Fostering Opportunity

16 February 2024

FOSTERING OPPORTUNITY

Meet a heart-warming family comprising Marie, Tony, two adult daughters, and a little girl who has found a permanent place in their home and hearts. We sat down with this extraordinary family to learn about their journey as foster carers.

For Marie, the lifechanging decision to become a foster carer was born out of lived experience.

As a teenager, she was largely raised by her grandparents – something Marie is eternally grateful for.

“I didn’t have the best circumstances when I was growing up, but my grandparents stepped up around my teenage years, and now I am who I am because of them,” she said. “I wanted to be that person for someone else. I felt like it was time to give that opportunity to someone else, to give back.”

Marie’s husband, Tony, agreed.

“It wasn’t part of our big grand plan, but I thought we should give it a go after Marie suggested it,” he said. “Our two daughters have grown up now and they’re off doing their own thing, so it seemed like the right time.”

To embark on their fostering journey, the family connected with Junction.

“We initially had an unsuccessful attempt at fostering where it wasn’t the right fit. It wasn’t long after that we received a call from Junction who suggested we take on a different child. They said, ‘we’ve got a little girl for you to meet.’ Of course, we did. That was it, we fell in love with K. That was three years ago.’

Prior to joining the family ‘K’ had been in a short-term foster placement.

“She was 17 months old at the time, and from the moment I met her onwards I would go to the other foster home every night after work so I could get to know her. I learned about her routines, got her used to me, bathed her, fed her, and put her to bed.”

Tony said most people were curious when he told them about his family’s role as foster carers.

“The response was usually really positive,” he said. “People would relate to it with their own stories, and some would say that they would like to do it one day too.”

“My hopes for her future are just that she is happy. She always asks me if she can be this or that, and I tell her she can be anything she wants to be.”

While becoming a foster parent presents unique challenges, the family were prepared through the pre-requisite ‘Shared Lives’ pre-assessment training as well as Junction’s specialised Trauma Training for foster carers. “Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is different,” Tony said. “Different things affect her behaviour compared to what our daughters were like at the same age. We did some training on this through Junction before we became foster carers, so we knew what to expect and how to handle it.”

Importantly, K maintains a connection with her biological mother, facilitated by Marie and Tony, through monthly catch ups. “It’s important for her to have a connection with her birth Mum. It’s where she came from, and we will always make the effort to ensure that relationship exists. She understands that she has two Mums, and she enjoys seeing her in the visits. K really benefits from it.”

Recently, Tony and Marie became the legal guardians of K, completing their experience with Junction’s family-based care program.

“Applying for guardianship meant hours of interviews with social workers for both us and our daughters, as well as providing personal and professional referees,” Marie said. “The last step was to go to court, which was in January this year. We found out on the day that it was all approved, and we were so happy.”

“I explained to K that it means she can stay with us forever, and she was so excited. She received a special certificate which she took to childcare to show everyone.

“My hopes for her future are just that she is happy. She always asks me if she can be this or that, and I tell her she can be anything she wants to be.”

Tony added: “She is a part of this family, there is no doubt. We will give her all the opportunities and guidance that we can, just like we did for our now adult daughters. The world is her oyster.”

As of February 2024, Junction supports 56 foster carers, who provide love and support to 53 children across 41 families and households.

Have you considered becoming a foster carer? Learn more by visiting
https://junctionaustralia.org.au/foster-care/

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Tiny Homes Campus

4 January 2024

Tiny Homes Campus

Junction is planning a bespoke and innovative housing project to help young South Australians.

Junction intends to create a unique “Tiny Homes” campus as part of a community approach to helping young people successfully transition out of the care system.

The Tiny Homes campus will be a collection of 10 new self-contained compact homes set amongst open green space with communal areas for learning and connecting.

The transportable homes, to be custom-built off-site, will be approximately 17sqm in size and feature modular, built-in furniture and storage, a work/study station and a kitchen. Each will also have large windows for natural light and mini-deck areas.

The homes will be made available to 10 young people, aged between 16-18 who are leaving out-of-home care and don’t have family support networks.

Junction staff will be on site 24/7, providing support and running life skill programs.

Located on a current vacant parcel of land at Tonsley, the campus will be close to key education sites including TAFE and Flinders University.

