrates the vital role carers play in the community improving the lives of vulnerable children and young people.
“Since I was at school, I always knew I wanted to become a foster carer,” said Danielle, 32, who currently has two young boys in her care through Centacare.
“My mum had Multiple Sclerosis and I helped care for her at home for 15 years, so I see being a foster carer as an extension of that caring role.
“I wanted to do something that would allow me to be home for my children Ajay, 13, and Layla, 10, but still make a difference to the lives of other children at the same time.
“I think generally a lot of people think that foster carers are older. For me, I’ve found being younger has really helped – I still have lots of energy and I’m still in that part of my life where I have young children so I know what I’m in for.
“I’m pretty relaxed and easy going, so to get a call that a child needs somewhere to stay at 3pm and have them in my arms by 5pm doesn’t phase me.”
As a reunification carer, Danielle and her husband Alan, work with birth families to either reunify the child with their family or help them transition to long term carers.
“Reunification care is very exciting for us – working with the parents and helping them to get to know their child better and grow and develop into that parenting role is so rewarding,” said Danielle.
“It makes us feel like we’re contributing to a great outcome for that child and their family.”
Danielle said while being at home with four children sounded daunting, she had good support from her husband, children and wider network of family and friends.
“The kids absolutely love being a part of the fostering – they are so proud and tell their friends at school,” she said.
“Going into it, we explained to our kids that the foster children would only be with us short term, and while they have definitely formed strong bonds, knowing that has made it easier when they have moved on.
“We keep the kids involved and have family meetings every six weeks to talk about how they are feeling and if there’s anything I can do to share my time out better.”
Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson welcomed another foster care increase in the past 12 months.
“Upon coming into Govenrment as the state’s first dedicated Minister for Child Protection one of my key aims was to increase the number of net foster carers each year and we are achieving that goal,” said Minister Sanderson.
“It’s been a challenging 18 months for many South Australians, so for people to still be ready and willing to put themselves forward as foster carers is heartening to see.
“It’s interesting to see the changing face of foster care with more South Australians in the 39-to-39 age bracket deciding that opening their hearts and homes to a child or young person is something that suits their age and stage of life.
“During Foster and Kinship Care Week, I’d like to say a big thank you to all our foster and kinship carers who go above and beyond everyday to provide love, support and care to our most vulnerable children and young people.”
Centacare Foster Care Manager Amalie Mannik said it was heartening to see younger carers taking up the charge to become foster carers.
“Whilst we value all foster carers, it has been heartening to see younger carers putting their hand up to take on the role, as often they have recent experience as parents to draw from,” Amalie said.
“They often bring high levels of enthusiasm into their caring role, as well as adaptability and a willingness to multi-task, while providing their own children with the experience of being positive role models.’’
For more information about becoming a foster carer call 1300 2 FOSTER or visit www.fostercare.sa.gov.au