08-09-21 Centacare Aboriginal Cultural Consultant Les Wanganeen is the metropolitan Kinship Carer of the Year.

Recognised in the inaugural SA Child Protection Awards announced today, Les was applauded for his role as sole carer of his cultural grandson.

Eric Cruz took out the Media Award for his work developing Centacare’s Circle of Care campaign in his role as Foster Care Assessment and Recruitment Officer.

The duo were among a raft of Centacare faces nominated for recognition, with more than 200 entries received across 12 categories.

Dr Jackie Amos and the Reunification team were finalists for Excellence in Child Protection Research while Bindee Davis and Karen Weeks were in contention for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principal Award.

The Awards were presented at a breakfast ceremony at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Les had been planning on retirement when he became a kinship carer five years ago, driven by a determination to keep his then-newborn cultural grandson connected to family, Country, culture and community.

He joined the Children’s Services Unit shortly after and juggles his kinship role with his work within Centacare Foster Care.

This sees him partner with foster families to normalise culture in the everyday life of Aboriginal children in care.

“Cultural connection is about linking children into the bigger picture and establishing their place in the kinship structure,’’ he said.

In raising his cultural grandson, Les has drawn on a long career in child protection and has been able to uphold the ATSI Child Placement Principle.

The Principle recognises and protects the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, and increases their level of self-determination.

One third of the children in foster care with Centacare are Aboriginal, and have a background of trauma, grief and neglect.

“This overrepresentation is the ripple effect of intergenerational trauma’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager, Centacare Foster Care.

Eric was applauded for his work in raising awareness and understanding of the different types of foster care, and the many different reasons children come into care, through the Circle of Care initiative.

Eric partnered with Quisk illustrator Denham Haynes to create the campaign which puts children at the heart of a circle of care and highlights the role of foster families in giving them safe and loving homes.

Carers, children and even a family pet form a ring to symbolise Centacare’s child-focused practice and the care team that wraps around foster carers to train and support them on every step of their journey.

Back stories were developed for each character to put foster care into context for the wider community.

Delivered by the Department for Child Protection in partnership with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), the Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations who provide vital support to vulnerable children and young people, and the incredible role of family-based carers and volunteers.