Feature Image: Flickr (Rusty Stewart).
As an Aboriginal Education Officer at a school in South West Sydney, Veronica Kinchela puts the wellbeing of children in her community at the heart of everything she does. Becoming a foster carer for Aboriginal kids is no exception.
“In my education role, my main priority is to the children; I work with teachers to help the children learn in the best possible way. If there are any problems I step in and try to find solutions and help put the kids back on the right path, whether that be with their lessons or their health and emotional wellbeing,” said Veronica.
“After working at a school, I saw how some of the out-of-home-care children weren’t receiving the best possible care and it broke my heart. My niece was a foster carer, and she spoke to me about the benefits of being a carer and how it all worked, and I thought to myself I can do that, so I did.”
Veronica has been a foster carer for about six years and currently looks after two brothers who are living with her on a permanent basis. The boys have been part of her family for five years and the fostering experience has been positive for all involved.
Veronica believes that, “It has been a joy having them in our lives. As far as me and my family are concerned, these boys are ours; they’re a part of our family. For me, there’s no difference between them and my biological children – it’s the same for my extended family too.”
“They’re my kids, they’re treated as family and always will be.”
The boys have been part of her family for five years and the fostering experience has been positive for all involved. Image: iStock.
Being a single mum to four adult children, two of whom still live with her, means that her foster boys not only gained a new parent, but lots of loving siblings as well. Veronica happily comments on how great the relationship is between her biological children and her foster sons.
“My children treat the boys like little brothers. They look after them, play games with them, teach them and care for them. There’s no difference with how they treat the boys and how they treat each other, which is really lovely.”
“It’s good to see that my children have grown up to be compassionate people who understand how important it is to care for one another.”
While the fostering experience for Veronica and her sons has been overwhelmingly positive, up to 1 in 3 children in care are of Indigenous heritage, and while it’s preferable to place Aboriginal children within other Aboriginal families, there often aren’t enough families to take them or resources available to ensure that the children are placed within their community.
That’s where organisations like KARI step in. KARI is Australia’s largest Aboriginal foster care agency. They ensure the Aboriginal community has access to culturally-specific foster care services, as well as access to quality, holistic community services.
“It’s good to see that my children have grown up to be compassionate people who understand how important it is to care for one another.” Image: iStock.
“KARI tries to keep the children in the community so that the kids understand their culture and know where they come from,” says Veronica. “It’s important that they grow up proud to be Aboriginal and have that connection to their culture.”
“My foster kids grasp at anything cultural that they can come across. They’ve attended cultural camps through KARI where they get to learn about their history and culture, as well as meet the other Aboriginal kids. My boys are very social, so for them it’s a fun time where they get to see their mates that they haven’t seen in a few months and spend time together.”
With both a loving home and family unit, as well as the support of KARI and the community, Veronica’s boys are now thriving.
“I’ve seen tremendous improvement in the boys. They came with their distinct personalities, which were there right from the start, but now they have structure and rules that they follow and they’re doing well. The youngest boy is quite quirky and loves computers and technology, and the other is very sporty. The eldest is almost a teenager now, and he’s grown up to be a very nice young man – they both have.”
"They’ve attended cultural camps through KARI where they get to learn about their history and culture" Image: Vimeo (I am Jangala).
"As well as seeing the boys’ improvements each and every day, one of the best parts about being a foster carer is experiencing those moments when the wider community recognises how far the boys have progressed."
“One of the nicest things that a KARI camp leader said to me [about the boys] was ‘Veronica, they’re a joy. They were polite, well-mannered, always put their hands up to be involved with games and activities, and that’s all because of you.’ That was a very special moment for me.”
The great thing about being an Aboriginal foster carer is that you’re never alone. KARI is there at every step of the way to elevate and support those who open up their hearts and homes to Aboriginal kids.
“KARI are very supportive towards us carers,” says Veronica.“They provide training and support groups all through the year and help out however they can. Even if you’ve got a problem outside of office hours, they’re only a phone call away.”
“The other KARI carers that I’ve met are really nice too and do their best for the kids that they look after. At the end of the day, we’re all there for the kids and to give the kids the best possible upbringing and a real shot at a bright future.”
If you’re considering becoming a foster carer for Aboriginal children, find out more about how you can get involved - visit: www.fosteringnsw.com.au or call 1800 236 783.