Meet Mel Clack – Ipswich New Coordinator

 

 

We sat down with our new Ipswich Coordinator, Mel Clack, to find out why she chose to join The Pyjama Foundation’s team (family), and to know what drives her, and other fun little tidbits!

 

Why did you apply for the role of ‘Ipswich Coordinator’?

I have always had a passion for helping other people and helping fundraise and run events for many not-for-profit organisations or just “good causes” – Since having my almost 6 year old I have considered becoming a Foster Carer myself and just last year completed a Teacher’s Aide course with the view of helping kids in school as well as my own son with his learning now that he’s just started Grade 1 – I saw The Pyjama Foundation to be a great opportunity to combine both of these and to be involved in helping kids in our local area that need it more than most. I couldn’t turn up an opportunity to be a part of that.

 

What do you love most about your job (so far)?

Meeting new people in our community and listening to all the great stories of the success our Pyjama Angels have in creating relationships and making a difference in these kids’ lives as well as their own.

 

What challenges are you currently facing? (And how are you working to overcome them)

At the moment the biggest challenge is learning more about the families we can help and the volunteers we currently have to make the best matches for success in our Love of Learning Program.

 

What are your goals for the Ipswich region/ branch of The Pyjama Foundation?

My biggest goal right now is to find as many new volunteers as possible to match up as many of the kids we have already waiting to be placed in our program that are yet to know what it’s like to have a Pyjama Angel in their life and what that can mean for them.

 

What are you passionate about? / What drives you?

Being able to help people that don’t always get all the opportunities that others get in life.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I go to the gym, love family time including our 2 fur babies, camping, eating out at new places and also our favourite’s, hanging out with good friends – and LOVE to go on holidays, see places that I haven’t seen before, meet people and learn about different cultures from real people (not a tour guide).

 

What are your favourite places to visit in Ipswich?

Kholo Gardens (so beautiful and peaceful), Ipswich Nature Centre, Workshops Museum, Bundamba Swimming Pool, Any of the walks/bike tracks around – especially the dinosaur footprints!

 

What’s your favourite quote?

To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or prefect – you just have to care – Mandy Hale

 

What’s a fun fact about you that you’d like to share?

I once moved more than 10 times in one year – and I hate moving!

 

What’s your favourite children’s book?

It’s hard to pick just 1 – there are so many, but my favourite author is Dr Seuss – not only are his books fun to read, bright and happy, they all have underlying meanings or some kind of learning in a fun, playful way.

Research identifies educational disadvantage of children in Out of Home Care

Australian children in Out of Home Care may struggle to keep up with their peers and reach national literacy and numeracy benchmarks as a study by the Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) has identified.

The research suggests a large portion of the 48,000 Australian children currently in foster care are at a high risk of becoming disengaged with schooling, making them more vulnerable to educational disadvantage.

The study, conducted by Dr Ruth Knight examined research in Australia and overseas that identifies what puts children in foster care situations at risk, what can protect them, their educational outcomes and existing intervention programs to improve these outcomes.

The Pyjama Foundation’s Founder and CEO of  Bronwyn Sheehan said this research reflects the need to focus intervention programs alike the Love of Learning Program that are focussed on improving educational outcomes for children in foster care.

“This research provides insight into the current educational landscape for children in care and the need for early intervention and strong supportive relationships that encourage learning,” she said.

“It highlights the strengths of The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning Program, a mentoring syllabus focused on improving literacy, numeracy and life skills through one on one reading sessions with a positive adult role model.

“The program involves trained volunteer learning mentors, known as Pyjama Angels, meeting regularly and doing one-on-one reading sessions with more than 1400 foster children across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.”

Dr Knight said the ACPNS study found there was a limited number of intervention programs that effectively address protective factors known to improve children’s educational engagement.

“Those protective factors include family stability with a carer who supports educational and extracurricular activities, access to books and other literacy materials, developing literacy skills as early as possible in life, and having adult mentors or tutors for at least 12 months to build cognitive and social skills,” she said.

