Keeping Connection to Culture

Whatever you call it, due to the impact of COVID-19, life as we once knew it has changed, probably forever. Children have watched as adults nervously await the daily updates from WA Premier Mark McGowan - What restrictions will we get today? When do you think I can go back to work? I wonder if I'll still have my job? They don't see their friends as much anymore, and for a while, they didn't have to go to school, an answer from heaven for some, and for others, another cruel blow dealt by this loathsome virus.

The resilience of children should never be undermined when reflecting on the strength of the children in our care.

“I find it sobering to think that, while so many of us are losing our heads in the mass panic and hysteria of this global ‘crisis’, for so many of the children and young people in our care, this is their normal or even a stroll in the park compared to the real adversity they have faced in their young innocent lives,” said Johnny Rylatt, Co-Director Out of Home Care.

Pretty powerful stuff when you consider some of these children haven't even hit high school.

Chrildren


I recently reached out over the phone to one of our Therapeutic Foster Carers, Moira, who was out busily shopping for supplies for some children who were due to arrive that evening for their first night in care. Whilst she was at Spotlight, browsing the aisles for bedding and other necessities, we spoke about what life has been like for the three children she currently cares for.

Moira has been a foster carer with Parkerville for an amazing 10 years with some of the children in her current care having been with her for the past four years.

When I asked Moira how the kids were coping she responded... “they are brilliant”. Whilst the challenges for some of the children are still there, overall they've taken to homeschooling and ISO-life like fish to water.

“We've been lucky, being surrounded by the bush means the kids are able to still take their bikes out, play basketball and get up to their usual mischief,” Moira said.

As I am sure many parents can attest, home schooling was always going to be a challenge, but alas, a new reality meant that it needed to be faced head on. Moria suggested to the kids that perhaps they should name their new home school. After some deliberation, a unanimous decision was reached, it was to be "CAMP CORONA" - they designed a school emblem, just to make it official. This was complimented throughout the house with posters that read, “Quiet Please we are learning” - advising all visitors that class was now back in session.

Some days at CAMP CORONA were a real success, others... not so much (cue all parents nodding in agreement). One of the children, in particular, found home schooling to be a BIG adjustment. This child has quite high needs and requires lots of attention and assistance to complete the tasks assigned. He coped really well, however, he was definitely ready to go back and see all his friends.

For an 11-year-old girl in Moira’s care, home schooling was a blast and she wished it could stay like it was forever. Moira’s said this child, who has been in her care for the past four years, really shone these past few weeks and the time spent at home has helped her reflect on her own connection with family.

The child has never had much information on her culture and has recently begun to show a keen interest in where she is from and finding out about her family roots. Fortunately, Moria was able to connect the child with her father via Skype and they were able to speak about her relations and their history.

Moira said, "this was a wonderful experience for the child. She was so excited to learn that she had a huge network of relatives up north, they have even started learning some of her native language from resources they've been able to access via the internet."

Keeping connected during COVID-19 has been a challenge we have all had to navigate. For the children in our care, it is so important that, where appropriate, they maintain the connections they have with their biological families. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters here at Parkerville we have been able to ensure these connections are maintained and nurtured, which has led to much better outcomes for the children we serve.

Thank you for taking the time to read this little story, and for all the work you do to change the lives of children for the better.

Johnny Rylatt is the Director for Out of Home Care and has been part of the Parkerville Children and Youth Care team for close to a decade.

Author: Tony Hansen is the General Manager of Cultural Services and joined Parkerville Children and Youth Care in 2015
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