This Festive season, Variety has given a priceless gift to some of the state’s most deserving families.

Many children across South Australia are under the Guardianship of the Minister after being removed from their parents for different reasons.

The foster parents who take on these children work hard to make them welcome in their homes and be a part of their own families.

variety+club+logoThis Christmas, Aboriginal Family Support Services, with the help of Variety, gave the gift of community and self-esteem to the foster children and their families by bringing them together to celebrate Christmas.

By throwing a Christmas party at Greenhills Adventure Park at Victor Harbor, Aboriginal youths, under the Guardianship of the Minister and their carers were able to enjoy a day of fun, complete with gifts and a visit from Santa.

Peter Dyer, Manager of Family Based Care at Aboriginal Family Support Services, said the children come from difficult circumstances, which is why a day like this helps them to feel part of a community, thus increasing their self esteem.

“In our program, we recruit, assess and support foster carers to place Aboriginal children in a family based setting when children are unable to live with their parents. From an Aboriginal perspective, often they’re removed from their families, but also their country so there’s often language difficulties,” he said.

“So on top of issues they might have endured in their history, often social isolation occurs when children are removed from their families, and also their lands.”

HRC_Aboriginal-6b1a1a2c-fc17-4375-b701-991b993fbe41-0-240x110AFFS sought help from Variety who were happy to assist in supporting a Christmas event for the children and their carers, as well as the biological children of the carers.

“With the assistance of Variety, we went to Greenhills. We had about 140 people attend, both carers and children. Without Variety, we wouldn’t be able to do such a good quality event. We have all age groups from newborn up to 18 years old,” Dyer said.

“Being together provides a much more normalised event with the children and carers all in the same situation. We as a program are able to speak to them outside of a formal setting.

“The children made the most of the play equipment, while the adults socialised with other foster families and staff.

“It’s great because the foster families are under higher scrutiny than parents who are not under the child protection system. There’s always a social worker and stringent relationship issues that makes the upbringing different to the norm. To get together and have an event where they can run amok in a free, safe setting is just amazing,” Dyer said.

As well as helping to provide a fun, safe setting, Variety also made it possible for the kids to have a visit from Santa.

“Father Christmas came along because the Variety assistance enabled us to buy gift cards for the carers as well as the children. Through Variety we bought toys and age appropriate presents. For the younger ones, it was toys. For the older ones, if was gift cards,” Dyer said.

“The idea of the gift card is that it’s really important for foster children to have an input into what they buy for themselves. It assist their self esteem; if there’s something they want, they can go out and buy it for themselves, rather than get given something.”

Events such as this Christmas party help organisations like Aboriginal Family Support Services to make a difference to people’s lives.

As Peter Dyer explains, life can be challenging and isolating for the young people under the Guardianship of the Minister.

“What happens is a lot of the foster children, when they go to school, they are seen as foster children or Guardianship children, because maybe they have a volunteer pick them up. So their life is separate to what you might call a normalised western school culture of having mum and dad,” he said.

“They might go for respite weekends; their life is essentially designed differently. So, when it comes to that developmental time, when their peers are really important, and connecting with their peers, they’re seen as different. And often they see ‘being different’ in themselves.”

“It means, getting together as a big group, running around and socialising, no one is being scrutinised and it’s all safe and supervised, their esteem is really great and they feel like kids with no difference to any other kids.”

But it’s not just Christmas time where the youths in foster care need validation and support; and Aboriginal Family Support Services work all year round to ensure they are cared for.

“Variety help us with the Christmas event but we also try to do a smaller event in a park during school holidays for the carers and the children. We also hold carer forums throughout the year. We manage that through our own budget but something as large as a Christmas event, we just don’t have that funding,” Dyer said.

With the help of Variety, AFSS have been able to help the youths in their care, but they try to source alternate funding as well.

“Variety do such a wonderful job and we’ve had a couple of individual sponsorships come through them to help our foster children. We also approach local businesses to help us around the Christmas event so we’re not relying purely on Variety, but we couldn’t run it without them,” he said.

This Christmas, the youths under the Guardianship of the Minister, through AFSS and Variety, have received the gift of togetherness and independence, which Peter Dyer thinks is imperative.

“It’s such a wonderful cause, to help the children because the children are our future. All children,” he said.

By Libby Parker