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 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









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.

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.

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