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Catholic agencies win child protection awards


A Catholic education scholarship program for young people in care and two Centacare Catholic Family Services staff members have been recognised at the inaugural 2021 SA Child Protection Awards.

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One of four finalists in the ‘Improving education and learning outcomes for children and young people in care’ category, Catholic Education SA (CESA) took out the award for its ‘generous scholarship program’.

The Catholic Schools Scholarship Program is a collaboration between CESA and the State Government aimed at removing any financial barriers to enable young people in care to have the opportunity to attend school and thrive in a positive learning environment.

First announced in June 2020, the program currently has 167 new students enrolled or due to start next year in Catholic schools, with an additional 32 awaiting confirmation of enrolment.

Each recipient will receive full tuition, uniforms, textbooks, excursion and extracurricular activities, that will continue each year until they complete their schooling.

The scholarship program, funded by CESA, is available to children and young people in both metropolitan and regional SA who are enrolling for the first time in a Catholic school.

CESA works closely with Department for Child Protection caseworkers to identify children and young people who would benefit from the program. Any child or young person in care may be nominated for a scholarship, and they are then matched with a school that best suits their individual needs.

CESA director Neil McGoran, said the success of the program was founded on “the many Catholic schools who have so warmly welcomed these new students into their schools and communities”.

Les Wanganeen and Eric Cruz, from Centacare Catholic Family Services.

Centacare Aboriginal Cultural consultant Les Wanganeen was named metropolitan Kinship Carer of the Year for his role as sole carer of his cultural grandson, while Eric Cruz took out the Media Award for his work developing the Circle of Care campaign.

The duo were among a raft of Centacare faces nominated for recognition, with more than 200 entries received across 12 categories.

Dr Jackie Amos and the Reunification team were finalists for Excellence in Child Protection Research while Bindee Davis and Karen Weeks were in contention for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principal Award.

Les had been planning on retirement when he became a kinship carer five years ago, driven by a determination to keep his then-newborn cultural grandson connected to family, Country, culture and community.

He joined the Children’s Services Unit shortly after and juggles his kinship role with his work within Centacare Foster Care.

This involves partnering with foster families to normalise culture in the everyday life of Aboriginal children in care.

“Cultural connection is about linking children into the bigger picture and establishing their place in the kinship structure,’’ he said.

In raising his cultural grandson, Les has drawn on a long career in child protection and has been able to uphold the ATSI Child Placement Principle which recognises and protects the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families and increases their level of self-determination.

One third of the children in foster care with Centacare are Aboriginal, and have a background of trauma, grief and neglect.

Eric, in his role as Foster Care Assessment and Recruitment officer, was applauded for his work in raising awareness and understanding of the different types of foster care, and the many different reasons children come into care, through the Circle of Care initiative.

Eric partnered with Quisk illustrator Denham Haynes to create the campaign which puts children at the heart of a circle of care and highlights the role of foster families in giving them safe and loving homes.

The awards were presented at the SA Child Protection Awards breakfast held during National Child Protection Week (September 5-11).


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