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Changemakers - Sheri Shenker

8 April 2013 at 10:56 am
Staff Reporter
Sheri Shenker is the Program Leader for Placement, Prevention and Out of Home Care at Connections UnitingCare. She is also the founding CEO of National Adoption Awareness Week. This week we profile Sheri in Changemakers – a weekly column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.

Staff Reporter | 8 April 2013 at 10:56 am


Changemakers - Sheri Shenker
8 April 2013 at 10:56 am

Sheri Shenker is the Program Leader for Out of Home Care at Connections UnitingCare. She is also the founding CEO of National Adoption Awareness Week. This week we profile Sheri in Changemakers – a weekly column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.

Connections UnitingCare is a community organisation supporting over 2000 every week. We work on family strengthening and early intervention services for people in need. We make a practical difference in people’s everyday lives giving them a better chance in life now and in the future.

What are you currently working on in your organisation?

I am currently in the position of Chief Executive Officer for National Adoption Awareness Week, as well as part time Program Leader of Out of Home Care for Connections UnitingCare. We believe that every child has a right to a family and embrace adoption as a positive and important way of forming a permanent family. In 2013 our focus is on stability planning for children in Out of Home Care who will not be reunified with their biological family, and more seamless pathways to adoption or permanent care, for these children. We are also focusing on post adoption support for families who are parenting children who come from “hard places”. 

What drew you to the Not for Profit sector? 

I was drawn to the plight of children without families while working in South Africa and being confronted with the huge number of children who had been left orphaned or abandoned by the AIDS pandemic. The need for these children to find a home in a family environment, rather than being raised in an institution became my goal, as I had seen, first hand, the devastating effects of institutionalisation and the lack of a family environment, had on a child. When I moved to Australia I was confronted with similar short comings in the Out of Home system, to the detrimental conditions of institutionalisation that I was working to eradicate in South Africa. I have worked in Australia for the past 4.5 years, trying to promote stability planning for children and give them the security of a permanent family life.

How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?

23 years.

What is the best thing about working in the Not for Profit sector?

The adult adoptees who have contacted me to tell me of their positive life experiences in their families, and the knowledge that, out of traumatic beginnings, we can make a difference for positive outcomes. 

What do you like best about working in your current organisation?

Everyday I get to meet such amazing and inspirational people who are fighting to achieve positive outcomes for disadvantaged children. I am energised by the people I get to work with and am inspired by their passion to make a difference in the lives of children.

I consider my greatest achievement to be…

The children’s home I started in Johannesburg for abandoned children and HIV orphans. I feel it was a huge achievement as the goal was not to keep the children institutionalised but to find a suitable and assessed family for them, either with kin, within the community, or with adoptive parents, within a 6 month period, so that no child had to live their lives out in an institution. When I left South Africa in 2008, the children’s home had been running for 5 years with that goal fully achieved. 

Favourite saying…

There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children. Nelson Mandela 

What are you reading/ watching/ listening to at the moment? 

I am currently reading “Winter of the World” by Ken Follett, the second book in his “Century” trilogy that looks at the history of the 20th century from the English, German, American and Russian perspectives. He is a fantastic writer and I am engrossed.

If you could have dinner with two people from history, who would they be? 

Nelson Mandela for his humility and wisdom, and Johnny Depp, because it’s always nice to have someone good to look at.

My greatest challenge is…

Accepting that change doesn’t happen overnight. 

School taught me…

That your marks for Maths will never be an indicator of your ability to achieve.

What does a typical day for you involve?

Every day for me in my job is different; I have no “typical” day. From meeting with leaders in the Out of Home Care field to discuss future directions, to looking at placement options for a child with social workers, to writing submissions to State discussion papers, to meeting adoptees who want to make a difference for other children needing families, my days are diverse and eclectic.

Is there someone in your organisation who would make a good Changemaker? Let us know at

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