A Loving Home for Dylan

Posted on 09 June 2015 by Krysten Taylor, Carer Recruiter

Greg and Jenny decided to become MacKillop foster carers approximately 12 years ago. Their busy household consisted of themselves (a doctor and midwife) and their three school-age children.  Jenny desired to be a foster carer as she had a good childhood and regularly quotes Hilary Clinton, ‘it takes a village to raise a child--the early years in life influence how a child progresses, which also influences the whole community!’  She believes that it only takes a few weeks of good caring to gain the benefits of knowing one significant person. Jenny’s aunt was also a foster carer and the child that her aunt fostered remains in touch with the family. The experience added richness to their family.

Greg, Jenny and their family provided foster care to about 12 children over the course of their first two years. They had two or three emergency and respite placements, caring for babies and children from six weeks to six months of age on a short term basis.

They were approached to provide temporary care for Dylan, a 6 month old baby boy with a developmental disability. It was not something that they had considered as part of their foster care journey; however as the placement was temporary, they agreed.

Dylan’s parents both have mild developmental disabilities and were unable to care for him. During the temporary placement with Greg and Jenny, attempts were made to find family to raise Dylan and he was placed with a family member. Unfortunately that placement was unsuccessful and Greg and Jenny were again asked to take care of Dylan, however, on a long term basis.

Taking on responsibility for long term care of Dylan would not only impact on them as carers but also on their children. Dylan’s needs were already significant and as he was only one year old. Jenny said that they discussed it with the children and came to the conclusion that this child could not help his circumstance. They had made a commitment to care for him in the past and now he needed them more than ever to deliver on that previous commitment.

Dylan sees his parents at supervised contact every second month. Contact goes well when it occurs but his parents regularly change the day to coincide with their pension date and other personal priorities. This frustrates Greg and Jenny as it conflicts with their own personal beliefs about commitment. Lack of commitment or ability to delivery on the contact plan for children in care is a shared frustration for many carers and can create issues for the child with many feelings such as that of being let down. It is important to remember that fostering is about ‘belonging’. It is about providing a safe, nurturing environment for a child, and recognising and maintaining their connections to those who have been significant to them. The emphasis is on maintaining relationships that link them to their identity. It is the role of the foster carer to create opportunities and environments for this to happen when the birth family can’t.

The placement has been successful and stable for nine years. Jenny and Greg receive regular monthly respite to get a break and ongoing case management support. Dylan is now an energetic 10 year old, who loves gardening and lawn mowing. He attends school five days a week in the support class and is developing well with Greg and Jenny’s loving foster care and professional expertise as a doctor and nurse.