“With the Tiny Homes campus we aim to help young people live independently – but with support – so they can learn to thrive as part of a community,” Junction Chief Executive Officer Maria Palumbo said.

"Young people ultimately want to belong and feel safe as well as have the freedom to learn and grow."

“We hope that the life skills they develop on campus will assist them as they prepare to later move into more permanent long-term housing.”

“We are firm believers in the adage that it takes a community to raise a child. Tiny Homes has the potential to make a big positive impact on the lives of many.”

The land, located off Ash Avenue in Tonsley, is owned by the South Australian Housing Authority and has been leased to Junction.

Junction is engaging with neighbouring residents and the local community to contribute to the regeneration of the site and connecting areas. An Environment Protection Authority(EPA) accredited auditor has been appointed by Junction, to ensure the site is suitable for the proposed development and to enable the project to positively contribute to the area and the community in the safest and most sustainable way.

“This is an innovative solution that not only bridges a gap in the care of vulnerable young people, but also brings life back to a site and regenerates it for the benefit of the whole community,” Ms Palumbo said.

“The reality is children leaving care are more likely to experience homelessness, complex health issues and end up in the justice system. They need care and support to help them succeed into adulthood.”

“Right now, there are very few options for young people exiting care. Through the Tiny Homes campus, we are offering an opportunity to live in a safe and supportive environment and pursue study or employment to set themselves up for the future.”

Junction is a social enterprise supporting around 10,000 South Australians each year through housing and community services.

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Christmas with Mrs Claus

18 December 2023

CHRISTMAS WITH MRS CLAUS

Nestled in the heart of Santaland in the Myer Centre on the second floor, Helen has been spreading festive cheer and joy as ‘Mrs. Claus’ for the better part of 20 years.

Having first donned the iconic red and white attire in 2004, she had spent almost two decades bringing a smile to the faces of children and adults alike.

For Helen, her role is far more than just wearing a costume – it is about creating a magical experience for all who visit.

“I love to see so many lovely children smiling at me. I also love to help the parents by reminding the children that being on their best behaviour puts them on Santa’s nice list,” Helen said.

Having discovered a passion for performing during her time at Flinders university, Helen has been a model, actress, and performer which gave her the experience needed to embrace the role of Mrs. Claus fully.

"I love to see so many lovely children smiling at me. I also love to help the parents by reminding the children that being on their best behaviour puts them on Santa's nice list."

As Mrs. Claus, Helen plays an important role in calming the nerves of excited children in the line up before they meet Santa.

Helen reads stories like “Three Billy Goat Gruff” and “Three Little Pigs” to the children while reminding them of the importance of good behaviour to secure their spot-on Santa’s good list.

At 74 years young, Helen continues to play her role as Mrs. Claus with enthusiasm. She does it for the pure love of making people smile.

“The adults are appreciative, and the children love it. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Helen said.

As Christmas approaches each year, Helen stands ready to spread joy and warmth. Her dedication to Mrs. Claus has touched many hearts, making her an integral part of the Santaland display made possible by Tony and Ros from Essential Talent, who supply the jobs and the costume.

Helen reminds us all to believe in the magic of the season and cherish the joy of giving and sharing with our friends and family.

“I hope I can continue to do this for years to come,” she said.

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Year in Review 22/23

30 November 2023

Road to Impact Year in Review 22/23

We are pleased to present our Road to Impact – Year in Review 2022/23.

The idea of creating long-term positive change for those we work with, and the communities we work in, forms the very heart of Junction’s purpose.

Our ethos is built on the idea of self-determination – giving South Australians the Freedom to Thrive.

Indeed, defining, capturing, and measuring this is no easy task. However, impact – and being able to articulate how we achieve it – is vital to understanding whether what we are doing is improving the lives of those we work with.

Over the past 12 months, we have made great strides in understanding our impact. Born from the foundations of Theories of Change; the organisation is now primed for next steps – with the development of fundamental documents to provide clear direction and guide us along our road to impact.

This report continues to build on our evolution from an Annual Report focused on outputs to an Impact Report demonstrating outcomes as they align to our strategy and within the broader social and political environment.

We have already taken strides along this road to impact. In the coming year we look forward to understanding how we can better help people not just survive, but thrive in life.

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The Heart of Caring

20 October 2023

THE HEART OF CARING

Anyone can become a carer, at any time. Ryan, who cares for his nephew who has specific needs, believes this whole-heartedly.

