Foster Care Week is celebrated in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia from 11-17 September. We are both humbled and amazed by the enormous contribution of our village of carers who open their homes, their hearts and their lives giving back to the community so selflessly.
Retiring after a lifetime of caring
Joan Graham is often described as having the biggest heart of any human being. An angel with a hidden halo and a shining light to the hundreds, if not thousands of children and young people who have been welcomed into her family during the past 50+ years.
As a child, Joan remembers children from the orphanage spending time with her family during school holidays and at Christmas, so it was only natural that one day she would follow in the footsteps of her parents and care for kids herself.
One of OzChild’s longest-serving carers, Joan and her late husband Brian joined the OzChild family almost 40 years ago, having started their foster care journey 14 years earlier. With four children of their own Joan and Brian welcomed every child into their home with open arms.
Committed to keeping siblings together Joan has cared for countless sibling groups during her time with OzChild and has always worked hard to reunify children with their families whenever possible because family is everything to Joan.
Patient, gentle, warm, and tremendously humble, Joan’s compassion toward children in foster care has seen her dedicate her whole life to making things better for children in care, often taking children with a variety of challenging behaviours under her wing. Joan has always treated every child who walked through her doors equally, with kindness and an abundance of love.
Joan’s devotion to her role as a foster carer extends much further than providing a safe, loving, and welcoming home, Joan has worked tirelessly to ensure other carers are supported on their journey, participating in the OzChild Peer Support Program for several years, offering support and mentoring new carers, sharing her knowledge, tips and tricks with others to build a strong community of carers.
A staunch advocate for the needs of carers, Joan is not afraid to speak up and step up when others need a hand and has volunteered her time to OzChild’s Carer Focus Group and Consultation Group which she was a founding member of. In her spare time, Joan organised and participated in numerous fundraising activities to support the program and volunteered with a number of other organisations, contributing significantly to her local community and the sector.
Fellow foster carer Glenda has known Joan for 16 years and considers her not only a friend and mentor but an inspiration to carers like herself.
“Joan has taught me how to care with grace and humility, she is the carer I aspire to be!”– says Glenda
Opening her home to everyone; kids, other carers, biological parents and OzChild staff, Joan has made so many friends and formed so many relationships during her time as a carer. Once that connection has been made the door never closes, she’s just had to get a bigger dining table!
Joan’s input has helped shape OzChild’s foster care program and the support provided to carers, her legacy to the organisation encompasses not only the many lives she has changed but the way in which we work in partnership with carers.
“Joan’s service to the community, to children and young people, will be etched in the history of OzChild forever, we could not be more grateful to have had Joan, and her husband Brian on our team and feel enormously privileged to be able to celebrate such a long-standing commitment”– Helen Maxwell-Wright AM, OzChild President.
Retiring in late 2021 Joan was recognised with an OzChild lifetime achievement award for her commitment to children and young people through her role as a foster carer.
Every 45 minutes a child enters the out-of-home care system in Australia. The sad reality is the number of children and young people needing care is not slowing down and the number of people signing up to become carers is falling short. Could you care?
Child maltreatment is a pervasive issue that casts a long, dark shadow over the lives of countless young Australians. It’s a problem that transcends social, economic, and cultural boundaries, leaving a lasting impact on victims and society as a whole.
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