Centacare Foster Care has marked its 10-year anniversary by honouring specialist reunification stalwart Lyn Matthews and her late husband Roy.

The Matthews welcomed 19 children into their home, “ some for a couple of nights, some for longer,’’ across nine  years with the program, which is based at Seaton.

‘’I still miss it,’’ said Lyn, who retired in 2021, as Roy’s health declined.

‘’It’s something we both loved doing, and we did feel that we made a difference.’’

Centacare’s longest-serving foster carers, the Matthews (pictured) provided high-level therapeutic care for children aged 9 months to 16 years and nurtured their connection to culture and family.

Lyn said their aim was always the same: to give every child safety, love, and life experiences and support their contact with birth family, with a view to them returning home.

Centacare is the only foster care agency in South Australia with a specialist reunification component.

Seventy-five children have been reunified with their birth families since the program began in 2013.

‘’We always had a good relationship with the parents,’’ Lyn said.

‘’I think it’s a matter of not judging them in any way; putting it down to a set of circumstances, rather than a fault on anyone’s part, and listening to what they have to say.

‘’They probably know the child in more depth than what you do as a foster carer, and they can always give you some insight.’’

Over the past decade, Centacare Foster Care has grown to more than 70 carer households.

The program provides full-time and respite care, and immediate, short-term and long-term placements for children aged 0 to 17 years.

Foster carers receive initial and ongoing professional training, development and support to prepare them for caring for children who have experienced trauma.

‘’They will tell their stories, but there’s always a bit missing,’’ Lyn said.

‘’Often those missing pieces come out through play therapy.’’

Lyn said being a foster carer had taught her patience, and she is proud of the influence her family had on so many young lives.

‘’I still hear from a couple of them and often they’ll remember something we said,’’ Lyn adds, pointing to her old mantra `if it doesn’t matter, let it go’.

‘’I remember two sisters who would fight over silly things. If the older sister started a fight, the youngest would say ‘if it doesn’t matter, I’m going to let it go,’ and she would walk away.

‘’It’s those sorts of things that kids do remember that can make a difference to them, and I think that’s important.’’

Speaking at a celebration to mark the 10-year milestone yesterday, Children’s Services Unit Executive Manager Amalie Mannik said staff and carers were passionate about seeing children reunified with their birth families.

‘’The specialist reunification model is exceptional; it’s the only one of its kind in the state and it has an over 90 per cent success rate in returning children home, which is where all the research indicates they should be, when safe to do so,’’ she said.

A contractual change in 2018 allowed Centacare Foster Care to provide general as well as specialist foster care.

Amalie said that over the past five years, the program had experienced a more than 400 per cent increase in both carer households and children supported in placements.

‘’Foster carers are an integral part of the child protection system,’’ added Placement Manager Jenny Boyle.

‘’They don’t just open up their hearts and their homes to the children, they also have respect and empathy for every birth family.

‘’I feel very honoured to be working alongside such amazing people.’’

Jenny highlighted the Matthews’ role in helping children reunify with their families and, when this was not possible, supporting children to transition to their forever home.

The couple devoted 15 years to foster care and supported 22 children throughout their journey.

‘’I know Roy’s memory will live on in those children who you supported, in their hearts and in their memories,’’ she said.

Assessment Manager Alicia Remedios acknowledged the foster care team’s ‘’hard work, innovation and creativity’’ over the past decade.

‘’You have been a great support to one another in the last decade, celebrating each other’s successes and wins, however big or small they may be,’’ she said.

‘’The bell we ring when a successful reunification occurs is a constant reminder of why we are here and why we do the work that we do.’’

* If you are caring and compassionate and have room in your heart and space in your home, consider becoming a foster carer.

Call Centacare Foster Care today on 81591400 or email fostercareenquiries@admin