The five-year-old face of Centacare’s new foster care campaign is one of the lucky ones.

After spending eight months in residential care, `Jamie’ found stability and love with a foster family shortly before his fourth birthday. 

Sadly, he is the exception rather than the rule, as a desperate shortage of carers for primary school aged children in South Australia continues to grow.

More than half of the children waiting for foster homes across the state are aged five to nine years old.

Centacare Foster Care Manager Amalie Mannik said an overwhelming preference for infants among foster carers has made it more difficult for Centacare to place children aged two and up.

“It’s incredibly challenging not being able to place this cohort of children, where the need is and I think this is due to a perception that older children are more challenging to care for than babies,’’ she said.

“But there are so many toddlers and primary school aged children who would be able to thrive and meet their developmental milestones if they had a stable, secure base and a nurturing home that could support them through life.’’

Centacare has launched a new campaign to encourage people to join our circle of care.

The campaign is centred on 18 fictitious characters including Jamie, which also feature in a new logo and program branding. The aim is to raise awareness of the need for more foster carers, and the different types of care that households can provide to help children of all ages.

Amalie said foster carers for children aged five to 12 were especially needed.

“These children are engaged at school, they’re learning to read and write and are at that beautiful age when they can start pursuing activities and experiencing new things, yet it’s very difficult to find them family-based homes,’’ she said.

“Out of all of the children placed within the Centacare Foster Care program, less than half are primary school age, which isn’t reflective of the need.’’

Amalie said foster carers with primary school aged children in their care regularly highlight the benefits of nurturing this age group.

“They support them with their school engagement and have the benefit of being able to gain feedback from the children during meaningful conversations,’’ she said.

“Not having to lift infants is less physically demanding, and they also don’t experience sleep deprivation as they would with an infant if they are waking through the night for feeding.’’

Centacare Foster Care provides immediate, short-term, long-term and respite care for children from birth until adulthood.

The process of becoming a foster carer can take between three to five months from application through to approval.

To join our circle of care, please phone Centacare Foster Care on 81591400 or email


Foster carers and birth families are swapping sounds and pictures to stay connected during COVID-19.

Their creativity is bringing joy amid the chaos to children, siblings and parents living apart.

“Something like this always births innovation, and our families are going above and beyond to make sure there’s still meaningful and regular contact,’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager, Centacare Foster Care.

From video updates to recordable teddy bears, new ways of keeping in touch are emerging each day.

“Some birth parents have recorded lullabies on video, or into special bears, so that their children can still hear their voice,’’ Amalie said.

“Others have been singing songs and telling bedtime stories on Facetime. Even just to be able to see their child’s bedroom, that sort of connection is so important.

“A lot of the foster carers have put together little photo books and templates so the kids can show mum and dad what they’re doing each day.

“The birth families miss their kids. They love them deeply and unconditionally, so having face-to-face contact decrease so dramatically is really tough.”

Amalie said the creativity was doubling as an important learning tool, with foster carers able to provide guidance and feedback to birth parents, based on their interactions with their children.

“So as much as they’re keeping in touch, they’re also learning new ways of connecting with their children.’’

Innovation amid COVID-19 has changed the way Centacare Foster Care operates too.

In lieu of face-to-face contact, support workers are now consulting with foster carers via phone or virtual consultations. Training is being conducted by video and a new work booklet, while information sessions are being delivered online.

Virtual assessment visits have also been introduced.

“We are looking at increasing respite for households that need it, and we have developed `emergency plans’ for the children if carers become unwell,’’ Amalie said.

For more information about becoming a foster carer with Centacare, please phone the team on 8159 1400.



Foster carers have used pictures to illustrate their journeys, to further understanding of their important role.

Launched last week at Centacare, Seaton, Photovoice provides foster carers with a platform to express their experiences through visual narratives.

The images provide a powerful insight into their everyday and help others to see foster care through their eyes.

The project was facilitated by Master of Social Work student Sid Wagle, on placement from Flinders University.

Eight foster carers provided three photographs/images which they felt encapsulated their caring experience and were then interviewed, which provided the narrative and reasoning behind the images.

