Q&A with Eamonn McCarthy, Lighthouse Foundation


ManSpace magazine was lucky enough to spend some time with Eamonn McCarthy, chief executive of the Lighthouse Foundation, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit that supports and cares for some of Australia’s most vulnerable kids.

Before joining the Lighthouse Foundation, he was the principal practitioner of Child Protection in Victoria and is recognised as one of the state’s most respected forensic psychologists in the field of childhood trauma, attachment and high-risk youth.

The Q&A looks at how he got into his role, everything that the foundation does and how people can get involved.

Firstly, what’s your role at Lighthouse Foundation and what does it entail?

As chief executive of Lighthouse Foundation, I’m responsible for driving a strategy that allows us to provide care to as many young, vulnerable people in need as possible.

I’m also responsible for creating and sustaining an organisational environment that allows our staff to perform at their best. Both objectives have understandably been made more challenging and increasingly essential during the pandemic.

How did you get into this role?

Before taking the role at Lighthouse Foundation, I spent over a decade working in child protection.  This allowed me to see the strengths and weaknesses of the systems designed to respond to people in need. It also provided me with an ever-increasing desire to make a difference on a much broader scale.

In my experience, Lighthouse Foundation has systematically offered incredible care but has the capacity to grow and do more with a bigger impact. When I saw the role of Lighthouse chief executive advertised, I knew it was my chance to lead an incredible organisation towards effecting meaningful change in the care offered to some of the most vulnerable people in our society – homeless youth and children suffering abuse and neglect.

What does Lighthouse Foundation do?

We provide homes and therapeutic care to children and young people impacted by long-term neglect, abuse and homelessness. By creating a caring community, we give homeless kids and foster families a place to belong, heal and thrive.

Our approach is to address the complex needs of children and young people through personalised therapeutic care within a supporting, steadfast community-minded environment.  Through this model, young people in need receive the level of support required to achieve a lifelong sense of belonging, the opportunity to heal and the capacity to thrive.

What are the aims of the Foundation?

Our focus is to create caring communities where kids can feel safe, form meaningful life-long relationships, and begin to heal from traumatic experiences. For the past 30 years, Lighthouse has successfully transformed the lives of over 1,000 young people using a range of evidence-based strategies. We now educate and support foster carers in the same way, so that they too can take care of vulnerable children.

One of our current challenges is around the lack of foster carers we have entering the system in Victoria. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a net growth of around 29 foster careers in the state, putting into context just how hard it is to source adequate carers despite the ongoing increase in demand.

Becoming a foster carer is perhaps one of the most meaningful things you can do – providing vulnerable children and young people with stability, compassion and kindness, all while witnessing and sharing in the joy of their progress. Despite the rewarding potential of this role, there is little growth in the foster care space, with prospective carers often hesitant due to misconceptions around foster care, or questions they’re too uncomfortable to ask.

Carers who enter into the Lighthouse Foundation program have access to a range of supports, including a community of people who are on standby to offer respite, consult on challenges and provide all manner of help when it’s required. The more carers we have, the more young people we can provide with safe homes, compassionate care, and the opportunity to form the type of healthy relationships that are common to most of us, but that they may have never had access to or modelled to them.

Where to from here, what is Lighthouse Foundation looking to do next?

The outcomes achieved for young people in Lighthouse’s care are truly remarkable. However, youth homelessness remains an increasing problem. Therefore, the logical next step is for Lighthouse to undergo rapid growth to ensure that such outcomes continue to be delivered at a volume commensurate with the size of the problem. We need more carers and more resources so we can help more children in need of homes, achieve positive futures.

What is something readers can do? Call to action/donation/links?

Growth can only occur inline with increased funding and support. This can be in the form of a one-off or regular monthly donation made to Lighthouse Foundation – we call these regular donors our Lighthouse Keepers. To do this, you simply elect an amount of your choosing that is automatically deducted from your nominated bank account or credit card monthly and donated to Lighthouse Foundation.

You could also consider joining our partnership program and make an impact with your business.

Help us build awareness. We know that around 17% of Australia’s homeless population is under the age of 14. To address this problem, we need to share the problem. Follow @lighthousefoundation on Instagram and share with your friends.  Building awareness helps us build support.

Finally, if you’ve ever, even for a minute, considered becoming a foster carer, we’d like to hear from you and answer any questions you may have. How does fostering a child work? What are the benefits? What are the key challenges? What if I need respite from a child in my care? These are all valid and important questions to ask, and we’re here to talk them over with you.


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Sean Carroll

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