FASD caregivers win at Excellence in Foster Care Awards

Find out about the well-deserved foster care award won by our members, Margaret and Phillip Hemopo in Ōtepoti / Dunedin. 

Caring Families Aotearoa are a national organisation providing training, advocacy, information and support to caregiver families around Aotearoa who foster tamariki and rangatahi. We have strong links with them and warmly support their work.

Every year, Caring Families Aotearoa and their partners (Barnados, Open Home Foundation, Kia Puāwai and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren) recognise the incredible, selfless mahi done by caregiver whānau across the motu in their ‘Excellence in Foster Care Awards’.

We are very pleased to say some of our members have featured over the years, and in 2024 Margaret and Phillip Hemopo won one of the ten annual awards.

Caring Families Aotearoa have kindly given us permission to reproduce Margaret and Phillip’s story below – for more information on the other amazing award recipients, please click here

Note: FASD-CAN is very pleased to say that Margaret has just become one of our caregiver group facilitators heading up a new group in Ōtepoti Dunedin. To find out more and get in touch with her if you’re interested, click here.

Pic above: Phillip and Margaret with our CEO Stephanie James-Sadler, left. 

Margaret and Phillip – their story

With thanks to Caring Families Aotearoa

Margaret and Phillip began caring for twin boys when they were just six weeks old, they are now 14. Since then, they have also been caring for a six-year-old boy alongside their two biological children, making it a household of five tamariki!

Their foster twins were diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) at a young age, and from that moment forward, Margaret and Phillip have done everything they can to create the best outcome for their boys.

They are passionate about raising awareness of FASD in the community; one way that they do this is every year on September 9th, FASD Awareness Day, they bake cupcakes to bring to their sons’ school.

Margaret and Phillip made it their mission to not only educate themselves, but also to share their knowledge with others, including key people in the twins’ life such as teachers and sports coaches, to ensure they can always participate fully in a non-discriminatory environment.

Margaret is very engaged in the academic community, often attending presentations about neuro-disabilities at the University of Otago, to enrich her understanding of FASD and learn how to better care for her boys. She shares her knowledge readily with schools, NGOs, and local ministries through engaging in various discussions and presentations.

Helping their foster tamariki maintain a connection to their biological families is prioritised by Margaret and Phillip, as they recognise the strong sense of identity this provides. They will often all come together to celebrate birthdays, and Phillip traces the whakapapa (genealogy), of the three boys to help enrich their cultural identity.

Margaret and Phillip are beacons of positivity and inspiration. Flexibly meeting the unique needs of their five children, and communicating openly with compassion and empathy, they have created a stable and nurturing home where their tamariki can be themselves and feel unashamed of their disability.

Margaret and Phillip’s advocacy and dedication to FASD awareness has significantly enriched the community, broken down barriers, stereotypes, and created a more inclusive and compassionate environment in which their tamariki can thrive.