By Danielle Kutchel
Pakenham is joining the rest of the state this week in celebrating the contributions of some of our most unsung heroes: kinship carers.
Kinship carers are usually family members who take in children and young people when their parents are no longer able to raise them.
Most are the grandparents of the children and young people they are raising, however some kinship carers are other relatives such as aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and even friends.
The week of 8 to 14 September has been deemed the first ever Kinship Carers Week 2019 and aims to celebrate the work of this army of carers and recognise them as heroes within the community.
According to Kinship Carers Victoria (KCV), kinship care is the fastest growing form of out-of-home care, with over 70% of children in out-of-home care in Victoria placed in kinship care.
Director of KCV, Anne McLeish, said this was because it offered the most stable form of out-of-home care to children and young people, and provided the type of support they best needed at a vulnerable period of their lives.
It also allows a continued connection to family for both the person placed in care and their carer.
But kinship carers often face challenges in their new role including financial pressures, especially when caring for teenagers.
Many of the children in kinship care have ongoing expensive health needs that need to be catered for.
Additionally, becoming a carer is often a role that the family members weren’t expecting to take on.
“It’s a shock to the system, but they don’t hesitate to say yes,” Ms McLeish said.
“Most say they would never not do it.”
As part of Kinship Carers Week 2019, a seminar and lunch will be held in Pakenham for kinship carers on Friday 13 September, at Toomah Community Centre in Pakenham from 10:30am til 2pm. This is an opportunity for carers to meet and talk with each other, and the event will affirm their role in the community.
Neighbours can also offer support to any kinship carers in their street, just by offering a smile and a greeting.
“Go and say hello,” Ms McLeish said, “just say hello and see what they need.”