This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the inspiring women who create change, influence a positive future and drive meaningful action.
Natalie and her partner have been full time foster carers for three years. Receiving their accreditation in December 2019, they welcomed their first children in January 2020 – two children, Alex* and Frankie*, who are still in their care today.
There were many reasons to become a foster carer for Natalie: to make a difference, to be an active part of her community and to be there for vulnerable children and families in crisis for starters.
“I was aware of the reality facing children and young people involved with child protection, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t look the other way,” she reveals.
To become a foster carer was a life changing decision, not only for Natalie but those young people she would help. It is a decision that has been incredibly rewarding.
“Fostering changes everything. It’s an incredible experience. For my partner and I it has brought more joy, more challenge, more chaos, and more fulfilment than we could have imagined.”
Joy has come in the form of moments for Natalie. The thousand little treasured moments when, as a foster carer, she feels the enormity of what it means to do what she does. Seemingly simple day to day things like snuggling up in bed, being clean, fed, warm and safe become so meaningful.
Through all of the trauma and the grief, all the behaviours and the challenges carers like Natalie and her partner ensure children and young people are believed in, nurtured, championed, celebrated and loved.
Opening your home 24/7 to trauma-impacted children or young people is such an extreme form of volunteering,
While Natalie sought to support children and young people, she never aspired to become a full-time carer. Natalie and her partner own a performing arts school where she has been teaching dance for over 25 years. Having dedicated herself to the school for so long, Natalie made the decision to use her skills and passion for teaching dance and apply it to supporting children in out of home care.
Much like with her students, building the relationship and connections with Alex and Frankie in a safe environment has provided so many opportunities for positive childhood experiences, strengthening their trust and other protective factors.
“Driven by the urgent need for greater support and respect for foster carers, I’ve been seeking opportunities wherever possible to make a difference. I’ve been volunteering with the Foster Care Association of Victoria (FCAV) on advocacy for carers, and have just been welcomed onto their Board of Directors,” she says.
I think as a society, as a community, we need to decide to do better - we need to demand that those in power ensure equity for our vulnerable children and, for the amazing people who care for them.
“Foster carers dedicate themselves to the care of our state’s vulnerable children, children who come with significant needs. The demand on their time as a direct result of being volunteer carers for children with complex needs, often means that they have to cut back work hours, change jobs or stop working entirely.”
This International Women’s Day and beyond, we push to embrace equity and celebrate the amazing stories of women foster carers.
*Names changed to protect privacy