About The Pyjama Foundation
Helping Foster Kids achieve their dreams…
The Pyjama Foundation was founded in 2004 to give children in foster care the opportunity to change the direction of their lives with learning, life skills, and confidence.
Alarmed at the statistics highlighting poor literacy and numeracy levels of children in care, and how this contributes to a lifetime of disadvantage, founder Bronwyn Sheehan made a decision – a decision to offer hope and a more positive outlook for these children.
Through a simple program known as the Love of Learning Program, volunteers called Pyjama Angels are matched with a child in care, and spend just one hour a week focusing on learning based activities. Pyjama Angels read books aloud, play educational games, and help children with their homework. In that time, they demonstrate that this child is valued and loved.
Founder and Director of The Pyjama Foundation and Queensland Australian of the Year 2009
When Bronwyn Sheehan realised that children in care were not being given the same opportunities in life as other children she decided to do something about it…
“I founded The Pyjama Foundation 13 years ago now, to contribute to the lives of kids in care. I wanted to do something that would be positive and that would have the benefit of changing the direction of their precious little lives. Education equates to quality of life. The reason I started The Pyjama Foundation is my oldest daughter Kate went through primary school with a child in care. I met her foster carer and I was blown away by her commitment to these children. This lady had been a carer for 30 years and had had over 100 children in her home.
One day I was visiting her and she had a baby boy in her arms who was only 18 months old. This little boy had been in care for less than 24 hours, had the worst cold I have ever seen and had arrived in foster care in the middle of January with a Coles bag full of winter clothes. The reason he had winter clothes was to cover up his precious body, which was covered in bruises. He had big brown eyes, and if the eyes are the window to the soul, then his little soul had experienced far too much already. He broke my heart.
I knew in that moment that I wanted to do something for kids in foster care.”
Children in Foster Care
Over the past 10 years, the number of children in out-of-home care has risen significantly, with now more than 51,000 children in foster care in Australia. According to The Australian Institute of Family Studies, young children up to 18 years are removed from their original homes when they are unable to live with their families, often due to child abuse, trauma and neglect, resulting in poor health and attachments. This pool of children also has the worst educational outcomes of any group of children in Australia (AIHW). Statistics show that:
- 92% of children are below the average reading level at age 7. Low levels of literacy is an indicator of poor health associated with disadvantage and a higher chance of being homeless
- 75% of children in care do not complete 12 years of school. This can have a negative impact on their work and educational outcomes
- 35% of children in care are entering the juvenile justice system
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011, poor literacy is often repeated from one generation to the next, which creates chronic disadvantage within families and communities. Unfortunately, there is evidence that a considerable proportion of children living in out-of-home care are not meeting national benchmarks of literacy and numeracy and this means children in care are at far greater risk of poorer educational outcomes than other children.
Foster carers support the emotional and social needs of children. More often than not further support is required to meet the literacy and educational needs of children in care. As a result, The Pyjama Foundation aims to close this gap of disadvantage by connecting children in care with supportive adult mentors to empower them and to increase their learning outcomes. The video below provides a realistic and honest depiction of children being removed from their home due to domestic violence.
The Pyjama Foundation has a learning-based mentoring Program called the Love of Learning Program, which involves matching one adult with one child.
We screen and train our volunteers, called ‘Pyjama Angels’. Our Pyjama Angels are matched with a child in foster care, they visit the same child every week, for 1.5 hours to read books aloud, play educational games and work on their numeracy skills. The volunteers help children develop their learning skills and perhaps more importantly, demonstrate that the child is valued as an individual.
Since inception eleven years ago, The Pyjama Foundation has inspired many members of our community nationally to become volunteer Pyjama Angels, transforming the lives of children in care through literacy, numeracy and mentoring.
Currently, more than 1,300 children in care are involved in the Love of Learning Program. Some of my volunteers have been with their child for eight years. The relationship which forms is fantastic, the children are often waiting on the footpath for their Pyjama Angel to arrive.
Media and News
This evaluation was conducted in November 2014 to collect the thoughts and opinions of Pyjama Angels who are volunteers working with The Pyjama Foundation offering support to children in foster care to improve their educational and life outcomes. The aim of the evaluation was to gain reliable evidence about the Love of Learning Program outcomes and impact.
In order to assess the value that was created by the Love of Learning Program, The Pyjama Foundation worked with Social Ventures Australia (SVA) Consulting, a leading SROI practitioner in Australia. The primary objective of this SROI analysis was to understand and value the impact the Love of Learning Program has had on the various stakeholders benefiting from its activities.
