Meet OzChild TFCO Recruiter & Trainer, Amanda

Meet OzChild TFCO Recruiter & Trainer, Amanda

Amanda is very familiar with foster care. Not only are Amanda and her husband Brett foster carers themselves, Amanda was also in care as a child, and now works for OzChild’s Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) program as a Foster Care Recruiter & Trainer.

“My experience as a foster carer was the driving force behind my desire to work in OzChild’s Treatment Foster Care Oregon Program. I knew better outcomes could be achieved for vulnerable kids. A program like TFCO that puts their needs first, a program that is aimed at reuniting kids with family, well I wanted to be part of that!”

“I always knew I wanted to care for kids in out-of-home care so when I met my husband in my early 20’s I made sure he wanted to come on this journey with me,” says Amanda.

Amanda and Brett have five children of their own, when their youngest was just a few years old they completed their foster care training in regional Victoria, only to move to Sydney for Brett’s work a short time later.

Completing another assessment in Sydney the couple became authorised foster carers in NSW. The very day Amanda and Brett’s authorisation came through two little boys landed on their doorstep.

“They were supposed to stay for two weeks, but we ended up caring for them for nine months,” remembers Amanda.

Having been in foster care herself Amanda understands only too well the emotions some kids in care are experiencing.

“I can say to them honestly, ‘I know you miss your mum or dad; I know what it feels like’ and they trust me, they know I am on their side.”

Amanda also knows how important connection to birth family is and maintains those connections for the children in her care.

“When the kids need to connect with their birth family, I make it happen, because I know how hopeless they can feel without that contact, and it helps them to form a connection with their biological family,” says Amanda.

Amanda and her husband decided to take their role as foster carers a step further when they became aware the two sisters in their care would not be able to return to their birth family.

“We decided to adopt them! Honestly, I wanted to get it right for at least one child. And we did for two. Growing up I didn’t feel particularly loved, I didn’t feel safe, so I wanted to make sure since these two girls couldn’t go home to their first family, they would never have to leave us, their second family.”

The couple are also in the process of adopting six year old twin boys they are currently caring for, and the relationship they have built with the children’s mother has meant they have her blessing too.

“We wanted their biological family to agree to the adoptions, but we never dreamed they would be the ones pushing the hardest for the adoptions to happen. That is a very humbling feeling, but I am so happy with the relationships we have built with each family. I am so grateful to their mum’s for trusting us with their babies.”

“It sounds strange, but we kind of adopt their parents too, I can’t explain how happy it makes me for my kids to have all their family in their lives.”

It’s not surprising to learn Amanda has a soft spot for siblings. “We have rarely had single children placed with us because I always ask where their siblings are.

“We agreed to a two week placement of twin boys in 2015 so the boys did not get separated. A year later their older brother came to live with us also,” says Amanda.

Being flexible and able to just go with the flow has helped Amanda in her foster care role.

“One of my motto’s is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. I love beautiful things and am quite house-proud. But if things get broken, they can be replaced. If a window gets smashed, it’s fixable. If you make a child feel they are ‘bad’ because of this – that’s really hard to repair.”

Thinking about the most rewarding part of being a carer, Amanda says it would have to be when a child has their first tantrum and screams at her “you’re not my mum,” moments like this let her know the kids feel safe enough to hand that stress over to her.

“And when they no longer feel they need to hide food under their pillow or can stop at one helping of dinner instead of three, that tells me they know I will feed them tomorrow, that they will still be here tomorrow.”

Amanda says relationships built with peers has been an important part of her caring journey.

“Having a friend who is a carer means there is someone else who is able to relate to the many diverse issues you will face.”

Understanding the TFCO support model through her work with OzChild, Amanda can see the benefits 24/7 support.

“A 24 hour support line would be of great benefit for general carers, like they have in the TFCO program.

“Access to family tax A and B regardless of income would also help. We never signed up to be carers for the money, so some assistance here would go a long way,” says Amanda.

When asked about advice for people considering foster care Amanda doesn’t hesitate in offering hers, “It has to be a whole family decision. I was ready to be a carer 10 years before my husband. He is an amazing carer, like I knew he would be, but I had to wait until he was ready.

“If you are feeling overwhelmed about where to start, just reach out. It’s not as hard as you think it is. There is no doubt your life will change; my life is certainly richer.”

And the absolute best part about being a carer for Amanda? “Always having a big, fat, loud dinner table. And at Christmas time having a lounge room full of wrapping paper and happy kids.”

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