“From when I was two and a half years old, I lived in orphanages and many different foster homes. I experienced many difficult situations, but the one that stuck in my mind was going to school with other foster children in ragged old clothing from the 1920’s. All the other kids knew that we were ‘homies’ from the way we were dressed. l remember wishing that l could have nice things, like all the other kids.”
Heather Baird, Founder of A Better Life for Foster Kids
A Better Life for Foster Kids is a Gippsland-based charity that supports children, carers and young people in the out-of-home care system. It was founded in 2014 by Heather Baird, who experienced first-hand the struggles of spending her childhood in foster care, and the social stigma she faced.
One of their main initiatives is the provision of “crisis cases” – wheeled suitcases containing around 55 items of clothing, hygiene and other care essentials for displaced children’s first week of care.
“Nine out of 10 times, children that are removed from their homes would have nothing but the clothes they were in,” said Heather.
“Through referrals from the Department of Health and Human Services, case workers, maternity nurses and youth workers, we provide our crisis cases to children on the same day they enter an out-of-home care placement. Our crisis cases contain around $300 worth of items, delivering practical, immediate and cost-effective assistance, especially for carers that take on several emergency placements each year.
“Importantly, they give some comfort to traumatised children and help to settle them into their new environment.”
10 out of every 1,000 children in Victoria are on care and protection orders. In 2021, this translated to 14,947 children across Victoria (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). Each year, A Better Life for Foster Kids provides crisis cases to approximately 1,600 children entering care, ensuring their needs are met with dignity, and relieving the mental and financial burden on carers.
“Receiving a child in the middle of the night with a crisis case containing new pyjamas and clothes for the next day was amazing for us and the child,” said a carer.
“While the child was checked over for injuries, he didn't even notice as he snuggled up into his new pyjamas. Some may think it's only a little thing, but it sure makes a big difference emotionally.” Beyond Bank’s, 2021 Double Donation Fundraiser raised $11,280 for A Better Life for Foster Kids. Housing affordability and support is one of the Beyond Bank Foundation’s key focus areas, so we were pleased that we could support A Better Life for Foster Kids to provide more crisis cases.
Some of the donations raised also went towards their “Others Do Care” discretionary fund which helps young people in out-of-home care participate in normal childhood activities and pursue their dreams.
“Carers do an amazing job, giving their time, energy and resources to provide support and love to the children in their care. But they need to focus their financial resources on care requirements, and sometimes that doesn’t leave much for normal childhood activities or that little something that’s special and important to that child, for example escaping into a place of calm and control through music lessons, or gaining confidence and learning to focus through a martial art,” said Heather.
“Reducing the cost for carers to take on placements is one of the ways we support carers so we don’t lose them from the foster care system.
“For a small community organisation like us, it was wonderful to receive not only the funding support from Beyond Bank through matched giving, but also to create awareness amongst the Gippsland community about what we do.”