Carers need: Push to keep foster care on Country

Looking for foster carers: Neva Takele, her son Brody Atkinson and grandson Joel Atkinson

Echuca residents Neva Takele, her son Brody Atkinson and grandson Joel Atkinson featured on the big screen at Echuca Paramount Cinema, promoting foster care on Country.

The new Njernda Foster Care ad hopes to encourage people in the Echuca Moama community to become foster parents.

Ms Takele raised her 10-year-old grandson but recently due to health reasons was unable to take care of him.

“We tried to get him into care here in the local community, but there wasn’t anyone who could take him. So, my eldest daughter stepped in and put her hand up — but that means he is now in the city with her instead of on Country where he belongs,” she said.

Ms Takele said being removed from Yorta Yorta Country greatly affected him.

“He’s taking it really hard,” she said.

“He’s always been a little bush boy, always been close to and loved the river, animals, nature, the whole lot. Now he’s in Melbourne, and while we’re grateful that he’s safe, he’s just not where he belongs and his unhappiness shows. He misses home, he misses his mob and he misses his surroundings.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about the Njernda Foster Care program — because I’ve seen the repercussions of removing children from their Country first-hand because there are no other options, and it really does impact them.”

Foster Care Recruitment and Assessment Worker Sharyn Kelly said Njernda’s aim was to find more foster carers from all backgrounds in the Echuca Moama community.

“We know keeping our kids on Country and keeping them here in their community with their family networks, friends, schools, sports and hobbies is the best way to support them through a rough time,” she said.

“These are young ones who are already having their lives in upheaval, so keeping that connectedness to their Country, their mob and their surroundings is absolutely imperative.”

Ms Kelly said by creating this ad they were hoping to highlight the need for foster carers in the community.

“To encourage people who are thinking about taking up foster care, to put their hand up, because the fact is we need them” she said.

“Unfortunately, if we can’t meet the care needed in our local community, children sometimes need to be placed elsewhere, and that only increases their confusion, uncertainty and the trauma they go through.”