The project illustrates how their perception of foster care has grown during their caring journey, from initially wanting to make a difference, to developing a deeper understanding of the challenges and complexities many children face – and the satisfaction of being positive influences in their lives.

Moments of joy, sadness and grief are expressed in the photographs, through which foster carers also express their hopes for the future including additional support and continuity of care for children.

“The reflections are very powerful and you can really feel that it’s personal, and that you live this every day,’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager, Centacare Foster Care, at the launch.

“It’s a powerful way of raising awareness about foster care, especially to those who don’t understand it.’’

For more information about Centacare Foster Care program, phone 8159 1400 or email









Foster care is a truly family affair for Marianne Langes.

Growing up, the 64-year-old shared her home with four siblings and three much-loved foster children, whom her parents later adopted.

Marianne is now following in her parents’ footsteps, as a Specialist Short Term Reunification Carer at Centacare.

For the past three years, she has played a pivotal role in a care team that has wrapped around a brother and sister, and their birth family.

The primary aim has been to see the children return home.

Marianne has done whatever she can to nurture the relationship between parent and child, and respond to the children’s often complex needs.

“I’m a single carer who’s never had children so it’s been a steep learning curve, but they’ve changed my life,’’ she says.

“They have brought so much laughter and love into the house. There is never a dull moment. Every day they give me some sort of surprise, be it big or small. It’s just a joy.’’

The pull of familial ties is close to home for Marianne who watched her brother search for his identity in his early twenties.

“I just saw in him that real need to be reconnected to birth family and I think that’s why I chose reunification,’’ Marianne says.

Specialist Short Term Reunification Carers support and encourage family connection and contact for children in their care, and help them to frame meaning about their experiences.

In recognition of the outstanding care Marianne has provided, she was recently invited by the Department for Child Protection to a two-day Adelaide workshop with therapist and international speaker, Bonnie Badenoch.

Bonnie’s focus is on helping trauma survivors and individuals with significant attachment challenges to reshape their neural landscape to support a life of meaning and resilience.

Children in care often face complex challenges due to family complexities and part of Marianne’s role is to help children make sense of events.

“I’ve had to have a flexible brain in trying to sort out what to do with some of the children’s issues,’’ Marianne says.

“The workshop helped me to think how I react to the children and it affirmed some of the things I have done with them and left me with two impact statements – I see you and I am here – and the other is to hold the brain with compassion.

“With the children, I’ve learnt the importance of being present; to just be with them, and that I don’t always need words and to jump on a problem.’’

Marianne is grateful for the support and training she has received at Centacare and highlights the fortnightly home visits made by Foster Care Support Workers.

“That has been really great – the time given to you to listen to you,’’ she says.

“I know it’s about the children but a lot of it is the support of you which makes a real difference.

“I’ve no regrets with anything I’ve done in my life, but this I think has fulfilled me the most and given me more rewards than what I’ve given to the children.’’

A world of colourful creatures greets visitors upon arrival at the new office of the Guardian for Children and Young People in Gawler Place.

From a giant parrot to a castle guarded by a puffer fish with elephant legs, and a dragon-winged pony under a rainbow, the painted murals lining the entrance hall make a bold statement.

On show at the office’s official opening last week, the murals were created by young people in foster care and from the Adelaide Youth Training Centre, in partnership with artist Fran Callen.

Fran has worked as a community artist since 1995 in metropolitan, rural and remote areas of Australia, Kathamandu, New Dehli, Edinburgh, Florence and Singapore.

The artworks showcase the creativity of the young people who painted bits of each mural panel over many months and workshops at the office.

Three children supported by Centacare’s Foster Care program took part in the project.

“The murals are a fabulous, expressive and explicit way for a child’s inner world to shine through for all to see,’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager.

Guardian Penny Wright complimented the young artists on their work before officially opening the office with the help of Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson.

Growing up in a land of contrasts piqued Alicia Remedios’ social conscience early in life.

Born and raised in Pune, India, Alicia shared the cosmopolitan city near Mumbai with eight million people, many drawn to its colleges and universities.

