By Aarti Betigeri
It can be common for children in foster care to move between families, but there is a growing push to find kids in care a home for good.
In Canberra there are calls not only for more foster carers, but for parents who would be willing to adopt children in their care.
Despite Mark and Monica Kotzer having six children between them, they signed up as foster parents five years ago to look after even more kids.
Soon they will become the permanent parents to one of the two foster children currently in their care.
“We love having kids in our house, we love the laughter and the fun, so what better way to help a child that needs us?” Ms Kotzer said.
“Sometimes we forget that we are foster carers because we just feel like a normal family.”
At the moment they care for a 20-month-old girl and a five-week-old baby girl, and were recently told the toddler would be with them until the age of 18.
“We’ve loved to watch her grow and nurture the little person she is today,” Ms Kotzer said.
But it is not clear whether they will care for the baby girl long term, as there is the possibility she could return to her birth mother after a year.
“The hardest part is obviously letting them go, when the time comes for them to move to another home or back to their families, that can be really challenging,” Ms Kotzer said.
From foster parents to adoption
Last year there were almost 750 children in foster care in the ACT, up by about a third on the previous year.
And many of those children are unable to return to their birth families.
It has triggered a new strategy in the capital looking to more permanent solutions.
Melissa Bell from the foster care organisation ACT Together said her focus had shifted to finding carers who would be willing to adopt.
“We are very interested in talking to people who would consider foster care with a view to becoming an adoptive parent at some point in the future,” she said.
Last year eight children were adopted out of foster care — a rise on the previous year.
The ACT Government is considering changing the laws to allow carers to adopt their foster children without the permission of their birth parents, which, in some cases, could make the process easier.
However, Annalisa O’Sullivan, a foster mother to four, said she did not necessarily think it was a good idea.
“I think that comes with a big set of risks involved because that child then has to grow up and at some point will know that the family didn’t consent to that adoption,” she said.
Cementing the family attachment
Ms O’Sullivan cared for Kiara Oxley, who at 22, is now all grown up.
But Ms O’Sullivan and her husband Trent still want to make their bond official, and adopt Kiara Oxley and her twin brother Zac.
“I think it is important for the twins to have that permanent relationship with us so while they are young adults and even later on into their life,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
“They absolutely know we are their family and that we are always there for them.”
Ms Oxley said the adoption simply felt like a natural transition.
“For me it’s a collective decision between Zac and I, it’s really important for him and important for me as well, in terms of being legally attached to the family and for the solidification of the relationship,” she said.