South Australians are a generous bunch.
The Christmas buzz at Centacare Seaton shows just how much, as the Children’s Services Unit (CSU) packs and wraps gifts donated by charity partners for families in need.
Every Christmas, the Appeal distributes more than 200 hampers to gift across Adelaide in memory of namesake, Brother Michael Kirgan.
Br Michael drove the initiative’s rapid growth in the 1980s from the Glen Osmond Monastery, in order to reach more people doing it tough.
The hampers include a Coles voucher, mixed groceries and a present for each child in families working towards reunification with Unify’s support.
The service works intensively with families who have been separated by the child protection system due to safety concerns and supports parents to make life changes to meet their children’s needs so that they can safely return home.
Unify Manager Sam Carpenter said parents undergoing reunification often lose access to family benefits which can lead to housing stress and financial strain.
“The hampers take away a little bit of that stress because the families not only have access to food but the hope that comes with knowing they can provide for their children,’’ Sam said.
“Often the children and young people have returned to their birth family from foster placements.
“To be able to go back to where they have an emotional connection, knowing their physical needs will be met too, is a really important part of their transition home.’’
This year, 47 children and young people have been reunified, making their Christmas particularly special.
From festive treats to household items, food and baby products, the donations will provide practical relief for families facing complex challenges.
Under RESTORE Intensive Family Services, families with children at imminent risk of entering care receive intensive six-month in-home and community-based support, with a focus on strengthening and restoring parental capacity.
Kids in Focus works in partnership with families for up to 18 months to minimise harm caused by parents’ substance misuse and create safe home environments.
RESTORE South will distribute presents collected by St Agnes Chiropractic Clinic.
The practice’s clients have been donating gifts for children engaged with Centacare since 2016.
More than a quarter of families involved with RESTORE South have experienced homelessness.
The service prioritises young parents (aged under 25 years), adolescents with significant trauma histories, Aboriginal families with multiple and complex needs, and families of infants at high risk.
“Since the cost of living has risen, everyone is struggling across the community, and that struggle is even more profound for adults and children who experience disadvantage,’’ said Amalie Mannik, Executive Manager – Children’s Services.
“So, to be gifted a hamper or toys for their children, the families are just so grateful.”
Centacare Foster Care will give a special keepsake donated by Orange Tree Quilters to a carer who has gone above and beyond this year, while Catholic Charities and Variety SA have combined to support the program’s Christmas party and the purchase of presents for every child.
CSU staff spent yesterday packing hampers with goods donated by Mater Christi Parish after an overwhelming donation of festive food, pantry staples and assorted gifts.
The hampers will be distributed to foster care households, and clients supported by the Next Steps program.
In partnership with Housing Choices Australia and Aboriginal Sobriety Group, Next Steps supports young people exiting care to transition to independence.
More than 70 carer households are engaged with Centacare Foster Care which provides immediate, short-term, long-term and respite care for children from birth until adulthood.
Amalie said, like other CSU services, the program usually sets funds aside for Christmas celebrations, but thanks to the outpouring of community generosity, that money could be put back into service delivery.
“What has been phenomenal this Christmas is how much community has given to those that are vulnerable across all of our services,’’ she said.
“The cost of living is impacting all South Australians yet so many have opted to give the gift of giving to help others, and that’s what is so special.”