My advice to anyone thinking about fostering is to give it a try! Start out in a respite care role, just to see how it works.
Enjoy the wonderful, warm and fuzzy feeling your family will get from making a child feel loved and special whilst they experience safety, security and connection with you and your family.
We’ve been ‘respite’ foster carers for about five years. We take on kids over a weekend or up to a week, usually whilst their own foster carers take a break. I was at a meeting one day that involved the local head of the Department for Child Protection and she requested if any of us knew anyone willing to become foster carers, even respite carers. She said it would be great as they had two group houses full of kids, including babies, and not enough people in the foster system to even take them out on weekends for some family time and individual care.
I decided I wasn’t doing much on weekends, so I surely could do a weekend of care once in a while. With my own young kids and a full time job, and my husband busy on weekends running his own business, I found it hard to step into other community volunteer roles such as being on committees for our kids sporting clubs. However, in my own home and in my own time I thought I could probably do this respite fostering thing! If you think about it, fostering is probably the ultimate form of community service – providing a loving home environment for kids who aren’t able to be safe with their own family.
In agreeing to go through the respite care process our stipulation was that any kids we took on would need to be younger than our own two boys, then aged five and seven. After our ‘fast tracked’ training process (albeit a quite intensive and confronting program), we quickly got into the swing of it and have found it a genuinely rewarding thing to do. As someone who isn’t very good at having ‘lazy days at home’ it is fun planning special family things to do with our little visitors. It is like filling their little lives with lots of love and a functional family, even if it is just a short time.
Strangely, I find it makes me feel like a better parent to my own kids as I guess we are all on our ‘best’ (non-shouty and non-grumpy) behaviour! Our own boys are so good at being foster carers. Seriously, they are the ones that the foster kids shadow all day, and our boys always show tremendous empathy and understanding – far more than they ever show to each other! I see the wonderful men that they will become when they are helping with our foster kids.
We all particularly love having babies come and stay. We all get to enjoy the fun of a gorgeous baby knowing it’s only for a few nights. As we live in the north of Australia, all of our kids to date have been Aboriginal, and boy these babies are cute! All of our kids we’ve had stay are memorable in some way – quirky, funny, troubled, cute, and above all, loveable.
We did find you need to be a bit tough with Child Protection workers – the requests are hard to refuse when they come in by phone with an urgent requirement to place a child. Our intention at the time was to do foster caring ‘on our terms’ – with my husband and I working full time we are pretty busy people and I’m not that good at saying “no”. To deal with this, I insisted that all requests for care come to us via email. This way we could think about it rationally without feeling pressured.
There are plenty of other ‘causes’ people request your time and energy on – environment, political, animal welfare, to name a few. But my guess is that none of them are as productive and fulfilling as meeting a child’s urgent need for safety and love.
There are so many ‘normal’ families like ours that could open their doors to kids in need. I find it frustrating there is such an unmet demand for carers with so many good loving families out there. People respond to calls for help from cat and dog shelters when they are full, yet when it comes to finding placements for kids we can’t find enough loving homes.
For more info visit Key Assets: canifoster.com.au