Gympie foster care team

Supporting foster carers in the Gympie community

Have you considered becoming a foster carer? Not sure where to start or who you can talk to? You Be You recruits, trains and supports people just like you. They’re with you through every step of the journey, so you can make a real difference in the community as a foster carer.

You Be You is empowered by Anglicare Southern Queensland, who have been supporting carers for close to 30 years.

If you’re thinking about taking the next steps in your foster care journey, here’s your chance to get to know two of the You Be You team who will be supporting you along the way.

Helena Bence and Narrelle Paulsen are practitioners in the Gympie You Be You team, helping ensure every child is given a loving and safe home. The two share something in common – they’ve both been foster carers themselves, so they understand what it’s like from lived experiences.

They hope it will inspire more people to consider becoming foster carer. So far, the team works with around 75 carers in the Gympie region – but they are always looking for more, so that kids in need can find supportive and loving homes.

Narrelle has worked with the Gympie team for almost 14 years, working across advocacy and training of new carers and before this, trained new carers with Child Safety before agencies were created. Helena worked with our Logan Foster and Kinship Care service for four years before her tree-change to Gympie in 2020.

Photo: Practitioners Narrelle Paulsen and Helena Bence. 

In her different roles over 35 years, Narrelle has supported carers and children to ensure families as a whole feel safe, supported and heard. There is also a lot of advocacy and training within her role.

“One of the positive experiences I had in my role as a carer for 22 years (prior to agency work) was seeing children reunified or settle into a family longer term. Having young people graduate and go on to finish university or do amazing things in sport has been so great. Or just witnessing them find peace.” she said.

“Our biggest challenge is finding those who are able to support in a way that fits for their family. There are all types of care that can be offered. If you have ever thought it might be for you, please call in for a chat.”

This year Narrelle hopes to have happy, healthy, and safe carer households with very settled children who are happy in their long-term families whether that be kinship or general families. She is also hoping to see as many children as possible reunited with their families.

Helena had always dreamed of owning a farm, so when the opportunity to move out to the Gympie region arose in 2020, she jumped at the chance.

Now Helena is living her best life with her family on a small property, planting trees, mowing the lawn, and mulching to keep the weeds at bay.

“I love the farm vibe and I’m thinking up ways to make our place more sustainable,” she said.

Helena is one of You Be You’s practitioners, supporting foster and kinship carers and providing them with the resources they need to help look after the children living in their care.

“My role is about supporting foster parents and providing them with the resources so they can care for their children. I love it when children in care succeed in the face of extreme adversity,” Helena said.

“Being a foster carer can be challenging, but there are also many personal satisfactions that could be gained like seeing children who come from difficult circumstances thrive. I also love to engage with people in their environment, whether this means travelling to someone in the countryside or travelling by ferry to an island.”

Before coming to the role five years ago, Helena has worked extensively in Child Protection.

“This year I hope to provide my carers with diverse support mechanisms to strengthen and aid their ability to create an environment for the children to achieve their full potential,” she said.

“I enjoy the relationships that I have established with my colleagues and the extensive support provided to me by Anglicare. It enables me to provide the support to foster and kinship carers that they deserve.”

Outside of work Helena enjoys spending time with her friends and family, gardening, swimming, traveling, and going to church. Narrelle enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, reading, sewing, and travelling. She has also written a book based on her experiences with foster care, for children with a care experience.

For those interested in being a foster and kinship carer with You Be You, Narrelle says, “just ask.”

“Come in and speak to someone one-on-one and have your questions answered. Sometimes we need to be reminded that people are doing the best that they can do and if we can help that’s great.”

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