Foster care has enriched our lives

Posted on 06 June 2017 by Rachel Dale

Agapi with husband Manny

Like most foster carers, it was the desire to make a difference in a child’s life that first attracted Agapi and her husband Manny to the idea of fostering.

That was more than 15 years ago. Since then, they have cared for close to 100 children, some for just one night and others for almost two years.

Agapi still remembers how a television show that featured children in foster care first sparked her interest. She picked up the phone to find out more, and two months later Agapi and her husband were welcoming their first foster child.

Despite being well prepared, Agapi acknowledges there are still assumptions about foster care. At the training, Agapi and Manny learnt how much flexibility there is for foster carers to take placements suitable to them. “You have the choice and control about the placements you take and for how long,” Agapi said.

Starting out with two young daughters of their own, Agapi recalls how adding another place at the table, doing an extra pick up and drop off, or one more load of washing each week didn’t feel like extra work. “If you already have children – in terms of adjusting to a routine – it’s really not much different.”

Her children have since grown up, but Agapi and Manny still care for children of all ages. “Our last placement was a baby. A typical day is just like a normal baby’s routine.”

Agapi and Manny have made many connections and established diverse relationships through their engagement with MacKillop Family Services and their foster children.

“Foster care has enriched our lives. It gives us an enormous sense of satisfaction and self-worth,” she says.

“It’s really benefited my children by teaching them compassion towards others and willingness to put in the effort to make a difference. One of the reasons we decided to foster rather than donate money to a charity as our way of contributing to the community is because it involved all of us. It meant total immersion into it. You couldn’t do it half-heartedly.”

There are several components to providing a nurturing home environment for children in foster care. For Agapi, a key part of this is ensuring the home is calm, clean and peaceful, but also somewhere the children can feel happy, have fun, play and be themselves. Their home is one that always has games, food, music and cuddles.

Building routines is also important in helping children feel secure. This is particularly critical for children who have experienced trauma. Some children placed with Agapi and Manny are not used to knowing whether they’ll go to school each day, if there will be lunch in their lunchboxes, or whether their uniforms will be ready.

“They need to be able to predict what’s going to happen from one moment to the next. Safety is about order, certainty and predictability. There’s no anxiety when they know what’s going to happen.”

Dealing with the emotions is one of the challenging parts, Agapi says, but this is regardless of whether children are in foster care or not. “Raising children is an emotional journey! Having a sense of humour and seeking support from family and caseworkers are critical to coping during difficult times,” Agapi said.

Join Agapi and MacKillop Family Services in transforming the lives of children and young people in care. Call 1300 791 677 or visit www.mackillop.org.au/fostercare.