“The most successful intervention programs for children in care are ones based on positive relationships with teachers, care givers and case workers, which take into account trauma, provide flexible learning, and which support children to genuinely love learning.

“This review shows that there are only a few of these programs available.”

This literary review is instrumental in validating the work of The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning Program, which has been changing the direction of children’s lives for more than 14 years.

To read the report in full, please visit our website.

 

Helping Foster Children Stay On Task

“Concentration is like a muscle that requires regular exercise to strengthen. Some kids are born “stronger” in this area than others, but all kids can learn strategies and engage in practices that help improve their ability to focus and sustain their attention”

– Dr. Jamie Howard

Children in out of home care often lack interest in learning and find difficulty in concentrating and staying on task. With 92% of children in care below average reading skills by the time they are seven years of age and struggle to catch up, it is important as mentors to help our children build and train their ‘concentration muscle’.

Here are some tips for our Pyjama Angels to implement in visits to help their children stay on task.

1. Set A Plan

It can be a good idea to create a plan for your visits. At the beginning of your visit you can work with your child to write out a set plan for the visit. This gives both you and your child the opportunity to decide what you will aim to achieve within your visit.

2. Set Time Lengths For Tasks

When setting a plan or just completing tasks, it is important to set appropriate time lengths for specific tasks. As a Pyjama Angel, you will get to know the typical time length your child will concentrate and focus on a task. Use your understanding to set appropriate time lengths on tasks you aim to complete.

3. Use Timers

When aiming to complete a task for a specific time, it can be helpful to utilise timers or stopwatches. Clocks or stopwatches can provide a visual aid for children, and help them understand when a task will finish.

4. Planned Breaks

It is also important to ensure that you build in planned breaks. After spending some time concentrating, it is useful to take a break whether that be a small physical break such as throwing a ball around or trying a Brain Gym exercise.

Brain Gym

These exercises can be utilised if child become distracted or simply as a planned break. These small physical activities will re-engage the brain and can help a child re-focus on a set task.

* Brain Gym exercises adapted from margdteachingposters.weebly.com/thinking-processes

 

Incorporating these tips will hopefully see your visits become more productive and time efficient, though it it important to remember that every child is unique and requires different techniques. Be patient and kind and see what works best for you and your child during your visits.

If you ever feel stuck and need any assistance or tips, our team is available for a chat at 07 3256 8802 between 9-5pm Monday-Friday.

Free holiday fun for all ages

The two-week September school holidays are here! This is a good time for you and your Pyjama child to get crafty, creative and learn outdoors without homework hindering your visit.

The holidays is an awesome opportunity to extend your visits and perhaps have a change of scenery. This is a wonderful way to build your relationship with your Pyjama Child but please remember the restrictions and key policies which you would have learnt about in your Pyjama Angel training.

Here are some free events happening in our regions during the September school holidays. This may provide some inspiration for potential activities or a fun day out. You may even be able to assist your carer in taking the whole family out for a free and fun-filled day!

The State Library of Queensland is hosting a one-day event these school holidays, to celebrate art, science, learning, play and adventure. The day offers children with an interest in scientific mysteries and art, to participate in experiments and games. This would be a perfect opportunity for Pyjama children to explore their interests or even show off their science skills!

For: Any age

Where: The Edge, State Library of Queensland

When: 10:00am to 3:00pm | Saturday 6 October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens has designed a self-guided scavenger hunt, for those children interested in exploring nature. The Gardens provides an activity sheet to guide children around the gardens, encouraging them to find locate and explore the local flora and fauna. This scavenger hunt gives our Pyjama children the opportunity to explore nature!

Find the Botanic Gardens Scavenger Hunt Map here or collect from the Gardens Administration.

Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens are also providing 20 other free self-guided activities in the Gardens. There is an online passport that can be downloaded from here or collected from the Gardens Administration.