For Ryan, who lives in a Junction home in Prospect, caregiving is about compassion and lightening burdens.

Ryan explains that he finds fulfillment in making a positive impact on others’ lives.

“There’s a broad spectrum of carers, just as there are of people with different needs. Some carers focus on helping a single individual, while others provide a network of support to multiple people,” Ryan said.

“Being a carer means understanding and empathizing with the fact that everyone has something they’re struggling with, either big or small."

“We all have strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

Ryan believes that the benefits of caring go both ways.

“One thing I think those in need of special care really do for others, is requiring us to do our utmost to help them. This, in turn, helps us mature as people,” he said.

While fulfilling, Ryan also acknowledges that caring can be mentally taxing at times.

“While worthwhile, there are most certainly challenges to being a carer. Since the person you’re supporting may have trouble maintaining their dynamic in their day-to-day.”

Outside of his care responsibilities, Ryan believes that even the smallest actions, like offering well-wishes to a neighbour in need, can help.

“Simple acts of kindness, like a friendly greeting, can have a meaningful and positive impact,” he said.

He is adamant that being aware of other’s burdens and lightening them where possible, is something everyone should do.

“It is a role that we all should be a part of, even if it’s only in a very small way in someone else’s life.”

Carers week (15-21 October) celebrates the 2.65 million Australians who provide care and support to a family member or friend.

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Buddies for Life

10 October 2023

BUDDIES FOR LIFE

Sometimes, the unlikeliest of circumstances have the largest impact. Such was the case for Kristian and his dog Buddy, from Mitchell Park.

At just 17, Kristian experienced the loss of his beloved Pop – the person he respected most. With the added weight of childhood trauma, mental illness and a minimal support network, Kristian turned to drugs as a way of seeking connection and masking the pain.

“I used drugs as a way to hide from trauma,” Kristian said. “My family turned their backs on me when I started using. There was no confrontation, they just walked out. I guess I punished myself where they didn’t.”

Battling with his addiction for almost 2 decades, Kristian experienced ongoing homelessness, unemployment, paranoia, schizophrenic episodes, and spent time in and out of jail.

“My mental health deteriorated pretty badly,” he said. “Years later, I was barely with it. I was seeing and hearing things that weren’t really there.”

It wasn’t until Kristian rescued his dog Buddy, a 6-month-old deaf heeler-cross, that things started to turn around.

Ultimately, it was the risk of losing his new best friend to his ongoing struggles with homelessness and mental health, which motivated Kristian to turn it all around.

“They told me I’d have to give my dog up because I couldn’t look after him. I just sat there in tears,” he said. “That was the moment I decided I’m getting off drugs now.”

After hitchhiking from Millicent to Adelaide, Kristian enlisted the support of Safe Pets Safe Families, who crowdfunded enough money to pay for a motel, before linking him in with Junction.

6-months into his sobriety journey, Kristian found his mental health improving.

He no longer needed or wanted drugs, but he knew it was an ongoing battle.

Now, almost 5 years after rescuing Buddy, Kristian has settled into a new home and has made new connections through local groups.

Previously a skilled labourer, factory worker and crane operator, he also continued advancing his skills through training opportunities, and found part-time work as a gardener.

“I enjoy being outside and doing the hard work. It’s satisfying when you build and maintain things and get to see the results,” he said.

He also started training as a public speaker, peer counsellor and advocate for those with similar experiences – the work he is most proud of.

“Now that I have built myself a foundation, I keep getting more opportunities to use my voice as an advocate. I have been interviewed for newspapers, spoken on the radio and podcasts, and I am going to be speaking at the AAIC (Australian Anti-Ice Campaign) training in Queensland later this year.”

“It’s been an amazing journey. Some days it’s hard but I will never go back.”

October is Mental Health Awareness Month

For support:

Lifeline
Call 13 11 14 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Text 0477 13 11 14 (6pm to midnight AEDT, 7 nights a week)

Beyond Blue
Call 1300 22 4636
Visit beyondblue.org.au

Suicide Call Back Service
Call 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline
Call 1800 55 1800
Visit kidshelpline.com.au

MensLine Australia
Call 1300 789 978

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Rooted in Culture

12 September 2023

ROOTED IN CULTURE

Family, culture, and identity.

