The rewards are too many to count

Posted on 26 June 2017 by Jan Phyland

Toddler reads a book in the arms of caregiver.

Leanne Bartlett vividly remembers her first foster care placement 22 years ago. A single mother at the time with two toddlers of her own, Leanne’s home swiftly grew with the arrival of three children, aged 3, 18 months and a newborn.  It was a baptism that still brings a laugh from the 45-year-old mother of six.

Today, the seasoned foster carer would likely take such a scenario in her stride.

“It’s really important just to go with the flow,” she says. It’s a philosophy that has helped Leanne keep calm and cool in raising her children and “too many foster kids to count”.

It was a television advertisement that first sparked Leanne’s interest in becoming a foster carer. Having recently left a marriage, she remembers wanting to help mothers needing a temporary safe home for their children.

Before long she was providing respite, long and short-term care for vulnerable children. It’s a role Leanne has never tired of. Caring for four of her six children still living at home, Leanne also fosters a two and three-year-old and provides family day care for an additional two children.

“A busy house makes for a fun house,” she says, adding that a normal day starts just after 5.30am with her day focused on getting the children off to school, gathering toddlers to spend time outside for some play-based learning and feeding the family’s menagerie of ducks, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs and cats before settling into the evening’s routine.

For Leanne, being a foster carer isn’t complicated: it’s about providing a warm and inviting home where children can feel safe and supported. It’s about getting down to a child’s level to speak to them. Most importantly, it’s having the support of her dedicated husband (Leanne remarried soon after becoming a carer) and empathetic children.

“Many parents tell me they will foster when they’re older, or their children wouldn’t share them, or they don’t have the time. I simply suggest they offer to do respite care just once a month to help another foster family spend one-on-one time with their children. That can make a real difference.”

The rewards, she says, are too many to count.

Not only does Leanne love to watch the friendly interaction between her children and those who come to live in their home, she also likes the message that fostering teaches: that of helping others and giving something of yourself to those in need.

 “I love watching children grow and change. I once cared for a boy who learnt to walk when he came here. I also had a toddler who used to cry whenever she wanted something but later learnt how to use my name to ask.

“In smalls ways, it’s nice to know I’m having an impact on their lives. It’s celebrating the little milestones they achieve that makes it so great.”

If you would like to transform a child or young person’s life, contact MacKillop about becoming a foster carer in your community. Call 1300 791 677 or visit www.mackillop.org.au/fostercare.