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All children deserve a home that allows them to feel safe and secure. When a child lives in an unsafe environment, the effect of the trauma suffered can be devastating on their brain, emotional development, ability to learn and wellbeing. Across Australia there are over 44,000 children who live in out-of-home care1. And, each year, more foster carers are needed.

Siblings Tim* and Sarah* were removed from their parents after experiencing years of physical abuse, family violence and severe neglect. At 8 years old, Tim had suffered significant trauma, but also felt responsible for his younger sister because he had been powerless to help her.

At 6 years of age, Sarah was still in nappies, unable to use the toilet and drinking milk from a bottle. She had no language, and was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Global Developmental Delay.

We were able to find a home for Tim and Sarah with wonderful foster carers, Leah* and Jan*. The children faced many complex challenges, so Leah and Jan needed a lot of support in their role. We organised weekly speech and occupational therapy for Sarah, and a clinician helped Leah and Jan plan activities that would nurture her development and minimise stress. With these supports in place, Sarah has shown great improvements: she can now engage, comprehend and communicate what she needs, follow instructions and show affection to the special people in her life.

The focus for Tim was to let him be a child and not feel responsible for his sister. Leah and Jan encouraged Tim to join the local football club and become part of a team. He is starting to make friends for the first time, and was so excited when he was invited to not one, but two birthday parties! None of this would have been possible without the love, care, attention and commitment that Leah and Jan provide.

Become a foster carer

At Berry Street we recognise that what is important is the quality of the care that can be provided, the emphasis on the child’s needs and the ability to provide a secure environment, not the gender or sexual preference of carers.

As one of Australia's largest independent family service organisations, we acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of our carers. They are people from all backgrounds, cultures and experiences - married, single, or same-sex couples, with or without children, divorced or de facto. To find out more about becoming a carer, please register your interest.


Read more about becoming a foster carer

Learn how you can get involved


1Child protection Australia 2018-19 Report, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

*Name has been changed in the interest of privacy. The models and volunteers pictured are not connected to the case study.