Leave a Legacy for the Next Generation
Rebeca Jeffery graduated from the University of Canberra in 1999 with a Bachelor of Communication and has gone on to experience a varied career spanning Government, not-for-profit and community service. Following the start of her journey as a foster parent in 2006. Rebecca followed her passion for foster care ultimately leading her to quit the public service and work at Barnardos as part of ACT Together.
As a foster mother of five children, Rebecca now devotes her life both at work and at home to supporting children and carers in the ACT to grow, heal and develop together.
ACT Together is a consortium of agencies that has been created to provide quality services for children and young people in out-of-home care in the ACT.
Alarmingly, in 2018 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released their annual child protection Australia publication reporting that in 2016/17, 188 children entered out-of-home care in the ACT bringing the total number of children in out of home care to 803.
The statistics around child protection are even more startling – every day in Australia there are some 186 substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect and one child dies every two weeks at the hands of those that are meant to love and protect them. The statistics tell us that in fact one child in every classroom is in need of care and protection.
These statistics show me that as a community we are vigilant and responsive to the needs of children and ensuring that they are safe. However, we need more people to be the protectors, the nurturers, the ‘for now’ or the ‘forever’ adults for those kids in need.
Children may enter out-of-home care for a variety of reasons, and over 50 per cent of cases are fortunately placed with kin. There is a growing societal issue of family violence and neglect which forces organisations to step in for the safety of the child or children.
This is a complex issue with not one clear answer, family violence and neglect are very often linked to inability to access supportive networks, economic factors, unemployment, mental illness, addiction and housing. Barnardos is passionate about strengthening families and the communities around them to assist children to grow up safe and with their own families.
For Rebecca, the most satisfying aspect of her job is seeing carers come on board to support children in a loving, healing environment. Even more satisfying is when crisis carers are able to restore a child safely home to their family, being the ideal outcome for child and parent of which carers are instrumental in supporting and scaffolding this journey. For the children who cannot return to their homes, the reward is to see them in their forever family with carers stepping up to provide long term and permanent care for them.
“the ability to walk alongside carers in this very challenging but rewarding role as a foster or kin carer is such a privilege”.
Unfortunately, there are not enough people volunteering as foster carers and so the biggest challenge for Rebecca and her team is recruiting more carers for Canberra’s most vulnerable children.
What can you do to help?
There is a growing demand for carers – single, married, gay, partnered, those with a full house or empty nesters who have the capacity to care for a child. This could be for as little as a weekend a month to the carers who will welcome a child into their family for life.
ACT Together are looking for carers for babies, sibling groups and teens who need assistance in navigating their way into adulthood.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult. The power of that one strong adult relationship is a key ingredient in resilience according to the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child.
You do not need to be a super parent, or even have experience in parenting, just a kind and caring person who is willing to allow a child to feel loved and secure.
Rebecca lives by the mantra (albeit borrowed from Jim Rohn) that we must take responsibility to leave a legacy in the next generation. It is Rebecca’s ability to live by that mantra that the University is so proud of and the reason she is a finalist for the Chancellor’s Awards for Service & Philanthropy at the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Awards.
If you are interested in foster care and would like to start the conversation, please call 1300 WEFOSTER or visit www.acttogether.org.au for more information.
Words by Caitlin Judd