Give the gift of education this Christmas
For young people who have grown up in foster care, the future can feel scary and bleak. With no family to support them, many intelligent and driven high school graduates miss out on university and TAFE.
Young people in care urgently need your help. Your kind gift can give them an education that will transform their lives.
$50 can help a student with their living costs, such as groceries and public transport
$125 can help cover the cost of study materials, textbooks or uniforms for a student
$500 can help struggling students contribute to the cost of tuition fees
$1,000 can help a student buy a laptop and Wi-Fi access for remote learning
$5,000 can give a young person a 12-month TAFE scholarship
All donations above $2 are tax-deductible.
Charlotte’s parents were in their late teens when they had her and her brother. They struggled with drug addiction and were in and out of jail for all her early years.
When Charlotte was six years old, her father died of a drug overdose. Her mother, dealing with her own addiction problems, didn’t care if she went to school or not, so Charlotte would make her own way to the kindy, without lunch or recess. “Somehow it was instilled in me, even at that age, that I needed to go,” Charlotte recalls. “The teachers would give me food. They were really nice to me.”
On her seventh birthday, Charlotte and her eight-month-old baby sister were removed from their mum by DoCS. Charlotte spent that birthday in a stranger’s home. “That lady was kind to me – she made me a birthday cake, which was the first one I had ever had. She even bought me some presents.”
“I didn’t understand what foster care was. I just wanted to be with my mum.”
After that, Charlotte lived in many different foster homes and attended about 10 different schools. When a placement broke down, she would be sent to another stranger’s home. During this period, Charlotte’s mum went to jail several times and never once visited her children.
When Charlotte was in her teens, she and her younger siblings were placed with foster carers who were abusive and controlling. “We were only allowed to go to school and back home,” she recalls. “They wouldn’t allow us to come out of our rooms, even for tap water. I didn’t know what to do – I was really scared but I also knew I couldn’t stay there.”
The stress of her living situation came to a head when Charlotte broke down during her year 11 exams. “I had never told anyone at school what I was going through,” she says. “I didn’t want to be judged for not having a family. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me.”
Her teachers were shocked to learn what was happening and called the authorities. A few days later, Charlotte was taken to a youth refuge in the city.
“The foster carers put all my stuff in two black garbage bags. That was my life – in two black garbage bags. It was just awful. You don’t even get a suitcase. You don’t know where you are going, who you will be with and how long you will be staying there.”
Life in the city was overwhelming for Charlotte. “I’d never been taught things like how to catch a bus. And the refuges aren’t nice places. When you’re a certain age, you know no family is going to take you in.”
Charlotte had to move many times, to many different refuges. “I’m just lucky that I’ve always been stubborn. I got a job in a pharmacy while I was still at school. I kept going to school even though it was hard to get there.”
Charlotte managed to finish year 12. She had wanted to be a nurse for as long as she could remember.
It was Charlotte’s caseworker who told her about the Sisters of Charity Foundation scholarship and encouraged her to apply.
“I thought – what have I got to lose?” she says. “And then I got it! It was honestly one of the best days of my life.”
The scholarship paid for Charlotte’s university tuition and her books. She was able to buy her uniform and pay for her travel. Importantly, she could afford to take time off from work to attend her classes.
Charlotte says the scholarship gave her not just financial help but also confidence and self-belief. She worked hard and graduated from university with a Bachelor of Nursing. “Foster kids get pushed to the side and they end up passing the trauma on. I knew I didn’t want to live that life. I think other kids can break the cycle if they have the right support.”
Today Charlotte has a job she loves and is happily married. “The scholarship changed my life in so many ways,” she says. “Before, there were so many Christmases and birthdays where I didn’t have anyone. Now I have an amazing life.”