Kai* entered foster care in January 2020 aged 14. When he arrived, he had been diagnosed with moderate depression, social anxiety and moderate OCD and he had been refusing to take his medication for some time.
I always knew one day I’d be a foster carer. Early in my career I was working with young people who lived in a group residential unit and what left a deep impression on me was the realisation that children should grow up in a family environment. But I was in my early 20’s and wanted to have a family first, I wanted to settle down and when my own kids were old enough, I would look into it.
And 20 years later here I am. My husband and I have been fostering with OzChild for three years. And our three kids were part of the journey right from the beginning, it was important to us that they wanted this as much as we did, and we wanted them to be part of our little foster team.
We’ve cared for newborn babies, toddlers and children aged up to 10. We were terrified before the first child arrived and full of adrenalin, what would it be like? How would we feel? How would the child feel, and our own children? We had all talked about it a lot, but now it was actually happening.
We had about an hour’s notice, but we were prepared, we had a bed, a cot, some clothes, and some other basics. What we weren’t so prepared for was just how little some kids arrive with. Some arrive with just the clothes on their back, and then there are others who arrive with their entire life just one blue Ikea bag.
When we welcomed the first child into our home, I just had an overwhelming urge to want to protect him. I wanted him to feel safe, and I desperately wanted him to have a rosy, happy ending.
Thinking back to that time I know we couldn’t have got through it without the support of our case manager and the afterhours support available, and I know the amazing training we received at the beginning prepared us for that day.
“The most rewarding part of being a carer is without a doubt the small moments. That moment when a child starts to open up, starts to trust you and feels comfortable. That’s when you know they feel safe.”
My husband would say the best part is watching our own kids grow, seeing them interact with and care for a child like they are part of the family often brings a tear to his eye. Knowing that our children get it, that they understand and give themselves fully really is heart-warming.
The uncertainty is the hardest part, not knowing how long a child will stay with us, or what will happen once they leave is hard. Sure, some days you might be dealing with challenging behaviours or a child who has a meltdown, but you get through those days, it is having to take one day at a time that can be the hardest.
And no, saying goodbye to a child who has stayed with us short term never gets any easier. The first time we said goodbye I think I cried for a week. But over time we have developed strategies and ways to deal with the sadness together.
Some people say to me they couldn’t be a foster carer because it would be too hard to see a child leave. I get it, it is hard! Being a foster carer is sometimes like being on a roller coaster, it might not have a happy ending, your heart may break, but time, love and stability are such wonderful gifts to give.
We try to remember we are caretakers, if it is for a short time then that is good, hopefully it means they get the chance to grow up with their own family.
I can’t bear to think what would happen to them if we didn’t take that step, and we are so grateful to have had OzChild behind us every step of the way.
Could you care? Why not take the first step today, join us at an information session and find out more about becoming a foster carer.
Every 45 minutes a child enters the out-of-home care system in Australia. The sad reality is the number of children and young people needing care is not slowing down and the number of people signing up to become carers is falling short. Could you care?
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