“My family lived in an apartment complex with people from diverse cultural backgrounds but there was a massive slum next door,’’ she says.

Amidst the chaos of open drains, shops, shanties and overcrowed alleyways, many thousands of people lived and worked.

“I had quite a protected childhood but the slum community was always at the back of my mind,’’ says Alicia, who migrated to Adelaide in 2014.

“You could walk to it along the railway line and we would pass it on the way to school.

“It grew bigger and bigger over the years as more people came from rural areas and families got larger.’’

It was in the sprawling slum’s squalor that Alicia began her working life years later when, backed by a clinical psychology degree, she joined a non-profit focussed on empowering women and nurturing children’s wellbeing through learning.

“Poverty is the same everywhere, it’s just quite glaring in India because we don’t have a system that looks after disadvantaged people, so it really hits you and it’s quite confronting,” she says.

“I think I realised very early how important trust is in building quality relationships within a community and I needed to be patient in doing this.

“For me what was really powerful was tracking resilience. These were kids that did not have much at all and yet they were at the learning centre every day, bathed and with food, giving it their best.

“There was significant domestic violence but the women were amazing. Here were mothers that had been abused the night before but they still got their children to school and ready in the morning because they wanted so much for them to have a better life and an education.

“When I go back home now and walk down that street, I come across a few families I knew. I don’t keep in touch with them on a regular basis but I often wonder where they are, what they’re doing.’’

At 27 and feeling professionally stifled in India, Alicia migrated to South Australia and joined Centacare, first working on the Bilby Bus and later with mothers experiencing pre and post-natal depression and anxiety, as part of the Making Moments attachment program

Alicia credits these roles for teaching her about diversity within cultures, and reminding her of the importance of building trust in order to support others – whether in the slum, an outdoor play setting working with vulnerable families, or in a young mum’s home.

Currently a Training and Review Officer with Centacare’s Foster Care program, Alicia’s role involves training new applicants and existing foster carers.

“I enjoy listening to the motivations of people wanting to become foster carers and their commitment to the role; it’s a hard job and it’s amazing to be part of that journey.

“I also think it’s extremely important that we continue to work hard in finding family-based care for children. They truly deserve to have safe and nurturing adults in order for them to grow, learn and increase their sense of self-worth. Hopefully they can be reunified with their birth families if safe to do so.

“It’s a program that’s evolving and growing. We are a multicultural team too, so we all have different perspectives and I thrive in an environment like that.

“It shows a commitment to Centacare’s inclusivity and diversity.’’

For more information about foster care, please phone Centacare on 8159 1400 or email


Every parent needs a well-earned break to rest and recharge, and foster carers are no different.

That’s when respite carers step in: to share the responsibility of caring for children and young people while also providing them with an opportunity to extend their friendship and support networks.

“It takes a village to raise a child and respite carers are a crucial part of that village,” says Amalie Mannik, Manager of Centacare’s Family Preservation Foster Care Program.

“Respite allows for the carer to rejuvenate, re-energise and replenish their resources, enabling them to maintain the quality of the care that they provide. It can prevent placement breakdowns and carer fatigue.

“In order to care for others, you also need to look after yourself.’’

Organised in partnership with foster carers, respite care is planned around maintaining the child’s regular routine.

Respite carers are carefully matched to children and long-term carers to ensure the best connections and experience for themselves, the children, and their foster families.

“I feel that I help children to acknowledge that people can connect with love and respect, creating a positive reinforcement,’’ says Carmen Polidori, a Centacare respite foster carer.

“I enjoy finding the child’s positive attachments through playing and talking. I believe respite foster care strengthens and brings out the best in a child in a positive way.’’

Respite carers undertake the same training, assessment and approval process as foster carers, and have the option of providing other forms of care, such as short-term and long-term placements.

“Respite carers are an invaluable part of the community of care that provides a consistent and stable environment for children to thrive,’’ says Leanne Haddad, Executive Manager of Children’s Services.

