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Share your care across the Wimmera

WITH around 400 youths sleeping rough on any one night across the Wimmera and south west, local community leaders have come together asking residents to address the problem of youth homelessness.
The Share Your Care campaign aims to address youth homelessness in regional Victoria by boosting the number of foster carers.
Former Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, who was a long-term foster carer with wife Peggy, was recruited to become the campaign’s ambassador and joins several community leaders asking Wimmera residents to consider becoming a foster carer.
When Deb Nelson, councillor for Hindmarsh Shire, was asked to become a foster care champion, she jumped at the opportunity to raise awareness about the lingering problem of youth homelessness.
“There’s a big need for foster care,” she said, noting the 400 young people in the region who are not able to live at home on any one night.
“We want children cared for and that’s the main thing.”
She said that her sister who has passed away had been a foster carer for many years and had admired that she had opened her home to so many children who needed a place to stay.
“I got to see first hand the reward she got out of it,” she said.
Ms Nelson said she saw how through her sister’s involvement in foster care that those who put their hand up to share their care get so much out of the experience.
“It’s a two way thing,” she said.
She said encouraging people in the area to become foster carers means that young people in the Wimmera will be “cared for in a time of their life that is incredibly difficult for them”.
“I take my hat off to anyone who does it.”
Data from Uniting Wimmera shows it has supported 1,233 people experiencing homelessness over the last 12 months, which included 300 children under the age of 14.
However, data on homelessness for persons between the ages of 12 to 24 is hard to measure because, as the Australian Bureau of Statistics notes, it can be disguised as things such as ‘couch surfing’. This, the bureau says, makes youth homelessness underestimated in a group which they already over-represent.
Some children are able to stay with extended family or friends but for those who can’t, foster care is the only option.
Ms Nelson said that having more people in Dimboola becoming foster carers could mean that young people in the area who needed support would be able to stay in a familiar environment and be close to friends or family who may not be able to care for them but are still able to connect with them such as elderly grandparents.
She said staying in town could be “the next best thing when they can’t be with family.”
Foster care provides a safe place for children and youth to stay for a night, a few weeks, or maybe longer, depending upon the carer’s circumstances and what they feel they can commit to.
Foster Carers are matched with babies, children and young people that fit their lifestyle and household needs.
Ms Nelson encourages anyone interested in sharing their care or wanting to know more about becoming a foster carer to have a chat with her if they see her around.
For more information and to get involved head to www.shareyourcare.net.au to learn more.

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