Jan Campbell (73) or ‘Nanna Jan’ as she is affectionately known, has been a foster carer with AnglicareSA for more than two decades.

Over the years, Jan has provided care to hundreds of children ranging from those needing care in emergencies, supporting families and children by providing respite care and has cared for children who she has seen grow from toddlers to young adults.

Full of knowledge and understanding, we caught up with Jan to talk about her experiences over the years.

AnglicareSA: How did your foster care journey begin?

Jan: I had just remarried, and with my late husband and I being too old to have any children of our own we looked into foster care. My husband was a high school teacher, we both really loved children and we knew we had a home for children who needed it. My adult children from my previous marriage are also very much involved and they love all the children who come to stay with us.

I’ve always been very community-orientated – before fostering I ran a youth group for 8-12 year olds at our local church because there was nothing to do in the area. It really went well – the children loved it because they had the opportunity to do all sorts of things.

At the beginning we had a lot of two and three-week placements – mainly respite care, and then it just progressed from there. We ended up going through the Long Term Guardianship process and have a 20-year-old who originally came to us at four weeks of age.

What is Long Term Guardianship?

Under a Long Term Guardianship arrangement, carers become the child’s legal guardian and have day-to-day parenting responsibilities. This means they can make more decisions around the child’s health, education, holidays, and emotional, social and cultural needs without having to ask the Department of Child Protection. While guardians can make most decisions, birth parents do keep some decision-making responsibilities. 

My husband passed away 10 years ago and I decided to keep on providing care. At the moment, I provide emergency, respite and short-term care for babies and toddlers – sometimes even newborns straight out of hospital until they’re ready to be reunified with family. I often care for them anytime between six months and two years – until sensitive family situations are resolved or alternatively they transition to a long-term carer.

 “I’m always wanting to be involved with their lives so I often know it’s not the last time I will see them. With some families we even message each other and I receive photos and updates – and with others we catch up at birthdays and other events.”

Over Jan’s 21 years as a foster mum she has cared for hundreds of SA children.

AnglicareSA: How important is it for both yourself and the children to keep in contact?

Jan: I think it’s very important and it’s good for the children too – they’ve been with you for a significant time of their lives, so it should never be that all of a sudden you’re not there anymore. It’s very rewarding to see the children go on and reunify with their families and lead good lives. By providing care for them, the children gain that extra family.  

AnglicareSA: How do you go about managing relationships with birth families?

Jan: When it comes to short-term care – it’s all about trying to get the children reunified with their families and doing whatever you can to make that happen. One of things that I’m not afraid of, and that actually excites me, is meeting the birth families and forming a bond there. I often meet families at hospital visits, and travel around different parts of Adelaide catching up.

I remember one boy – who was reunified with his mum. I used to take him over to his mum’s house and she really appreciated me wanting to build a relationship with their family. There’s something special about having a name and a face attached to who’s caring for your child. I am conscious about not overstepping boundaries or anything – but if they’re happy, then I’m happy.

“I try and make the best effort to bring them up the way I think the parents might like them to be brought up. For every child, I compile a scrapbook full of photos, first milestones, funny stories and even little bits of hair or drawings that can then be passed on to birth families or long-term carers.”

Now, Jan provides emergency, respite and short-term care for babies and toddlers.

AnglicareSA: What would you say to potential foster carers?

Jan: I would encourage anyone who has the love and care to give, and room in their home to become a carer… once you’ve cared for a child you realise how valuable it is to yourself and the community. Yes – it may be a bit scary at first as you’re not sure what the experience may hold. But I’m happy to say I’ll keep fostering for long as possible – as long as I’m capable.

Sharing Jan’s Priceless Knowledge

Jan’s wealth of wisdom is such a unique resource for the AnglicareSA foster care team and the wider South Australia foster care community.

Jan is involved with supporting AnglicareSA foster carers. She has often met and passed on her knowledge to help newcomers understand how to build relationships with the biological families of their foster children.

With her vast experience, Jan also has the ability to pick up on children’s behaviours very early in their lives. In some cases, the Department of Child Protection has gone on to explore Jan’s observations to discover an apparent disability or behavioural condition.

