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Changing The Stigma Of Foster Carers

By Marcus Braid on July 6, 2015 in News

Photo: Grant Brooks

Photo: Grant Brooks

Eastern Suburbs foster parent Neil McFarlane was watching SBS’s Insight program last year when he became extremely agitated.

“They had a birth father on the show and he had had his own children removed,” Mr McFarlane said.

“The birth father had decided his goal was to locate where the foster children were and reveal the address; to basically break down the placement of the foster kids.

“I was burning with fire after I saw it and I thought, ‘This is the crux of the problem’.”

The episode was the catalyst for Mr McFarlane to create what is now the ‘Faces of Success’ book project, which aims to change the perception and stigma attached to foster caring.

“In the past, foster care has suffered from a variety of stigmas,” Mr McFarlane said.

“It’s anything from money to vested interests to the way society has pictured foster carers and foster children; that these kids have something wrong with them. That’s not the case at all. This project is all about changing the whole perception out there, and it’s happening ever so slowly.

“We’re talking about the relationship between two of the most important parties in foster care, which is foster parents and the kids that are in care. It’s really focusing on that relationship.”

Faces of Success is a project that will see contributors from all across Australia, as far spread as Western Australia and North Queensland.

“How you would define a contributor is someone who has grown up as a foster child but is now an adult,” Mr McFarlane said.

“They’re talking about the person that turned them around and put them on a new path, and said, ‘You have options and an exciting future ahead of you. The past doesn’t need to define your future’.”

Mr McFarlane hopes to educate people that everybody has the opportunity to be a foster carer if they can open their home and heart.

“It brings it all back to what’s important, which is giving these kids a stable environment and a helping hand in life, and that their history doesn’t need to define their future,” he said.

“That’s the biggest message. It really breaks my heart when I see where some kids end up. If they just had the right opportunities in life, they could go on to do amazing things.”

Mr McFarlane lauded foster parenting as the “highlight of his life”.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “While challenging at times, it brings such a source of light into my life. Just seeing [my foster kids] happy means the world to me.”

A series of foster care agencies are supporting Faces of Success, but $18,000 worth of fundraising is required to support the project.

“I’m hoping to raise about $18,000, which will help with the actual production of the book,” Mr McFarlane said.

“It will help with the cost of getting it designed and help with going to conferences and meeting with contributors. There’s no personal interest in this; it’s just about getting these stories out.”

To donate to the Faces of Success book project, visit