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Foster Parent Laws

Click here to read my speech on the Statutes Amendment (Rights of Foster Parents and Guardians) Bill 

Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 10:56 :24 ): I will be brief, but I would like to rise and speak in support of this bill put forward by the member for Hammond and commend all the other members who have spoken on this. Foster caring is vital to our community, and I really commend the member for Hammond for bringing forward a common-sense bill to try to help out people like Monica Perrett in this situation and support them for the efforts they have put in to be foster parents, as we know how important this is.

Foster parenting is a big commitment. It is disappointing to see the treatment Monica Perrett has received from the former minister. I hope the new minister is more understanding and can work with the member for Hammond to pass this bill. I know there are others on the other side of the chamber who have known the frustration of dealing with the department and working in this area. For foster parents, and those working with foster children, it can be very frustrating.

It is a sensitive area, I understand that, but I think it is really important that the people who make the effort and make the commitment to become a foster parent are supported by the department and by the associated minister. In a process like the one Ms Monica Perrett has gone through, I think it is important that the department and minister help foster parents in this tragic time and help them with their grieving process, especially considering, as I said, the commitment that foster parents make to our community and to young people, especially in South Australia.

Foster parents need to be commended for the efforts they put in. When you think about the commitment someone has to make, I certainly commend anyone who takes on this role in our community. Vulnerable children need all the care, love and support that we can muster as a community.

When you look at the skills you must have to be a foster parent, common sense is one, patience and understanding are other things, along with maturity, flexibility, great interpersonal skills and a willingness to learn. An ability to work with the child and their family, if they still have engagement with their family, is very important and is really tough to do. I think this is just a great time to reflect on how tough being a foster carer is in our community. The work you have to do, the compassion you have to show, really is absolutely outstanding.

I know a number of people who have taken on this role and I again commend them for doing so. They really put in a lot of their time and effort. If you were to try to actually scale it, value it and put a monetary figure on it, it is nigh on impossible to do. The time and effort you have to put in, the 24-hour care, the mental power that you put into worrying about children, whether they are your own or, in this case, a foster child, really is invaluable. The work that foster carers do is something the child can never pay back and something the government can never pay back but it is vital to our community.

I was lucky when I was growing up. My mother took in a foster child. She was asked to do so, and she was not in a brilliant place herself being a single parent raising two boys. She did a marvellous job with this young girl Tammy. It was a delight to have her in our family and in our lives. When I look back now, I would like to believe that my brother and I played some role—my mother played a much larger role—as siblings to her for a short period of time, to help her mother get through a tough situation. The local social worker in Kingscote came to my mum and asked her to help out, and she did a really great job.

You hope that the work you did, the time you put in and the effort you made has an impact on that person down the track. I know Tammy is doing well. I touched base with her not so long ago and she is doing really well in life now, which is great. That is not to say that anything we did or anything my mother did caused that to happen—she may well have had great success all the same, but you hope that you have some input.

Having had that personal experience and to see what Monica Perrett has been through, it is really important, as the member for Schubert said, that as a community we show compassion and common sense, and that we do look at this bill and ask: is there a way that we can support these people who put so much back into our community?

In closing, I would again like to commend the bill to the house, and I also hope that members on the other side see the merits and values in this, because of the great work that foster carers do in our community. I also encourage anyone that has the inclination, the passion, the time and the commitment to consider being a foster parent, because there are many children out there in need.

As I said, it is not something that necessarily happens for the entire life of the child. Mind you, it still can be, but you can do it for a short term, and take the time to help out a parent who is struggling a little bit and maybe needs to get themselves back on track before they can take full-time care of their own child. There are many ways to help out with foster care, and I think it is really important, with this bill and with foster care in general, that we get behind and support foster parents in South Australia.

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