We warmly thank Jan for her pivotal contributions in helping us improve the lives of children in most need of support, love and care.

AnglicareSA is poised to commence recruitment for a new initiative that aims to transform the way intensive support is delivered to families in crisis.

The campaign will target highly skilled practitioners. The service will draw on international evidence such as the U.S. based HomeBuilders program, to provide responsive and effective supports for South Australian families at risk of entering the child protection system.

The Intensive Family Support Service was first announced by the State Government late last year, and is part of the Government’s broader redesign of the child abuse and neglect early intervention and prevention system. 

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink urged people already working in the field who want to make a difference to consider applying for the new roles.

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink

“There is no doubt working with vulnerable families in their own homes will be incredibly tough but rewarding work,” Minister Lensink said.

“The State Government wants to give parents the best possible chance to look after their children safely at home, which is why we committed $2.8 million to this pilot that will engage 46 families and about 138 children.

“We hope to see real change from this pilot program, with the ultimate aim of stemming the flow of children coming into the child protection system.”

AnglicareSA CEO Peter Sandeman said the service is a fundamental part of the reform triggered by the Nyland report and is expected to commence mid-year in Adelaide’s northern suburbs following the appointment of the first group of intensive family support specialists.

Royal Commissioner Margaret Nyland

“Ultimately, our goal is to enable more children to live safely at home with their families,” Mr Sandeman said.

“The number of children and young people entering out-of-home care continues to climb and we want to reverse this trend.

“We want to strengthen and empower families to enable them to keep their children safe at home – now and over the long term.”

“There is much to be done to turn around a system in crisis but this is a vital first step. We are absolutely committed to driving change and having a real impact on families and children at risk of removal.”

Peter Sandeman

AnglicareSA is keen to appoint responsive and innovative practitioners who are motivated to work with families to facilitate change in their natural environments.

Mr Sandeman said the recruitment drive aims to attract a diverse mix of experienced practitioners, including those with Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

Applicants will be qualified in Social Work or a relevant discipline, have an in depth understanding of the child protection system and have expertise in child and adolescent development.

Apply for the role of Intensive Family Support Specialist today.

At the end of last year, retired builder 74-year-old Alf was struggling to stand up straight.

Two years ago, Alf was feeling light-headed and had a fall on a flight of stairs – severely dislocating his knee, breaking his leg and fracturing his lower back.

At the time, Alf was living in affordable housing, and had no support services. His son lived interstate and his friends, although in Adelaide, resided quite a distance away.

“After my fall I was in such a state – I felt depressed and was at the end of my tether,” Alf said.

“I wouldn’t even get up to go and make myself a cup of tea – the pain was that bad.”

Alf had two major operations following the incident, and later found out from his doctor that he had likely suffered a minor stroke.

Still on the waiting list for a spinal operation, he was barely coping to do the basic necessities at home.

“I couldn’t cook – I stopped because one night I made a casserole and somehow got it in the oven, but on getting it out, my back gave way and the whole thing hit the floor,” he said.

“It wasn’t just the moving around – I couldn’t navigate the [aged care] system and figure out where I was meant to go to get help.”

Alf was struggling to navigate the aged care system and find the right support services

Helping to Navigate the System

Following a home visit to Alf and realising the struggle he was having, AnglicareSA tenancy officer, Sara Williams referred him to the AnglicareSA Aged Care Customer Advocate, Jo Carter Jones.

“When I first met Alf he was really struggling – he was frail and fragile. He couldn’t get in and out of bed, or sit down and get up off the couch without serious pain. He had a very old back brace with Velcro that had completely worn – he was keeping it together with pegs.”

Jo, AnglicareSA

Jo, as the Aged Care Customer Advocate, works side-by-side with people like Alf, trying to navigate their way through the aged care system.

When Alf reached out to Jo, he said “it took only a couple of days before everything started to come together.”

“Within about two weeks, I had someone from aged care visit… and within another couple of weeks I had a Short Term Restorative Care Package with physio and the lot,” Alf said.

“After about three weeks I was actually standing up straight… and not only walking straight but quicker… I couldn’t believe it.