For: Any age

Where: Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens

When: 22-29 September

 

 

Has your Pyjama child expressed the interest in learning a new skill? The Pier is running 45-minute how-to knit sessions for children. These free lessons are designed to expand their creativity, concentration and coordination skills.

For: Any age

Where: The Pier

When: 10:00am – 1:30pm | 25 – 28th September, 2 – 5 October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Gallery of Victoria is currently running an interactive exhibit for children, to explore the sights and sounds of New York! The exhibit is a great opportunity for our Pyjama children to learn about New York, through interactive displays, multimedia projections and hands-on activities.

For: All Ages

Where: National Gallery of Victoria

When: 10:30am – 12:30pm | 2nd October

 

The Gladstone Regional Libraries is holding a range of educational activities at libraries across the region these September holidays. If your Pyjama child has a special interest in technology or robotics, the libraries are holding sessions for children to learn the basics of coding and robot play. They are also providing craft activities, including tie dying.

For: Children 10 and over (Tie Dye Fun & Coding), All ages (Craft & Robot Play)

Where: Gladstone City Library

When: 24th September – 4th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a part of their KRANK program, The Logan City Council are holding many school holiday events, including a cooking class. This free event will let you and your Pyjama child master a new skill in the kitchen, while preparing and cooking new foods together. The Logan City council are also offering other events, such as Zumba and hip-hop classes.

For: 5 – 11 years

Where: Kingston East Neighbourhood Centre

When: 10am – 11am | 4th October

 

The State Library of New South Wales has recently opened their new Learning Centre and are holding a range of activities for children. These activities focus on building and construction giving children the opportunity to help the library create a cardboard city. Children can build and create a pop-up house!

For: All Ages

Where: State Library of New South Wales

When: 10am – 3pm | 8 October – 12 October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surfers Paradise is holding their annual Kids Week. This year the event is dinosaur themed and will showcase daily live shows from 1pm.  This event also gives our Pyjama children the opportunity to meet rangers and their animatronic dinosaurs, as well as learn all there is to know about dinosaurs!

For: All Ages

Where: State Library of New South Wales

When: 29th September – 5th October

 

The City of Townsville is holding two different Lego activities during the school holidays. These activities will give our creative Pyjama children the opportunity to construct a building with Lego and turn it into a robot! Through technology, the children will be able to program their robot to do exactly what they tell it to do.

For: 7+ years

Where: CityLibraries Thuringowa Central

When: 2pm – 4:30pm | 25th September & 4th October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ipswich Art Gallery is running a workshop for children to create shadow puppets. The workshop let’s children transform their puppet design into a moveable creation made of pipe cleaners, paper, ribbon and a range of craft materials.

For: 4+ years

Where: Ipswich Art Gallery

When: 10am – 5pm | 11nd September – 11th October

Our Big Dreams Gala Ball 2018

One week ago, we hosted the night of all nights — an evening of glitz, glam and giving back. Guests came from as far as Western Australia to celebrate The Pyjama Foundation’s Big Dreams Gala Ball and raise much needed funds for children in foster care. Attendees were met with some of Brisbane’s best views, with the balcony of Room ThreeSixty at QUT providing a perfect outlook to the Story Bridge and Kangaroo Point.

The theme for this year’s event was inspired by the very core values of The Pyjama Foundation — every child should have the opportunity to dream big and go far. Each child should be given the tools to follow their wildest dreams!

Children living in out of home care often bounce between different homes and to different schools, which can affect their opportunities to read and learn, causing them to fall behind their peers academically. Dreams are no good if they remain just dreams and the Big Dreams Gala Ball was for the 52,000 Australian children living in foster care, with a focus on letting them know that their dreams and desires are just as valid as the next child’s.

Our guests were met at the door with a 9ft angel pouring bubbly for each willing patron (see below if you don’t believe us!), live entertainment, a photobooth setup worth marvelling at and a constantly stocked candy bar. It was a magical start to the evening!

