The great selfless act

Churches of Christ Care are blessed to have over 870 foster and kinship carers who selflessly open their hearts and homes to help children in the greatest of need.

From 25-30 April, foster and kinship carers are brought to the front as we celebrate their amazing contribution during Foster and Kinship Carer Week.

Our South West Foster and Kinship Care Service is supported by 132 foster and kinship carers who provide a loving home to over 470 children and young people. We meet three of their foster and kinship care families who share why they became carers. They also tell us about some of the challenges and the undeniable rewards of helping children and young people with nowhere else to go.

Erin and Rowland

At the tender age of 22, Erin and Roland were still young people themselves when they made the decision to become foster carers in 2007.

Over the years the couple, as well as having had five children of their own, have fostered many children needing a stable and supportive family life. Erin said that although initially Roland was hesitant about being a foster carer, they both took to the role naturally.

Erin loves being at home with their seven children (two foster children) ranging in age from 18 months to 13 years, and she feels that both her and Roland have a lot to give to each of the children, Acting Service Manager Amanda Skellern said.

"They get a sense of accomplishment from seeing the changes they are able to bring to children’s lives and have an acceptance of everyone with all of the children in their home being considered to be ‘family’," Amanda said.

The safety of each child is paramount, and they staunchly oppose extreme behaviour. Once a child has been accepted into placement with their family, they are committed to giving them a safe home until the child is reunified with their biological family.

"Initially we were a little naïve in understanding the caring role, and felt we were better with younger children, as we were able to give them the love they needed. However when the reality of challenges arose, we found that we were really good at managing even the toughest of times and coping with them," Erin said.

"Our biological children have also benefitted greatly from having foster children in their lives, as it has given them a wonderful perspective on the world and an appreciation of all types of people and culture."

"Erin and Roland live their goal which is ‘to contribute to their community and support those who are in need’," Amanda said.

"Recently a Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services employee commented that the Henry’s ‘are young carers with a full-time stay at home mum and these things are a rarity and to be valued in our line of work.’ The couple are appreciated and valued cares and are a crucial part of our service," she said.

Janice and Steve

Janice and Steve were motivated to become foster carers in 2008 by their deep love and care of children.

"We are able to provide a stable, safe and nurturing environment for the children in our care, and seeing firsthand the difference we are able to make to the children’s lives is what motivates us to continue," Janice said.

Steve said "we wished to provide a continued service and a good future for the children."

"Janice and Steve are totally committed to the four siblings they care for and the children all know that their home is with them. They have embraced their children as valued family members, so much so that Janice’s father, Wayne is known to the children as their grandfather and provides valued short breaks for the couple when they occasionally have a special occasion to attend," Amanda said.

"The children love to visit Wayne just to ‘catch up’ and spend time with him and they love when he attends their sport events and other celebrations," Janice said.

The couple acknowledge that caring for and raising four young children emerging into teenagers has brought enormous changes to their lives, but they have embraced these changes with positivity and love.

They are adamant that they have every intention of continuing in their fostering role for the siblings until they are adults. Recently Janice was given a letter from her 11-year-old foster son that said:

‘Dear Mummy I love you a lot because she is the nicest and wonderful as well. And I am grate full that Janice is the best foster parent in the world. I like how Janice helps me with homework sheets and studies for school and she can stuff buy for me. From Jerry’ [sic].

Recently a Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services employee working with the couple commented that "a strength of Janice and Steven is that they work together as a team in providing a nurturing and stable home environment for the children they care for".

Janice and Steve are highly valued members of the caring family at South West Foster and Kinship Care. Their greatest achievement so far in their fostering journey has been to watch their children change from severely traumatised young children into well-rounded, socially adaptable children who are now planning their futures.

Janice and Steve have opened their home and created a stable family for four young siblings.

Natalie and Tony

A desire to provide a safe and caring home for children in need, and a realisation that there were not enough carers out there to do this, led Natalie and Tony to join Churches of Christ Care South West Foster and Kinship Care in 2010.

Tony and Natalie work hard to make a difference to the lives of the children they support and provide assistance to the children’s families to encourage reunification whenever possible. This assistance has even extended to taking in and caring for the children's family pets.

Natalie said "I get a great deal of joy working with and giving to the children."

For Tony, he likes to ensure the children in their care receive the same opportunities as his biological children (both now adults) and he can see the difference that he can make to their lives.

Natalie’s mother, Felicity, has embraced the children as her own grandchildren and the children love their visits with her on Magnetic Island.

Natalie and Tony have a shared love of running their farm as well as maintaining individual interests. Among other things, Tony has a keen interest in flying and is the National Secretary for Recreational Aviation Australia, while Natalie is a veterinarian and breeds miniature goats, sheep and alpacas.

The couple were presented with a carer’s award in 2015 in recognition of their exceptional commitment to the children in their care as well as to the children’s extended biological family.

Natalie and Tony said that fostering has brought them closer together.

 

Click here to discover more inspiring stories in the latest editon of Networking.

Posted April 19, 2016 in News