KATIE Ireland has developed a deep appreciation of the unique and valued contribution made by foster carers through her role with ac.care.
As the agency’s foster care services program support worker for recruitment, assessment and training across eastern South Australia, she is often the first point of contact for compassionate adults seeking the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children.
“They are really special people who choose to provide vital care in their own homes for children in need of support and stability,” Ms Ireland said.
“It is really important children in need of care have stable homes and I tell my children you never know what you are born into, you can’t choose that, it’s not your pick, so for people to be there to help these children is inspiring.”
A network of more than 150 families share their homes with 220 children across the Riverland, Limestone Coast, Murraylands, Fleurieu Peninsula and Adelaide Hill as part of ac.care’s foster care network.
Ms Ireland said she had learnt on the job about the importance of various levels of care, from emergency, respite and short-term to long-term guardianship, to provide flexibility among the diverse pool of carers so they can support each other and accommodate children as needs arise.
She recently celebrated five years as a staff member with ac.care and said she enjoyed working for a family-friendly employer with a mission after a background in finance before she emigrated from Kent and married an Australian.
“There are a lot of great stories about the difference ac.care has made and the foster carers do a fantastic job,” she said.
“It is important an agency such as ac.care is there to support them and highlight the impact they have.”
Starting with ac.care as a front office receptionist, she learnt early in her employment ac.care was a social welfare agency with a broad impact across service areas.
“I hadn’t worked in community services before and that was a great introduction to the agency to learn about programs, meet clients and also see the hardships they were going through and difficulties they faced,” Katie said.
“We can provide a food hamper if someone is struggling with food, if they can’t pay a bill we can help with financial counselling, or sometimes we can help someone who has been evicted from their home and we also have relationships with other agencies to refer people to if they would benefit from programs they provide which we don’t offer.
“I hadn’t been exposed to that before and while our support programs can change lives, it is also nice to just be able to offer someone seeking help a cuppa when they first come in and you see people such as homeless clients who have nothing, but are still smiling and that puts things into perspective a bit.”
She progressed into administration support with the foster care program in the Murraylands, but now works across the agency’s service area throughout eastern South Australia.
The role involves public presentations as part of the campaign to recruit carers and Katie enjoys being able to share the message of ac.care’s broader program delivery and mission to help ensure “all country people have a safe home, enough money to live on and strong, positive relationships”.
If you would like information about becoming a foster carer, you can call Katie at the ac.care Murray Bridge office on 8531 4900.