These three values lie at the very heart of the Mauheni-Edwards family – and are what have helped Aroha and her husband Huey connect with the 17-year-old young man who recently came into their care.

A Māori woman originally from the east coast and northern tribes of New Zealand, Aroha now lives on Kangaroo Island with her family.

For Aroha, connection to place has always been an important part of her identity – and it is something she and Huey have tried to keep alive for their children.

“When we first moved here in 2007, I was eight and a half months pregnant,” Aroha said. “We made a promise to each other that if we were to stay, we would return back home every two years for the children, so they knew where they were from.”

When Aroha and Huey were approached to take on the care of their son’s friend – a 17-year-old Aboriginal young man – things seemed to just fall into place.

“My son Kaea knew him from school – they were already good mates. Kaea really just wanted to support him,” Aroha said. “So, when DCP asked us, we sort of just went from there. He was already part of the family, but now it wasn’t just for the weekends.”

The concept of raising a child with no blood connection is not a new one to Aroha. In fact, the idea of a ‘whāngai’ has deep roots in Māori culture.

“In our culture, we have a similar system, but it’s not seen as a system – and it’s called a whāngai,” she said.

"A whāngai is someone who is loved by someone who is not their (biological) parent,”

“My husband Huey was a whāngai, and my eldest son is a whāngai to my parents. They brought him up for five years.”

Having witnessed the strength of whāngai first-hand, Aroha believes it is important to provide her family, including whāngai, a strong connection to identity – and for them to understand their roots.

For the young man in her care, this meant bringing him back to Country.

“When he started living here, we asked him where are his roots? Where are his rivers, where are his oceans? We told him we would take him home, and we did.” she said. “It was important for us that he return back, just as it’s important to return our kids back home.”

Although the young man has now been reunified with family, Aroha still cherishes the individual moments they spent together as family.

“Table talk over dinner is huge. We talk about our highlights and our fails. The first couple of dinners, he’d say ‘I don’t have a highlight.’ Now, when we ask him, he’ll talk for the whole dinner,” she recalls. “I love just seeing him communicate confidently and all those normal daily things that he now loves doing with us.”

However, she was most proud of the fact that he could eventually laugh with no reservations – as loudly and robustly as the rest of the family.

“I’m happy to say, he now laughs from the bottom of his belly. Head back, eyes closed, watering,” she said. “That’s what I love.”

If you are interested in becoming a Foster Carer, visit our Foster Care page.

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In House and Home

7 April 2023

IN HOUSE AND HOME

Facing homelessness during the height of a global pandemic wasn’t something that Reece, a long-term private-renter from the Fleurieu Peninsula, ever expected to happen to his young family.

As housing prices sky-rocketed during COVID, the single father and his two boys, now aged 7 and 9, were forced to move from their family home when the landlord decided to sell.

“Before COVID, I was paying $250 a week in rent. That home is now $450 a week. We just couldn’t afford it,” Reece said.

After applying for over 160 private rentals with no success, Reece started reaching out to services for support.

“I was telling everyone – ‘I have two kids and I’m about to be homeless’,” Reece said. “I was applying for everything, from the Fleurieu all the way down to Marion.”

In June 2022, with nowhere else to go, the young family found themselves sleeping in a caravan. They spent the next several months living day-to-day with no fixed address.

“We were moving every few days. Sometimes we were in a cabin or motel – that sent me broke. Other times we were in a carpark,” Reece said. “We stayed in a caravan on the side of the road for a while. We had to notify the council and put a ‘temporary’ sign up.

“It became so stressful. I found myself drinking a lot, which led to me losing my license.”

Despite these many setbacks, Reece managed to keep his boys in school the entire time.

“The boy’s schooling came first – they never missed a day,” Reece said.

“We spent lots of time outdoors – they love going to the skatepark, they love their sports – anything we could do for free.”

After connecting with Junction, the young family finally found some relief and moved into their new home right before Christmas.

Utilising services and donations, including a couch found on the side of the road, they began to re-build their lives.

“The boys now play football at their local club. I love watching them. They want to get into basketball next – They have lots of energy to burn,” he said.

“We’ve become good friends with the neighbours, they have kids the same age. They play together, have sleepovers – they have even been boating.”

