Young girl caring for disabled older sister

October 22, 2007 at 11:01 am | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

 This fairly standard case study of a family looking after one of their own who has a disability featured in the Herald Sun on Saturday. 

October 20, 2007 12:00am

TWELVE-year-old Elisha Catlow is speaking to an audience of several hundred adults at Hawthorn Town Hall this afternoon. She won’t be nervous. She has done a power of speaking over the years, and the subject is close to her heart. The year 6 student from Balwyn will be talking about her sister, Amanda. The bond between them is more than blood — Elisha regularly takes care of Amanda, 19, who is significantly disabled with tuberous sclerosis, and is totally dependent on others for all her needs. Their mother, Cathy, is Amanda’s primary carer, but when Cathy had gastro last month, at the same time as dad Michael had shingles, Elisha took over. She knows first-hand how the shortage of respite care for people with disabilities puts stress on their families. That is why she volunteered to tell her story at today’s disability forum run by Yooralla as part of Carers Week. Elisha says people and policy-makers need to understand how difficult it is for the families of disabled people. The Catlow family are typical of what Yooralla chief executive Bryan Woodforde describes as the “increasingly unrealistic expectation” placed on family carers. “There is an extraordinary crisis in carers that nobody wants to talk about,” Woodforde says. “We currently have the greatest generation of carers in history, providing services with an economic value of more than $30 billion, but the world is changing and future generations won’t be in a position to provide that level of service. “When the current generation of carers is no longer there, who is going to be paid to do the role, and how?” Elisha Catlow isn’t new to the role of carer or advocate. As social services captain at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar, she recently raised more than $1000 for Interchange, a non-profit organisation that helps the families of children with disabilities. When she addressed an Essendon Football Club coterie function at Telstra Dome, $20,000 was raised for Very Special Kids. She has strong opinions, too: “I get mad when people park in disabled spots.” Mostly, though, Elisha is a little girl who likes playing netball and piano, and adores her older sister. “When I come into the room, her eyes light up. I love it,” she says. “We do the little things — hugs, stuff like that. “Her new thing is that she leans out for kisses. She has started pursing her lips.” Amanda cannot speak, and has the intellectual development of an eight-month-old baby. While Elisha helps with daily tasks, Cathy is full-time carer responsible for all her needs, including feeding, bathing, dressing, turning and toileting Amanda. Michael Catlow works long hours in the recruitment industry to keep the family together. The Catlows have purpose-built their house so it is suitable for Amanda, and for ambulance trolleys, and have installed closed circuit TV so they can watch Amanda in her bedroom. They say the personal and financial pressure on them has become even greater since Amanda reached 18, and no longer qualifies for respite care given to disabled children. Now they must rely on three hours of in-home assistance three nights a week through Boroondara Council, which Cathy says barely allows her time to take Elisha to netball. “It’s ironic that we are still the parents of a child with a disability, and our daughter has the intellect and support needs of a baby, but because her actual age is over 18 we’ve been stripped of most of the services we could previously access,” she says. The Catlows get support from Yooralla, through its Pendle St Respite House, but getting predictable respite care has become increasingly difficult. “We long to have a break, more than just a few days — something like what people call a holiday,” says Cathy. Michael says the family are but one of many struggling under the lack of respite opportunities for families of adults with a disability. “Governments say they have no money,” he says. “Then they go and spend $50 million on the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony and another $50 million on the closing ceremony. “The Government says it wants care to be more home-based, but the resources to do that have actually become less.” Cathy says: “I’m 51 and still changing nappies. “I feel like I haven’t had a life for 19 years. “At some point, I feel we’re going to break down. We’re not going to last.” Elisha says she tries not to think about the future. “I never want Amanda to go into a home,” she says. “If that happened, I’d have to go with her.”

