Posted on 24. May, 2010 in News

Vulnerable Victorian children will be reconnected with their local community through sport, hobbies and friendship thanks to a new $1.2 million Brumby Labor Government program.

Minister for Community Services Lisa Neville was today joined by Victoria’s Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary at Federation Square to launch the program.

Ms Neville said the program would help traumatised children who were living in residential care homes reconnect with their community through activities like football, book clubs or surf lifesaving.

“We understand Victorians are concerned about the future of our children, that’s why we are investing $1.2 million to provide these children with the sense of belonging and acceptance they are missing,” Ms Neville said.

“We believe every child has the right to live a full and productive life in an environment that builds confidence, friendship, stability, security and happiness.

“Due to the trauma or abuse children in out-of-home care experienced before entering care, they may have missed out on opportunities to join local sport clubs or other activities that for most other children are a normal part of growing up. As a result they may feel isolated and disconnected from their local community.

“We know how important it is for these children to feel accepted which is why we are giving them every opportunity to develop the skills and confidence to live normal lives.”

The new $1.2 million Community Integration Program will be managed by the Child Safety Commissioner’s Office, and Mr Geary today urged the community to get behind the program.

“Ensuring children who can no longer live at home feel a part of their community is the responsibility of everyone,” Mr Geary said.

“The program relies on the support of community volunteers and works by linking children with volunteers who have similar interests. The volunteers will work with the child to find clubs or organisations that offer an activity the child is interested in. This may be local football or netball club, or a book club at the local library. The volunteer will go with the child and help them build up the confidence to become involved.

“My goal is that children in residential care are given ‘a fair go’ and the chance to follow their dreams.”

Ms Neville said the new program was a part of the Brumby Labor Government’s $135 million out-of-home care reform package, launched last year.

“This year, we will continue to drive this reform and invest an additional $72 million funding boost to improve the protection and support for children who are no longer able to live with their parents.”

The Community Integration Program will initially operate in three departmental regions – north and west, southern and Gippsland. Whitelion will oversee the recruitment and training of volunteers.

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