Helping young people to trust again

Posted on 14 August 2017 by Louise Carson

Live-in carer, Lee, shares her experiences of helping to transform the lives of teenagers

Live-in carer, Lee, shares her experiences of helping to transform the lives of teenagers who need a secure, stable environment as they grow and prepare for adulthood.

Young people who have experienced trauma need support. A safe and stable home. Someone to help guide them into a better future.

It can be a tough gig. But the rewards are enormous when you help a young person get back on track, to gain confidence, to learn life skills and start to create a new future for themselves. You can really make a big difference in their lives.

It was the aspiration to do just that which motivated Melbourne counsellor and mum, Lee, to become an Adolescent Community Placement (ACP) carer a few years ago.

“When my children were younger, we often spoke about how special it would be to share our home with a child who could not live with their birth family”, said Lee. “Unfortunately this never happened. I was a single mum and life always seemed too busy. But, the thought was never far from my mind.

“So in my late 40's I began studying to become a counsellor. It was during this time that I felt I could somehow make a real difference in a young person's life. I gained a position as an ACP carer for Wesley Mission, caring for three siblings. I spent two wonderful years with these amazing young people and I am still in contact with them today, catching up for birthdays and other special occasions.

“More recently I have spent six months as an ACP carer for Cara, looking after three precious young people in a beautiful home in Glen Waverley. Although it was a relatively short period of time, the growth of the young people was immense as they began to trust again and feel safe. Unfortunately, I was only able to commit to a six month period and have since moved closer to my children, to get a better work/family balance.”

Cara is now operated by MacKillop and is seeking respite and full-time carers to carry on the great work of carers like Lee and provide support and guidance for young people in care.

Natalie Rio, Team Leader at Cara, says caring for teenagers is an extremely rewarding role and that carers receive regular, structured support and professional development to help them transform the lives of young people in care.

"You can have a huge impact on young people in care, just by showing them that someone outside their family cares for them and wants them to succeed," she said.

"Given the children often come from backgrounds of trauma, it is important that carers are able to establish predictable routines, set clear boundaries, and make the time to talk to, listen, and understand them."

Carers are required now to support young people. Carers can rent their own home; study, work or be home full-time; and be married, in a relationship or single. It doesn’t matter. As long as you care about children and young people and can provide a safe and supportive environment, you can be a foster carer. You can foster care in a MacKillop-owned home or in your own home, and you can specify the length and type of care you provide.

“I remember back to when I decided to become a carer to teenagers and how people reacted”, said Lee. “It was something they said that they couldn't do themselves but they supported my choice and commitment. They all agreed that it was an important decision to make and some even called it brave. I don't see it as brave, even though at times it can be quite challenging; I see it as essential.

“From a community perspective, we all have a role to play in helping our children and young people, who through no fault of their own cannot live at home.

“You make a difference by providing a safe and nurturing environment that encourages every child to reach their full potential. I often wondered when my children were growing up, what would happen if something happened to me? Who would step in and love my children? Who would keep them safe? Every child has the right to be loved and to be safe.

“My message to those considering this type of caring is - just do it! You can make a huge difference”

For more information about foster care, visit www.mackillop.org.au/fostercare or call our Foster Care Enquiry Hotline 1300 791 677.