Foster caring showed us a different way of living

Posted on 15 September 2017 by Rachel Dale

Foster carers Anne and Sarah

With more than 20 years’ experience as foster carers in New Zealand, Anne and Sarah knew they wanted to continue their journey as carers when they settled in Australia. It was complete chance however that Anne walked into a MacKillop office whilst on a lunch break three years ago. A walk to get coffee turned into a chat with our care team, then one thing led to the next and the rest is history.

The day after Anne and Sarah were accredited they received their first placement. “We started having kids and we loved it,” Anne says. Their enjoyment soon led them to prioritise foster care over other things, like work.

“Foster caring was too exciting so we made the decision that I would give up work, then we could say yes all the time,” Anne says.

Not many foster carers quit their jobs to take on caring full time. Yet it’s not uncommon to hear a carer say it’s the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done.

In the three years since becoming foster carers, Anne and Sarah have cared for 23 children in every form of placement: emergency, respite, short and long term.

Looking back, Anne says they now ask more questions to ensure a placement is going to fit with their family. “Being empowered to ask questions is key to a smooth transition and making sure the fit is right for us.”

Although Anne’s house sounds extremely busy, she says it’s just like every other family home. “A typical day involves school drop offs, packing lunches, family dinner, homework – all those normal family activities. It doesn’t feel like a lot extra.”

“Sometimes we have care team meetings because of the nature of who is in our care. And we have weekly supervision with our caseworker. But apart from these meetings it’s no different to any other day before foster kids.”

Providing a safe and supportive environment is the foundation of caring for children, especially those who have come from traumatic backgrounds. Anne says ensuring basic, physical needs are met is at the heart of this.

“Firstly, when a child first comes to us we make sure the house is warm. A lot of these kids have come from a car in the middle of the night. It’s also important the house is clean and welcoming. And basic food so it’s not too foreign for them.

“Next most important is creating boundaries, like shutting the door at bathtime. These things help the children feel safe. It has to be firm but done in a nurturing way to teach them protection. Then we find out about them. What they like to sleep with or eat or wear.

“Not knowing the children when they arrive can be challenging, but having strong support is essential.”

Anne says foster caring showed them a different way of living. “We’re rewarded in so many ways. Watching how the children’s lives are transformed, seeing them reunited with their families or thriving at school is incredible.”