Immerse: Foster Care

This edition of Channel celebrates outstanding young people, aged 13 to 25, who are achieving excellence in the Arts, Innovation, Music, Education, Sport and Service to the Community (AIMES). This is wonderful to see, but it also highlights one of the most heart-breaking aspects of my work. Seeing similar potential in the young people in our foster care system going unrealised for reasons beyond their control.

The philosopher Aristotle incorporated this concept into his theory of potentiality and actuality. In short, potential can theoretically be made actual by taking the right action. Children who come from hard places, who spend most of their time and energy just trying to survive, are robbed of the opportunity to ‘take the right action’ and unlock their potential.

You might be interested to know that there are several famous New Zealanders who grew up in foster care. Ex All Black, Liam Messam and politician the Hon. Ron Mark can be found amongst them. The right environment allowed them to take the right actions, ultimately unlocking their potential. I was surprised in my research to discover that Steve Jobs started his life in the foster care system in the United States, along with many other famous people whose names you will recognise.

A safe, stable, loving, and consistent environment is one of the most important things we can offer children at risk if we are going to see them reach their full potential. Whether this is inside their own extended whānau, or in a non-kin home, these elements remain critical to their long-term success in life. There is plenty of peer reviewed research to confirm that providing the right environment to children at risk can mean the difference between life and death at the far end of the spectrum.

Caring for children who have experienced early life trauma and loss can been challenging at times. There is no sugar coating that. However, based on my 18 years’ experience of this in our own home, I can say that the rewards far outweigh the costs. Every child has the potential to do well at something, we just need more people willing to provide the right environments for this to happen.