Foster care support on the Central Coast has been given a boost with the region welcoming its first wave of ‘Pyjama Angels’, just in time for NSW Foster Care Week.
The Pyjama Foundation is a charity that aims to give children in foster care the opportunity to change the direction of their lives with education, learning, and confidence.
Their Love of Learning project recruits and trains volunteer Pyjama Angels who are matched with a child in care to spend time with, providing the child with a mentor and respite for the full-time carer.
Recently, the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation awarded The Pyjama Foundation a $24,000 grant to enable the expansion of the program on the Coast for the first time.
According to Pyjama Foundation CEO and Founder, Bronwyn Sheehan, the expansion is already making a significant difference in the lives of many foster children across the Coast.
“I’m constantly in awe of the enormous impact this program makes to a child in care,” Sheehan said.
“Children in foster care thrive when empowered by a support person, and our Love of Learning Program provides them with another ‘constant’ adult influence to have fun with and learn with, as well as providing our dedicated foster carers with much needed respite.
“The cost for us to screen, recruit, train and place a Pyjama Angel with a child to mentor is approximately $500.
“The grant so far has enabled the recruitment and training of 18 volunteers on the Central Coast, and a lifetime of potential change for children in foster care.
“We’re so grateful to Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation for their support,” Sheehan said.
Julian Bowker is a Central Coast Pyjama Angel.
Having previously spent three years as a Pyjama Angel working with a Hornsby foster family, Bowker is confident in the program’s ability to improve outcomes for children in the system.
“I started as a Pyjama Angel for a 12-year-old boy in a sole parent foster home.
“It was really convenient, as I work in Sydney and could visit on my way home to help with homework.
“I wanted to give him a male role model and over time we’ve grown quite close, it’s like being a big brother or uncle.
“Now my visits consist of anything from sitting down for a meal to helping him work on his bike,” Bowker said.
As that relationship blossomed, so too did the opportunities it afforded, with Bowker now regularly welcoming his charge for short stay adventures on the Coast.
From mountain biking weekends to a day at the beach, Bowker relishes his role as a confidant and mentor and believes other locals who volunteer to become a Pyjama Angel will grow to feel the same.
“I’m always flabbergasted by the number of foster children on the Coast so I can’t recommend the Pyjama Foundation enough.
“It really does take a village to raise a child and being a Pyjama Angel is all about helping build that community that these kids need to pull through,” he said.
With education at its core, Bowker said that any locals who think they could help a child improve their basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills should consider learning more about the program.
“Education really is the key to helping ensure that these kids have options as they get older, and best of all, it’s not some all consuming commitment, all the Foundation asks for is one hour a week and that you be willing to help instil a love of learning,” Bowker said.
Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Jennifer Leslie, said it was a privilege to support a project helping give vulnerable children a chance to rewrite their future.
“Our mission is to help rewrite the future of people who are disadvantaged, marginalised or isolated within our community,” Leslie said.
“This program not only supports and provides a positive influence on young children in care, but it also supports their foster carers, who without support can become severely isolated and vulnerable.
“Children in care, by no fault of their own, have had an unimaginably difficult start to life.
“I commend The Pyjama Foundation, the Coast’s new Pyjama Angels and local foster carers for their ongoing dedication in supporting children in care,” Leslie said.