“Regular support and specialised training gives respite carers an understanding of the experiences of children in care, and how this affects their needs. It also helps to prepare new carers to meet the needs of children.

“Even if it’s only for one night, respite care is beneficial for children because it encourages them to forge new friendships and widens their network of familiar faces they can trust. They also get to experiences new places and opportunities.

“It brings back the neighbourhood approach to care as it takes more than one family to raise a child.’’

Centacare is seeking respite carers to join our foster care team.

A child-centred approach, flexibility, empathy, love for children and a willingness to support families is essential.

For more information on becoming a respite foster carer, phone our foster care team on 8159 1400.

National Families Week begins today. To celebrate the vital role that families play in the community, we will be highlighting some of the many ways Centacare supports families to thrive. Today we look at our Children’s Services Unit which celebrates the diversity in community and believes in providing families with opportunities.


Each year, Centacare’s Children’s Services Unit (CSU) provides support to about 340 families and 600 children across metropolitan Adelaide, the Murraylands, Mount Gambier, and the Riverland.

We aim to build parenting capacity that is sustained long-term through the provision of family supports, therapeutic interventions, the development of parenting and relationship skills and connection to community resources.

We work with families to identify and harness their strengths, build confidence and address challenges. These may include drug and alcohol misuse, mental health, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and abuse and neglect.

Our multidisciplinary teams consist of social workers, nurses, counsellors, therapists, administration, management and leadership.

“We work with vulnerable families to create sustained change; even the most marginal family deserves supports,’’ says Leanne Haddad, Executive Manager.

“The rewards are invaluable when families can stay together in a safe and supported environment.’’

We offer a number of programs for families, children and young people, from parenting groups, to home visiting programs, family support services, targeted intervention, specialist dad support, family preservation, reunification programs and specialist foster care services.

Staff work with the families to identify risks and target support to mitigate challenges impacting their capacity to parent.

“Therapy is provided alongside in-home supports to families,’’ Leanne says. “This is a crucial element that can lead to sustained change. The therapy addresses the underlying factors that often cause the at-risk behaviours.’’

How we can support you

Click on the links to explore our CSU programs and services

Do you have the desire to make a positive difference in a child’s life?

We want to make the foster care process straightforward…

  • Are you over 25?
  • Do you have a good understanding of the needs of children?
  • Do you have a spare bedroom in your home?

If you answered YES to all of the questions above we’d like to hear from you.
You could qualify to join our dedicated team of foster carers.

We are holding monthly information sessions where you can find out more about what’s involved in becoming a specialist foster carer, the assessment process, and other prerequisites. For more information about future dates please visit our Foster Care Information Sessions page.

Come along to get a better understanding of foster care, including why children need foster carers, a realistic view of the responsibilities of a foster carer, the important links foster carers can provide for children and their birth families, and the steps involved to become a foster carer.


Juggling work and home life can be tricky without the support of family and friends.

When life gets busy for foster families, respite carers step in.

“In many ways, they are the backbone of the foster care system,’’ says Kirsty Drew, Executive Manager, Family Outreach and Relationship Services.

“They provide backup support to full-time foster parents and give them the time they need to nurture their own wellbeing, safe in the knowledge their foster child is being cared for by a familiar face.’’

Centacare is now recruiting respite carers, aged 25 to 70 years, to host children for short-term stays, such as on weekends, during school holidays and, sometimes, at late notice.

“If a full-time foster parent falls ill, they need to have the flexibility of someone to call on to help out,’’ Kirsty says.

“At the same time, respite care gives children and young people an opportunity to forge meaningful relationships outside of their foster home, as they experience new adventures in the company of others.’’

Centacare provides the training, assessment and ongoing support required to become a respite carer, and there are no out-of-pocket costs.

Respite care is a good way to start for people who want to help vulnerable children aged 0 to 12 but are unable to make a full-time commitment.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, retired, or employed full or part-time, if you have room in your heart and home, consider becoming a respite carer,’’ Kirsty says.

For more information on becoming a respite foster carer, visit our Foster Care website’s information sessions page, or phone the foster care team on 8159 1400.



Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700

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