Some people take a while to commit to foster caring. Graham and I decided in one night. I saw an advertisement on television and thought I’d like to give it a go. My husband was happy to go along with it. So I gave up my job and jumped into it. Over the last 12 years we have cared for 85 kids.
We are in our early 60s and are both full time carers, with Graham finishing work a few years back to join me in a full-time carer role. Currently we have seven kids in our care from age two years to 12 years. All our children have special needs. We also have four adult children of our own, who are all married and live locally. We are also blessed to have 11 grandkids under the age of seven.
Becoming a foster carer is a thorough process and our training is ongoing. We also learn a lot from the specialists that the children visit. Once a month we speak to people who are thinking about caring, through our local foster care agency, Anglicare. It’s a great way for others to learn from people who have lived experiences of caring.
My favourite memory is a reunification of a mother and her daughter. We had the daughter for three years. The mother was able to get on top of things so she could take her back. We were recently invited to their home for the young girl’s birthday party. All nine of us went along to celebrate.
We have a pool for the kids. If someone is having a bad day, they go and swim through whatever is going on and then come back inside when they are ready. Having pets also helps the kids to relax and focus on having fun in the backyard.
I have also found that being kind to the biological parents and not judging, helps to form a good relationship for the sake of the child. I have never had an issue with the parents, it’s all about having that mutual respect.
When parents and children are reunited it makes everything you do worthwhile. Yes, I do cry when a child leaves, and the other children grieve too. It’s all part of life’s learnings and you wouldn’t change it.
Graham and I make sure that we have half a day a week to ourselves. We usually go for a drive and enjoy lunch together – our own self-care. We are then refreshed and connected to go home to the family. We also make sure we have individual time with friends. Our own children, aunts and cousins are great supports for us and help make these special times together possible.
“For anyone considering caring, you can start small. For example, having a child for one weekend a month can be an amazing help for another carer to take a short break. Start slowly, get your toes wet before diving in, is my hot tip.”
*To protect the identities of the children and carers in this story, names and images have been changed.