Volunteering challenges

October 16, 2007 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Issues for Fostering, Media | 1 Comment

Yesterday we posted up a link to the story of a foster grandmother, a segment in the Life Matters series on volunteering.  I had a look at “Have Your Say” page to see how people were responding to the series thus far.  It was saddening to note that the comments were mostly about negative experiences of volunteering.  While I did not spot comments by any foster carers, it was interesting to note the similar challenges faced by volunteers across a range of settings.  Issues included feeling disrespected, financial disadvantage, beaurocratic mixups resulting in lost information, lack of clear communication, excessive policies and procedures, and liability issues.  One commenter wrote about the  “decreased sense of ownership that occurs when city based paid staff manage volunteer organisations from a central location thus eroding the community involvement and ‘ownership’ of the services”.  I think these issues are also pertinent for foster carers.  Thankfully they do not sum up the full story of volunteering.  If you have a positive experience or reflection on volunteering, go over and make a comment!   You can read or contribute comments here

Foster Grandmother across the airwaves

October 15, 2007 at 2:46 pm | Posted in Media, Stories | Leave a comment

Life Matters on Radio National is currently running a series on “The Third Sector”; Australia’s band of volunteers. This morning’s discussion featured a letter from one of Melbourne’s foster grandmothers (click here for a link to listen online or download). She takes us on her journey through foster care as supporting her daughter’s decision to become a full-time foster carer. It shows her initial inhibitions, and her questioning of why her daughter would want to shake up their lives with a new and “challenging child”. But, she concludes by reflecting that, 3 years on, it has been a wonderful and rewarding experience for all involved. Her journey really demonstrates just how much fostering touches the whole family. Do listen, her story is well worth hearing.   Jess…

Take Action for All Abilities Festival

October 12, 2007 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Coming Events | Leave a comment

This advance notice of an exciting community event was put together by one of my colleagues who will be involved on the day…

November 17, a date for your diaries!

Kew will be hosting jumping castles, face painting, tai chi and (fingers
crossed), Melbourne’s own Choir of Hard Knocks for the “Take Action for All
Abilities!” Festival.

The festival aims to promote inclusiveness throughout our community,
bringing businesses, community groups, and people who are marginalized
together for a day of music and fun, and everyone is invited.

All sorts of community groups and organisations will be going along, as well
as many other people from the community. Anglicare will have a stall set up
with information about foster care for anyone who is interested. All Friends
and Carers are also most welcome to come along, especially, but not only,
Friends and Carers involved in the Disability program.
Where: Alexandra Gardens, Kew (along Cotham Rd)

When: November 17th, Midday- 7pm

Why: To celebrate community inclusiveness, and to have fun!

Dr Bruce Perry in Melbourne

October 10, 2007 at 11:02 am | Posted in Coming Events, Resources, Supports for Carers | Leave a comment

I have just heard about this two-day workshop coming up in December, entitled  ‘Children in Trauma, Trauma in Children’.  The workshop will be presented by trauma specialist Dr Bruce Perry, senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy .  The workshop will be hosted jointly by Berry Street Victoria, Take Two and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency.  Bruce Perry has contributed significantly to understanding how children are effected by trauma, and in particular, the impact of trauma on brain development.  This workshop is for carers, workers, and therapists.  I strongly recommend attending if you can, as Bruce Perry’s teaching is both enlightening and hopeful.   The workshop venue is ‘The Centre Ivanhoe’ and each day will run from 9.30pm to 4.00pm.  I don’t have the exact date or costs, but you can contact Amanda Kevin-Tidis on 9429 9266 or for more information.>

Fostering Change Brochure

October 2, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Posted in Coming Events | Leave a comment

I just found a link via the Victorian Fostercare forum  for a brochure for the upcoming national conference.  You can download it here.  The program looks excellent.

Fostering Change

October 1, 2007 at 10:34 am | Posted in Coming Events | Leave a comment
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Just a reminder that the National Foster Care Conference “Fostering Change” is being held this week at Telstra Dome.  I am sure it is not too late to register if you are interested in going.  The conference will be a great opportunity to meet other carers, share stories and resources, and hear some inspiring speakers.  You can register at the website.

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