Teen's heartbreaking search for a family

Jack is 13 years old. He likes playing Xbox, swimming and shooting hoops.

He seems like your typical young boy, but for one heartbreaking exception.

Jack needs a family to go home to this Christmas and foster parents to care for him until he reaches adulthood.

"I've never had a family. I want to do things with them and be like other kids I know," he said.

"[To have a family] would mean I'm not worthless, and that someone will care for me."

Jack is one of the kids in the Barnardos Find-a-Family program - a permanent foster care and open adoption scheme for young children in need.

Find-a-Family program manager Jo Villa said it helped children who were not able to live with their birth family because it was deemed unsafe.

"Children need stability to get through their life, especially their childhood and adolescence," Ms Villa said.

"We look to find families who have time to make a long-term commitment to these children, families that can provide a stable, secure environment for them, like Jack needs."

Ms Villa said the program was shifting its focus to take in children from babies to five years old; however Barnardos would continue to support children through to 18 years old.

This includes several older children who are currently in the system, such as Jack.

"When these families are able to provide best for the needs of a child and when this relationship is successful, it develops a sense of belonging in them and provides significantly beneficial outcomes for their futures."

Ms Villa said there were about 70 families in the Illawarra caring for these children, some who had helped Barnardos facilitate over 25 local adoptions this year.

"Adoption takes time. It's not a process you can rush," she said.

"Being a foster carer is a different way of being. It's hard to become one and it's not an easy job. It's a big commitment, but it's rewarding.

"These children have already had a lot of hardship and loss.

"Being a carer can give these children like Jack the best opportunities in life ... it's a great thing."

For more information or to help out, please contact Barnardos on 4297 0670.

 Jo Villa, Find-a-Family program manager, outside Shellharbour Barnardos. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Jo Villa, Find-a-Family program manager, outside Shellharbour Barnardos. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER


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