Glenda Quinn was interviewed on RPP FM’s Eye on the Peninsula program to answer the hard questions about foster care, and what the new TFCO program will mean for foster care in Victoria.
RPP FM: This week we speak to Glenda of Berwick who’s been a foster carer for 21 years. Glenda speaks about the exciting new program called, Treatment Foster Care Oregon which OzChild will launch next April. Deborah asks, why take on the work of a foster carer?
GLENDA QUINN: Originally, we were only in our mid 20s and we just got married. We knew we wanted to have children, but not yet. We enjoyed having nieces and nephews come around for the weekend, so we decided to be respite carers because we worked full time. And it really grew from there. One of our placements ended up staying for seven months – a 13 year old boy who we still think about, 21 years later. We’ve had such joy from the placements we’ve had. We’ve been so privileged and lucky to have been part of it.
RPP FM: Some of the most frequently asked questions about being a foster carer are…
GLENDA: Isn’t it really hard to give them back? Do the parents come back and bang on your door? Are you scared of their safety?
My experience is that the birth parents are grateful that you’re giving the time to care for their child. If you can have a good relationship with the birth family, that’s better for the child because they can see that everyone’s working together, and the main person we wanna help is that child.
In the foster care program, there are a lot of supports in place, in that if you work full time and can’t get the child to school, there’s support. But with TFCO, what they’re asking is to be a lot more available. It’s really wrapping that support around the child on a greater level. It’s about being the holistic parent for that child.
For the type of care we do, emergency care, although we’re providing a safe and nurturing home for a week or two weeks or a night… we’re not trying to become Mum and Dad. Whereas with TFCO, you’re really being a parent in every aspect of the child’s life for the time that you’re with them.
RPP FM: What about discipline in the home? Do you apply the same discipline to a foster child as your own children?
GLENDA: I guess I hold a higher standard to foster children than I would with my own children. No smacking – I would never raise my hand to a child in care because of what that means to them and where they’ve come from. I’ve learned a lot of alternative ways of parenting and reprimanding children if they’re doing something dangerous or naughty.
RPP FM: So you treat the foster child a little differently to your own?
GLENDA: You’ve gotta deal with all the different personalities in the house. I explain to my children regularly, “they’ve come from a really difficult position, we need to give them a break sometimes.” I’m a little bit more flexible.
RPP FM: It’s quite interesting to look at the dynamics of a family who has taken on a foster child because you’ve got the siblings to consider how they’re going to react, your role and your partner’s role to keep the family happy and harmoniously working together. The worst thing you can do is put the foster child in a situation where your kids are going to play up.
GLENDA: I must have amazing children, because they’ve never taken advantage of the fact that we foster.
RPP FM: Is becoming a foster carer rewarding?
GLENDA: It’s hard to put into words sometimes because I get very emotional about it! We’ve had some amazing stories that we’ve experienced in our 21 years. And I’ve also heard amazing stories from our foster carer friends. It’s a tough job. The kids can push all your buttons. But we do it because of the rewards. It’s not all the fault of the birth parents. They’re not all abusive. There’s mental health, poverty, all kinds of other issues why kids come into foster care. It’s really a village that raises a child. The rewards are so evident, it’s incredible.
RPP FM: What processes are involved to match a foster child with a foster family?
GLENDA: When you go through the assessment process, all of that is nutted out – your family dynamics, your pets, all come into the equation. And OzChild and Anglicare will have all their available carer list. Even if you only want to care for males or only females, you can specify that as well. In the intake process, they go through all of those qualities and they match as well as they can.
RPP FM: Glenda explains TFCO.
GLENDA: It’s to get kids out of residential and into a family home. It’s time-limited, so six to nine months. Within that time, the courts will either send that child back into their family or into permanent care. It is time-limited and specific for great results. It’s proven to work in other countries, some of which I think are worse than Melbourne. Because I wonder where they’re going with this. How can we get more foster carers in a climate where the number of children going into care is doubling? This might be the answer. It’s a proven program that’s worked in America and the UK with social issues like us, and it’s managed to halve their number of referrals because of their program. It’s quite different.
If you’re not right for TFCO, they can refer you to the regular foster care program which I’m a part of. I work at OzChild and I’m actually part of the recruitment team, so I support other carers.