We were lucky to be joined by former and present Pyjama kids, as well as many of our Pyjama Angels who continue to inspire us every day. Senior Executive Director, Accommodation, Respite and Forensic Disability Services at Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors Matthew Lupi was the entertaining MC for the evening, surprising guests with dream themed trivia between meals. Matthew welcomed the Honourable Di Farmer, Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence to give a powerful address to start off the evening.

Guests were thrilled with the banquet-style dinner, flowing beverages and incredible prizes. Our token instant win mystery envelopes were a hit again this year, with everyone walking away a winner thanks to our incredible prize sponsors! Raffle tickets were available to purchase on the night with more amazing prizes up for grabs, those who won the accommodation in Phuket and the Lamborghini driving experience were envied by all!

Our live auction also went off with a bang thanks to our friends at Watt Realty who got the crowd rearing for our big-ticket auction items! Accommodation on the ski slopes in Canada, a stay in a five-star lodge in Queenstown, and a private chef dinner in your own home all sold at generous prices to those in the room.

The money raised on the evening will go directly towards our Love of Learning Program which aims to improve the educational outcomes of children in foster care, just like 9-year-old Frankie who spoke about his special Pyjama Angel at our gala. A few words from his speech on the evening:

“Cathy has been visiting me for almost five years. The things we do together are read, play sport, watch movies, play iPad games, play with kinetic sand and sometimes go to the skate park. We have dinner together every week,” he said.

“I look forward to Wednesdays. Every Wednesday I ask mum, ‘Is Cathy coming today?’. I like Cathy a lot.

“Thank you for helping The Pyjama Foundation, so kids like me can have a special friend.”

There was so much love, laughter and great acts of generosity on the evening, to which we thank each person who attended. It was truly a wonderful night and we are so thankful to have spent it with so many people who are crucial to our foundation.

Thank you for supporting The Pyjama Foundation’s Big Dreams Gala Ball, we couldn’t have pulled it off without your support and we hope to see you all again next year.

Dad’s Day a chance to say thanks to our male role models

Father’s Day has a different meaning to everyone, but for children in foster care it can be a reminder of what they are missing and how important it is to have a positive male role model.

Townsville’s Andrew Pangrazio, 30, was placed with an 11-year-old boy living in care four years ago after volunteering as a mentor ‘Pyjama Angel’ as part of The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning Program, which supports children in foster care.

The now 15-year-old aspires to become a mechanic and the weekly visits from Andrew where they practice hands on mechanical work was key to helping make this possible.

“My child has learning impairments and finds it easier to be working bikes or engines as it is his passion to become a mechanic,” the psychologist said.

“I try to combine as many instruction guides and manuals in our work to continue to work on focused reading.

“[He] doesn’t have many male role models in life so the male attention I believe has been healthy.”

The child Andrew visits is just one of the 95 children in care currently supported by a special Pyjama Angel volunteer in Townsville, a number the Foundation hopes will steadily increase with a total of 41 children currently waiting for a Pyjama Angel to come into their lives.

One of The Foundation’s Townsville carers detailed just how special this unique interaction is for her children.

“B* waited a long time for a Pyjama Angel and Alex is absolutely perfect for him, he turns up to B’s soccer games and cheers him on from the sideline which we think is absolutely brilliant,” the carer said.

Currently, 93 per cent of The Pyjama Foundation’s volunteers are female and moving forward The Foundation is hoping to see more male involvement.

As a carer of young boys with Pyjama Angel’s, she sees the importance of the positive male role models and the difference it is making for her boys.

“The world needs more male Pyjama Angels, so many boys in care have never known a positive relationship with a man,” the carer said.

“It’s time we show our boys that there are good men out there that genuinely care and want to help them learn and help shape the young men they become.”

Pyjama Angel Andrew believes helping others is a form of self-help, acknowledging that connection and meaning are all major contributors to psychological wellbeing.

“I would encourage everyone to join and I think males especially as not only will the kids benefit from having healthy male role models in their life, but helping others is helping yourself and is an important lesson to teach the future generation,” he said.

