I considered foster caring 18 years ago. It’s always been in the back of my mind. I unofficially took in a family friend’s 15 year old girl about ten years ago, and I suppose this reignited the idea of doing foster caring. Officially I have been a foster carer for three years now.
Before I became a foster carer, I worked as a teacher’s assistant and ended up helping children with special needs. My own son has mild autism, and the three children I am currently caring for all have special needs. There are many health professional appointments in between school and running the home. I need to plan the week ahead with military precision to keep all the balls in the air at the same time!
I remember the first day of opening my door to greet Child Safety staff and two small children. Child Safety had been shopping, and the children each had a new toy and a change of clothes. The eldest who was five at the time, asked if they were having a sleepover and would she be able to have a hug before she went to sleep. Her younger brother took his first steps that afternoon in my kitchen. I still remember the first meal I cooked that night too. These special memories have stayed with me.
I believe all kids should be able to live safely and be in a home where they can thrive. When kids come and stay, I know they are not mine, but they’re mine for a short time.
The eldest in my care is a teenage boy. I don’t put a lot of pressure on him as he is in his last year of school. He is learning to be a grown up and learning to be independent. He washes his own clothes, organises school things and make his bed. I also help him prepare meal plans when he goes to visit his mother for a few days in the holidays. This will help him longer term, so he can take good care of himself.
It’s really easy to have a rosy view that the little child will come into your home and love you instantly. Just be prepared that this will probably not happen. Accept them for what they do and when they do it. Boundaries are also important, and it is good to have rules around safety from day one. In our home, it is really common sense stuff, don’t climb on the windowsills or push each other on the stairs!
*To protect the identities of the children and carers in this story, names and images have been changed.