“It was absolutely fantastic – with the special exercises, acupuncture and massages – I was moving and physically fit again.”

AnglicareSA Aged Care Advocate, Jo helped link Alf to various services

Through this package, Alf also received equipment such as bed and toilet raisers, bathroom chairs and a new back brace – enabling him to regain his freedom, independence and confidence.

Alf continues to be supported by an AnglicareSA Home Care Package which provides the in-home services he needs.

“I’m receiving support and have all these gadgets to help me out — and it’s all because I had the assistance navigating through the system”, he said.

“Without that help – knowing who and when to call, what plans I could get – I can honestly say I wouldn’t have made it.”

Alf is now able to carry out the regular tasks at home pain free (and with a smile)

Home is Where the Heart is

To his delight, Alf has also since transferred to a house in Seaford Rise – an area of Adelaide very close to his heart.

“I used to live just up the road, back in the 1970s – we were one of the first families to buy a house down here,” he said.

“A few friends and I started the O’Sullivan’s Beach Football Club when my son was just 7 years old – he’s 52 now.

“The boys (son’s friends) still call me up Thursday, Friday – they pick me up to go to the footy, we have a few beers and they drop me home.”

Alf is overjoyed with life in his Seaford Rise community

Originally from England, at the age of 28, Alf brought his young family to Adelaide after friends had raved about life in South Australia – particularly the weather and the beaches.

For many years he worked for one of Australia’s largest construction companies, Baulderstone Hornibrook (now acquired by Lend Lease) with stints around the country.

“I worked on just about every single multi-storey building in Adelaide,” he said.

“Building is not like these days – in my first 40 years of work it was all manual and heavy labour.

“My back has always given me trouble and I’ve got arthritis through my hands – so my fall just topped it all off.”

Alf says he’s now in a “great place” – with the support through his Home Care Package and a home in the community that originally made him fall in love with Adelaide.

“In just the last week, I’ve had three phone calls from friends saying ‘you’re back down here again, we’ll drop down soon!’,” he said.

“I can’t wait to get back into the local lifesaving and footy clubs. I’m managing very well, the move has been good, and AnglicareSA have been terrific.”

Imagine arriving in Sudan without a single word of Arabic, Swahili or Dinka… and trying to start a new life.

Imagine the stress of making sure your children are safe, happy, comfortable and receiving the best education – and not being able to communicate with the teachers at your local school.

Imagine the overwhelming feelings of isolation.

These are just some of the things Sudanese from refugee and migrant backgrounds face when they first arrive in Australia.

Most Sudanese refugees who settle in Australia come from South Sudan, where less than 30 per cent of children who start grade 1 end up reaching grade 5. With overwhelming dropouts, only two per cent complete primary school.

As a result, adult literacy levels are some of the lowest in the world – according to Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina only 32 per cent of South Sudanese over the age of 15 are literate (and only 12 per cent of women).

This can be a serious challenge for the Sudanese community in Australia, as many families from Sudan are headed by single mums.

What does this mean for Young Sudanese Refugees?

Before arriving in Australia, most young refugees:

  • have only received very limited and interrupted education;
  • have no English language skills;
  • and come with the trauma of their refugee experience.

It’s likely that not only will their mothers and fathers not speak English – but there is little chance their parents will be literate in any language.

Only two per cent of children in South Sudan complete primary school

The Anglican Sudanese Engagement Project

Andrew’s Farm, a suburb in Adelaide’s north, is home to one of the state’s largest Sudanese communities, with many children attending the local school, St Columba College.

Previously, language barriers have meant that the school was unable to contact parents and engage them in their children’s life at school.

Parents were left feeling disconnected, with issues happening at both home and school triggering a challenging environment for the students.

Students at St Columba College junior school

In identifying these issues, the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide and St Columba College reached out to AnglicareSA to drive change.

And for the last four years, AnglicareSA’s Anglican Sudanese Engagement Project has supported parents to build confidence and a stronger connection with their children’s life at the college.

The project, which ran from 2014 to 2018, was joint-funded by the three-way partnership, with Sudanese community leader, David Amol employed to lead the project and develop a school-based service for students and their parents.