Founder of The Pyjama Foundation, Bronwyn Sheehan says the number of foster children is continuing to grow every year and without extra support, empowerment and encouragement, many of the children’s futures will be compromised.

“Currently there are more than 51,000 children in foster care, and statistics show that approximately 32,250 of these children will not complete high school,” she said.

“Many children in care bounce from home to home, and to difference schools which greatly hinders their learning.”

Head to www.thepyjamafoundation.com/volunteer to see if you’re eligible to become a Pyjama Angel to help support and mentor a child in foster care.

Building self-confidence and self-esteem in mentees

Self-confidence; a feeling of trust in your own abilities and judgement. Self esteem; knowing and believing your worth. These two important qualities aren’t high in foster children on account of their harsh backgrounds, but there are ways to get them back on the right track.

 

Enrol in extra-curriculars

Martial arts classes are an excellent way for kids to develop self-esteem, as well as confidence in their abilities. Taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, karate, aikido; all of these and more demand discipline and respect.

For decades, martial arts have been used as a tool to help keep kids off the street. They teach them not only to respect their elders, but to have patience and to socialise with other children. Going up the ranks in martial arts boosts kid’s self-esteem because if they can tackle challenges in the dojo, they can also handle those in the outside world.

White belt this year can lead to a 3rd dan black belt 15 years later

Nurture their talents

Despite their objections, foster kids do have talents. They might write poems or songs, play an instrument, play chess, or write code.

Encourage them to do what they love. You can see the sparkle in their eyes when they talk about drawing comics or how they went at footy practice. It’s not ethical for mentors to buy gifts for their mentees. But encourage them to save some money for what they want or find a way for them to feel more confident showing their talent. Point out competitions, hobby groups, or  events they can participate in.

 

Make them feel safe

Foster kids come from unfortunate backgrounds. They have witnessed things children never should. Violence, drugs, and abuse are just some of the situations they’ve escaped from. They deserve to feel safe and pursue their dreams.

Boosting the self-esteem of foster children

How Pyjama Angels Help Develop Foster Kids’ Life Skills

Boosting the self-esteem of foster children

Self-esteem is difficult for foster children to understand, let alone see in themselves. Even adults struggle with it from time to time. But that doesn’t mean self-esteem is impossible to find, even in bleak situations.

It starts with you
As a mentor, your own self-esteem is an example for your charge. How do you feel about yourself? How do you see yourself? Are you proud of your achievements and how you live your life? Because it’s absolutely fine if you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy level of confidence and pride within yourself.

Ask them what they’re good at, and do it
Foster kids might say they aren’t good at anything and that simply isn’t true. Use this tactic instead;

What are you good at? turns into What do you enjoy?

If someone enjoys writing, they create great stories. If a person enjoys drawing or painting, they create nice artwork. Now a creative area, like art or writing, might not be your charge’s idea of enjoyment. But they could enjoy reading, playing games or sports. These can be implemented in one way or another during your time with them.

Give praise – within reason
Excessive praise does more harm than good. Children at the receiving end of constant praise from parents or other mature figures will crumble at criticism for others. This knocks down their self-esteem and can be hard to recover.

There is one way to give realistic praise, and we go further into that with the next point.

Help them set goals
Realistic ones where they will earn praise. You’ll work out goals within the first few visits. The Love of Learning Program emphasizes education; set up goals by term or by year. An easy one is reading; read X amount of books by the end of the year, for example.

Boosting the self-esteem of foster kids isn’t an uphill battle. That mindset makes things harder. It’s a matter of finding out what they enjoy, using it during your visits and watching them make progress. Their self-confidence and happiness will grow, slowly and surely.

How Pyjama Angels Help Develop Foster Kids’ Life Skills

Pyjama Angels create positive relationships with children in care; empowering them with learning, life skills and confidence. By becoming an Angel you have the potential to build many skills in these kids, ultimately changing the direction of their lives. Here a few of the many ways your commitment can do this:

Language

Language plays a significant role in a child’s development. Whether it’s communication through speaking, writing, expressions and gestures. It enables a child to effectively communicate throughout life. In certain upbringings and circumstances, the development of language can be impacted upon a child.