Andy Griffiths is an Australian award winning author who inspired children of all ages with reading. His books include The “Bad Books”, The “Bum” series and “Just” series and if you every pick up his books – you won’t be able to put them down without a smile!
“I truly respect and admire the work of Bronwyn Sheehan and her amazing team of Pyjama Angels. Their constant presence in the lives of these children—no matter where the child might happen to be living at any point in time—is helping to ensure that they fall in love with books and by doing so making an enormous change for the good in every aspect of their lives: creatively, imaginatively, emotionally and academically.
I am very proud to have the opportunity to support such a unique organisation, and so happy to know that Bronwyn and her team of angels are out there making a difference in the lives of so many children in care every single day.”
Emily Jade O’Keefe
Australian Radio Announcer
The Pyjama Foundation is so important to me because it is changing and shaping the lives of the next generation. Kids who are loved, educated and nurtured correctly will go on to do the same for their children and end the negative cycle these kids are in. Not only that, the PJ Angels who read to kids in foster care also benefit from the experience, many feeling more enriched and needed, don’t we all want that? It’s an ideal that just keeps giving.
I love supporting out-of-the-box charities, and charities that encourage not just the giving of money, but value time. The PJ Foundation values time and people so deeply from both sides of the story, like I said being involved changes your life, both for the Pyjama Angel and the child in care.
No amount of fancy toys or the latest gadget can beat a great book. That’s why I love The Pyjama Foundation, they are bringing imaginative childhoods back in Vogue while helping those who right now, can’t help themselves.
“What do you give a kid who has nothing? A book – and a safe and loving place to read it. A book shows you that the future can be good, and gives you the tools to help find it. When I was a scared teenager, my wonderful teacher gave me books. Because of her I never once lost faith that life would, somehow, be good.
As a young child I’d also been lavished with books. By the time I was seven years old I knew I wanted to live like Bunyip Bluegum in The Magic Pudding, in a house in a market garden with all the fruit and vegetables I wanted to eat, lots of pudding, and good conversation of an evening. By my early 20’s I had found it, all thanks to a book.
What do you give a kid who has everything? A book. Every book you read shows you how others feel, far more deeply than watching TV, because when you read a book you are the characters, creating them in partnership with the writer. Books literally create empathy, creating new neural connections in a child’s mind. Reading to a child with love, in a safe and happy place, can be the most powerful gift that you can give them.”
Frances Whiting is one of Australia’s best known and popular writers. A senior feature writer for Queensland’s premier weekend magazine, Q Weekend in the Courier Mail, Frances is also a much-loved columnist for the Sunday Mail, and other Sunday newspapers around Australia, with her weekly column now in its 17th year.
Her best-selling novel, Walking on Trampolines, published by Pan Macmillan, made all of the best seller lists, Books and Publishing awarded it a Four Star rating, and calling the book “surprising and wonderful’’.
As a former school teacher, Frances’s keen interest in children is reflected in her charity work.
“I wouldn’t be a writer without Green Eggs & Ham, without Biggles, without the kick along my imagination got from taking in stories as a child. Reading to children sometimes creates writers, but it’s more important that it regularly creates readers, questioners, learners and thinkers. It’s part of creating adults who can imagine and who can solve problems, and who can confidently find their way in the world. Hours on a PlayStation will never do that. Being read to, and then reading, are an important part of our start in life, and something everyone is entitled to. Some kids risk missing out. That’s where The Pyjama Foundation comes in.” Visit Nick’s website at www.nickearls.com
“When you can read, your world opens up. You can set sail on a pirate ship, visit a school for wizards or watch a group of plucky kids set up an advertising agency in their backyard – all from the comfort of your bedroom. Board games become easier to play, homework becomes easier to do. When you are a confident reader, your overall confidence rises.
Why do I love The Pyjama Foundation? Because those Pyjama Angels bring the gift of reading and adventure and confidence to foster kids. And every child deserves that. ” Visit Rebecca’s website at www.rebeccasparrow.com
Past Patron | Author
The Pyjama Foundation wish to acknowledge our past patron Bryce Courtenay. Bryce was one of Australia’s best-selling authors, notable for his book The Power of One. Bryce was an amazing patron of the organisation, who sadly passed away in 2013.
“. . . besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child.”