Sophia Poppe has the world at her feet.
Every day, the Tanzanian Australian connects to different cultures within her role, assessing, training and supporting the many faces she meets through Centacare Foster Care.
More than 15 countries are represented in the program, with many foster children, families, staff, and prospective carers hailing from diverse backgrounds.
Drawing on her experience as a migrant in Adelaide, and as a kinship carer in her native east Africa, Sophia is an understanding voice for all.
“It makes me very proud to see such cultural diversity amongst us because that’s really what Australia is all about,’’ said the Cultural Assessment & Support Worker.
“You don’t have to know about every single culture, but it’s important to feel, and have empathy for, somebody who’s from a culture that’s different to yours.’’
Malta, South America, Fiji, India, Italy and the United Kingdom are among the birthplaces of Centacare foster carers.
Sophia’s role is to ensure that applicants’ screening, assessment and training reflect cultural and ethnic considerations and factors related to cultural competence.
This continues throughout their foster care journey, when Sophia is on hand to work through challenges that may arise due to differences in cultural beliefs and practices or just simple nuances in communication.
“In return, we see in the foster carers a feeling of relief that they are accepted and understood,’’ she said.
“They feel part of the Centacare family – respected and safe.’’
When a child is placed with a foster family, Sophia assists their support worker to nurture the child’s identity and connection to their heritage.
Recently, she advised a family with a young Nepalese girl in their care. She also advised the Centacare support worker on how they could best support the carer.
“Birth parents take comfort in knowing that, culturally, they will not be disconnected from their child because Centacare is providing the foster family with the cultural support they need,’’ Sophia said.
She is currently developing a cultural competence training program which will be compulsory learning for Centacare foster carers, in addition to Aboriginal cultural awareness, which is led by Les Wanganeen, Aboriginal Cultural Consultant.
“Culture is like a tree and we are the leaves and seeds. Though we may flutter across the ocean and land in another country and grow there, our original roots will always remain with the tree; they will never be uprooted,’’ Sophia said.