Children in foster care, often acquire low or delayed language and communication skills, compared to their peers at school. Statistics show from June 2016, 46,448 children Australia wide are in out-of-home care per day. Language and communication delays can lead to long-term negative effects on their social competence, mental health and academic achievements. Valuable time spent with a Pyjama Angel can improve the language development of child in foster care.

Attention span

Concentration in school can be challenging for children in general. An unstable upbringing and background can have greater impact a foster child’s concentration amongst their peers. The Pyjama Foundation has trained 949 Pyjama Angels in the last year. Trained to assist and mentor foster children in improving the development of their attention span. Guided by a Pyjama Angel, positive techniques and methods are implemented to suit each child’s own level of development.

Co-operation

Children need positive guidance to learn and achieve positive co-operation skills in life. School is the perfect environment for children to obtain this skill; playing together, reading together and teamwork within the classroom is an important factor. An interrupted home can impact the development of co-operation and teamwork skills amongst foster children. A Pyjama Angel can help improve these skills by encouraging positive teamwork techniques to read and play as a team.

 

Read a page each

Self-esteem

A child’s self-esteem is dependent upon their home environment. Emotional abuse and neglect are sadly often experienced by children in care, with statistics showing that 45% of boys and 44% of girls have experienced emotional abuse and neglect in from 2015 to 2016. This impacts a child’s self-esteem, which can have further negative effects on their language, attention span and cooperation skills as they develop. Pyjama Angels are trained to mentor, boost and encourage a foster child’s self-esteem through the Love of Learning program – building positive life skills; confidence building, making friends and setting them up to foresee a positive outlook on life.

 

See them smile more often like this

Get more advice here;

Great books you can read in the Love of Learning Program

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Great books you can read in the Love of Learning Program

The Love of Learning program is the only one of its kind. It provides children with the opportunity to strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills outside of school. But as a Pyjama Angel, you aren’t a tutor. You’re a mentor. Someone who can guide the children in the program and be a positive influence. You show them that reading isn’t really so bad. If you’re scratching your head about what to bring along, we have a few suggestions the could help:

2-3 years

The Empowerment series by Stephen Krensky celebrates the milestones children achieve at this age. This series has of four books: Now I am Big! I Can Do It Myself! I Know a Lot! I Am So Brave!

Another crowd favourite is the Clifford the Big Red Dog series by Norman Bridwell.

4-5 years

The works of Dr Seuss are perfect for this age group!

Other favourite reads of ours include What’s Cooking by Joshua David Stein and Pass it On by Sophy Henn.

6-7 years

The Pyjama Foundation firmly believes in cultivating the aspirations of foster children.

Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo is a compilation of the stories of courageous women who challenged the status quo and changed the course of history. It is a great read for both girls and boys.

Another similar series is the Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer. Each book focuses on different key historical figures such as I am Neil Armstrong, I am Jane Goodall and I am Albert Einstein.

Read the book before the movie

8-9 years

This age is an excellent time to introduce the books by Roald Dahl. This is the man who quoted ‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’. His books are great to include in the Love of Learning Program for that reason; to help children believe in magic. You don’t need to look much further than Willy Wonka for an excellent read. Other titles worth bringing include The Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda.

10-11 years

The books by Enid Blyton ignite the imaginations of children at this age. Blyton wrote her books early last century but they have endured the test of time. The books are large, but because the stories are written for children, they’re easy to understand. Some of the timeless and most popular series include The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and The Secret Seven

As a Pyjama Angel, you have full access to our dedicated resource library where you can pick up many of these books. We want our kids to use their imaginations, be engaged and love reading just as much as we do. We hope these examples can help your inspire kids to do just that.

Get more advice here:

The double-edged sword of volunteering

Love of learning program