Reece soon found part-time shiftwork as a cook, before settling into a gardening and landscaping job, matching his skillset perfectly. He has also been volunteering at the local Neighbourhood Centre’s Repair Café.

Now, a year on, the young family is thriving and looking to the future. They hope to build a greenhouse and chicken coop in their backyard and have plans to try new activities, including archery.

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For Them

3 April 2023

FOR THEM

For Murray Bridge resident Shohan, becoming a carer had always been in the cards. Growing up in a tight-knit family, she quickly developed a natural affinity with children.

“Even as a child myself, I was always offering to take care of the other kids in my family. My mum said I started doing it when I was only three,” she said. “As I grew older and my friends started having children, I would also offer to take care of them.”

Shohan, who has a 19-year-old biological son, opened her heart to a little girl after meeting her through work.

“I was a SSO (Student Services Officer) at a primary school and the principal there had short-term care of a young girl. At nine months old, she was so tiny, she couldn’t even hold her own bottle,” she said. “When they struggled to find her another home, it just broke my heart. So, I decided I’d do it.”

After undergoing the appropriate processes, Shohan took on the young girl’s care.

“It happened so quickly but I knew she needed a home, so I didn’t mind,” she said.

“She is the most beautiful little girl. My whole life has changed.”

Three years on, Shohan now also cares for the little girl’s sibling – a one-year-old boy. Supported by Junction, her family and community, Shohan has enjoyed every moment of her journey.

“I have never once regretted it. There are challenges for sure. Recognising they have trauma and dealing with the emotional side is always difficult,” she said. “But it’s been amazing seeing them grow, seeing them smile, hearing their laughter. Just knowing they’re happy and safe.”

Now three-years-old, the little girl has grown to become brighter and more curious than ever.

“When I first got her, they said she wouldn’t walk, wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t do anything. She has since proved all the doctors wrong,” Shohan said. “If she was left in the environment she could have been left in, she may not have hit her milestones.”

She hopes both children will grow to live their lives to the fullest.

“No child chooses to be born into a bad situation. I don’t want them to feel that they’re disprivileged because they were in foster care,” she said.

“At the end of the day, you’re doing it all for them.”

If you have ever thought about becoming a foster carer, visit our Foster Care page for more details and to get in touch:

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A New View for Veronica

19 April 2023

A NEW VIEW FOR VERONICA

Veronica in her garden.

Filling up a glass of fresh water or using the bathroom is something many of us do without thought. But for Veronica, who lives in the inner-south, this is something she will never take for granted.

Growing up in the Fleurieu, Veronica’s hardships began at an early age.

“I was without parental figures from the age of 9. My father passed away then, and I didn’t have anyone else,” Veronica said.

By her late teen years, Veronica was living in a run-down, mouldy caravan with no access to fresh water or bathroom facilities. Surrounded by an environment of violence and substance abuse, Veronica knew that this was not the life she wanted to live.

“I used to stress a lot about where I could go to the toilet next, wash my clothes, get fresh water or refrigerate food.”

Despite being homeless, Veronica persevered through Year 12 before seeking help through Junction’s Fleurieu Homelessness Service. In mid-2022, she moved into her own home for the first time.

“Now, I don’t have to worry about any of that,” she said. “Little things that used to stress me out just aren’t a problem anymore.”

Since settling into her new home, Veronica has been able to focus fully on her goals. An aspiring lawyer, she has since found employment and intends to get her first aid certificate and driver’s license before moving forward with any big plans.

“I’m currently just working on becoming financially stable. I’ve never had more than $100 to my name so I’m learning how to manage my bills. I’m learning little things like how to wash dishes because I’ve never had anyone to teach me that,” she said. “I’m learning day-to-day mundane things that other people take for granted.”

Although she has faced many challenges, Veronica attributes her optimism and work-ethic toward her close friend who passed away a few years ago.

“Only after their passing did I want to start living. Not for them, but because I know they wanted me to,” Veronica said. “I think that was the turning point that made me wake up and say ‘hey, I don’t want to live like this anymore’.”

Looking to the future, Veronica dreams of reconnecting with the earth and living sustainably on her own land.

“I am proud of myself but I am also excited to evolve more. I am trying to focus on the future rather than where I am right now,” she said.

“I know where I am right now isn’t where I want to be, but it is where I can begin to move on.”

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