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Time for Christmas cheer for kids and families

December 18, 2012 11:48 AM

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Kylie Handley with her children Chelsea and Malakye, and host parent Melanie Steuer

I love it and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Christmas is a special time for children and families, and the Port Adelaide Football Club kicked in some extra cheer for those helped by Time For Kids.

The South Australian charity pairs host families and mentors with those in need of some extra support and respite from the pressures of parenting.

Time For Kids held its annual Christmas party at Alberton Oval on Monday 17 December, with children coming together with their own and their host families for a day of fun.

Kylie Handley’s children Chelsea and Malakye are among those who spend a few days each month with host families coordinated by Time For Kids.

“It definitely gives me a break,” Kylie said.

“The kids don’t stop, so having one of them away or both away at the same time is just some ‘me’ time.

“Sometimes I just stay at home cleaning the house, or other times I might go out for a change.

“They love it. They love spending time with their host families, just the care and love they get and the little gifts from time to time.”

Melanie Steuer takes two-year-old Malakye into her home for a night or two each fortnight

“I just really wanted to help someone who needed help and I just love children and I thought it would be a good idea,” Melanie said.

“Just seeing Malakye’s development, I’ve known him for a year now and just seeing the changes and how well he responds to the attention I give him as well, it’s great.”

Time for Kids finds volunteer host families and mentors who are willing to spend at least one day or one weekend a month with children who are from households where the parents for one reason or another are struggling to find the constant nurture, care and support their children need right now.

Chief executive officer Jo Wickes said host families and mentors get as much from the program as the families being supported.

“It’s a way for that host family to volunteer all together,” Jo said.

“Mums, dads, kids and grandparents, extended families all become involved.

“They become part of that child’s support network, not just for that one day a month but really for life.

“They keep in contact and they really enjoy seeing the changes in the kids, seeing the kids really develop and realise that they do have potential and that somebody else does believe in them and that’s a really important gift that they can give those children.”

Port Adelaide has a long association with Time For Kids, offering game tickets and unique experiences in addition to hosting the annual Christmas party.

“I think the connection to the Port Adelaide Football Club is very important because AFL players are really important role models for all children and particularly for a lot of these children, and even more so a lot of the Aboriginal children we work with.

“Our kids have been to games, they’ve a chance to toss the coin and be the junior mascot.

“Plus we have the Christmas party here each year which everybody looks forward to and wants to come to.”

Melanie says the rewards of being a host parent are “fantastic” and would urge others to help out.

“I love it and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Melanie said.

“It’s amazing and I keep telling all my friends to do it.”

Time For Kids – which was established in Adelaide in 1960 – is currently caring for 120 families, with another 90 children on a waiting list.

“There are all sorts of things that can impact on a family and put them in need of a bit of help,” Jo said.

“There are many issues that can compound those sorts of issues for families. Sometimes it’s financial or housing stress, it can be the result of a chronic or mental or terminal illness, it can be sometimes due to domestic or family violence.”

Host families provide relief for parents struggling with the demands of parenting while giving their children support that has lifetime effects.

“The respite and mentoring gives children access to adults who are really good positive role models who they can turn to for very sound advice,” Jo said.

“They’re people who can hopefully help them learn how to make good decisions and develop the life skills they need to be really successful in life whatever that might look like for them.

“It also gives those kids a break from what can be a very stressful home environment and it also gives their parents and usual carers and grandparents a chance to have a break and to regroup so that they are able to come back refreshed to those children.”

Anyone interested in becoming a host family or mentor should visit timeforkids.com.au or call 8362 6311.