David is also leader of a local Anglican Sudanese congregation in Elizabeth and is a well-known personality in the Playford area.

Sudanese community leader, David Amol

 “People who really understand each other, are there for each other as friends, and work together – that is something that you really need.”

David Amol

AnglicareSA Principal Multicultural Services, Mary Awata said the Anglican Sudanese Engagement Project has had substantive contact with 165 Sudanese students and a further 44 students from other parts of Africa.

“Due to language barriers and other issues at home, parents are vulnerable to being disconnected from students and their schooling – in many cases families were uncontactable,” she said.

“David, with his deep understanding of the community, has been a vital bridge between the school, students and parents, which has seen the school culture, environment and student performance significantly improve.”

AnglicareSA has teamed up with the Adelaide Crows to help families at St Columba feel more included in their Australian community

The project has seen St Columba College establish a cultural diversity and inclusion team, which has identified a range of issues including the need to cater more specifically for Sudanese girls and women.

Parents have become involved in school strategies and volunteering, and have been provided spaces for group meetings at the school.

Connecting More and More Families

AnglicareSA has also recently established the Family Connect program to continue its work with St Columba College, with a particular focus on supporting mothers from a refugee background.

Family Connect program worker, Mwajemi Hussein, who herself arrived in Australia 14 years ago with no English, works with mothers facing the same struggles from her lived experience.

“We run workshops, do home visits, help with appointments and link families to schools. The biggest challenge for them is getting familiar with the new system and lifestyle. It can be hard for them to go out and connect, especially when their English is limited.”

Mwajemi Hussein
AnglicareSA Family Connect worker, Mwajemi

The Sudanese Engagement Project has sparked interest from other Adelaide Anglican and Catholic colleges looking to ramp up their engagement with the increasing culturally and linguistically diverse community in Adelaide.

A network of Playford schools led by St Columba College have developed a diversity strategy to progress multiculturalism and inclusion.

On the back of the successful project’s conclusion, David has taken on a new position as Sudanese Family Liaison Officer at the school, where he will continue to guide African students and their families.

AnglicareSA receives a number of referrals from customers who have received an NDIS plan but do not understand what options and services are available for them. 

AnglicareSA’s NDIS Customer Advocate and Support Coordination team are the first point of contact for new customers wanting to access AnglicareSA services. 

Sometimes their support for customers is very short term (weeks) and other times they may support customers for much longer (years) depending on the type of support a customer needs.

“I don’t know what we would have done if you had not come along Irene — thank you.”

Jane, Scott’s Mum

Scott’s Story

“My name is Scott, I am 15 ½ years old I am the only child. I live with my mum Jane, my father left us when I was 3 years old and has not had contact since.

My mum is a full time carer and supports me with all of my needs, including socialisation, communication and self-care. I love listening to music; I have a good sense a humour and love playing jokes on my mum.

In the last couple of years I have suffered severe anxiety and struggled to leave my mums side and get out of the house. I would like to communicate well so that people understand me and learn to socialise with others. One day, I would like to participate out in the community and get a job and help mum.”

A Mother’s Perspective

“Scott received his first plan in February 2018. I contacted many organisations for them to help me understand what supports, services and options were available to Scott but for some reason I became unhappy and lost hope and felt that there were no options out there for my son. 

My son did not receive services from the previous specialist support coordinator and there were no funded services arranged. Three months later, my son and I were at risk of losing our tenancy. A friend referred me to AnglicareSA and helped connect me to the Support Coordination team.

Irene, one of the Specialist Support Coordinators had visited me and Scott at home and instantly explained the plan to me and the support options available to Scott. “

Receiving Specialised Support

In the first two weeks of receiving specialised support from AnglicareSA, Irene, Scott and Jane worked together and we were able to:

  • Continue to sustain Jane’s tenancy by simply organising a house clean and assisting her to understand the paperwork required to complete.
  • Receive in home respite support for Scott.
  • Submit a report to the NDIS which enabled them to complete the NDIS plan review without having the second appointment.
  • Discuss the range of in home therapeutic services available to Scott.
  • Help Jane understand more about the NDIS, which assisted her to commence the first steps in applying for an NDIS package for her own supports.