"They don't have to worry about the adult things now - they've got the stability just to be kids"

Posted on 25 July 2018 by Angela Mallon

Foster carers Adele and Russell smiling

“We didn’t have a choice in not being able to have kids, and these kids didn’t have a choice in not having a family either; we just compared our position to their position and really wanted to do something to help them out.”

Adele and Russell live in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Together for nearly seven years and married for two, Adele and Russell became foster carers because after years of trying, they couldn’t have children of their own. But now they want people to know how much it means to the lives of children whose families can’t care for them, as well as what it gives back to the carers.

“We still wanted to have children involved in our lives and we realised that there were so many kids out there that didn’t have a home. I now look back and think why didn’t I do this 7 years ago?”, explains Adele.

“It’s so worth it. It seems scary and daunting at the beginning and we weren’t really sure what we were getting into, but actually doing it and being on the ground, it’s so worth it watching those kids change. I don’t think there is anything else more rewarding.”

The couple decided to give foster caring a go, and they were accredited to do so in December 2017.

That same month they became foster carers for *Oliver, just five days old. Adele had grown up with a lot of babies in and around the family but this was the first full-time baby she had been responsible for.

“We really loved it. We never thought that we would get to have the baby experience, and then that was our first placement, three days after Christmas. It was pretty full on but he was a gorgeous little boy and literally the perfect baby. It was such a good experience to start off with.”

Oliver left their care when he was six weeks old, and that was the hard part. Adele and Russell worried about plenty of things as they made the decision to foster children and went through training, but none of the logistical hassles or day to day care of the kids they have looked after have been an issue at all. It would be abnormal not to have some doubts about making the leap, and they were nervous about setting rules and structure for someone else’s kids, but once the kids were with them, their main concern was looking after them, and everything else faded into the background.

Saying goodbye is the tough part, but the couple know they will be richer with each child that comes into their lives and are grateful they are able to help.

Adele and Russell are currently looking after their second placement, brothers 6 and 8. The boys' mum is unwell and they hadn’t had contact with their father until very recently.

One of the boys hadn’t been to school in a year and they were both withdrawn when they arrived.

“They weren’t used to having a positive adult figure around to spend the time with them and show an interest in their hobbies. They literally came to us with their heads down looking at an iPad, and that didn’t change for quite a while.”

Committed to helping the boys come out of their shells, Adele and Russell got practical with their parenting tactics.

“After between two weeks to a month, they started to come out a bit more and after six weeks they were so completely different! We talked to them and tried to be as involved as we could – even just talking to them about the game that they were playing to try to get that eye contact and introduce openness and communication in the relationship.”

A typical day sounds like any ordinary family – they get up at 7, have breakfast, make lunches, do the school drop-off. They sit together for meals, and they read stories at night time.

Being in a household with stability and a routine has helped the boys immensely.

“I think they know that we are here for them if they ever need anything or want to chat or do something.

“They know when their next meal is - they don’t have to worry about the adult things now - they’ve got the stability just to be kids. They know that someone is going to take care of everything else for them. That helps to take the pressure of them and relieve their stress and let them just be kids - which is all they want to be.

“Going to school means they have a connection with other children and get to do childlike things. Now they come home from school and tell me that they have had a great day. They really do love going to school now, which is awesome.”

“They were very into electronics and now they are wanting to play with toys and games and roleplay. It’s fun to see them becoming kids again.”

Adele says that hands down the best thing about being a foster carer is seeing - and being a part of -the positive change in the kids from when they come to you to when they leave.

“Seeing them grow and change into different little people from when they first came here as scared and nervous kids makes it all worthwhile. Now they are just outgoing normal little kids.”

As well as the boys, Adele and Russell also care for a baby who has been with the family since she was one week old.

*Names changed for privacy reasons

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