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"I am being the parent that she needs"

Andrew believes that in life, you don’t get rewards without the challenges. If you don’t challenge yourself, you don’t know what you can achieve.

He says that one of the biggest – but most rewarding - challenges he’s taken on is becoming a foster parent.

“I know I am a better person for being a foster carer. I have learnt a lot about myself,” he says.

Originally from the UK, Andrew first became a carer in 2008, after settling in Australia permanently in 2005. His journey as a foster carer shows that you can help a child be the best they can be, even if your situation changes.

“My wife and I believed that we had something to offer a child in need and began caring for Lucy* when she was just six months old. While we separated in 2009, we have both continued to foster children who are siblings from the same family.

“Lucy has been with me ever since and she’s now ten. I looked after her on my own for quite a while. MacKillop were very supportive through this time – and indeed still are, to this day.

“Lucy’s six siblings are all in foster care in Warrnambool. They live with three different families but, with the support of MacKillop, we make sure all the kids stay close. We get together for birthdays and Christmas, and Lucy is now playing football for the same club as her brothers,” said Mr Morris.

Andrew remarried in January this year, and says his wife, Andrea, is now also active in Lucy’s care. From time to time, they also provide respite for Lucy’s sister.

The family is set to expand, as Andrea is pregnant with their first child and they’ve been spending a lot of time talking to Lucy about her role as a big sister.

“We can see that Lucy is excited about the baby, but we also acknowledge that she is understandably a little scared of the change. So, we are doing all we can to make sure that she knows she is an important part of our family. For example, we bought a new photo frame with the words ‘family’ in the centre, and Lucy was given the responsibility of choosing all of the photos.”

Lucy requires one-on-one attention and stability. But the family is very focused on helping her be the best she can be. Andrew says they do that by simply giving her time, attention, supporting her interests and encouraging her in EVERY step that she takes.

Andrew has found that it’s important to develop routines around what Lucy is interested in. For example, Lucy enjoyed playing chess at school, so now they play together at home. She also showed interest in piano and is now having lessons that she really enjoys. After each lesson, she comes home and plays what she has learnt for Andrew and Andrea.

Juggling kids and working is challenging for all parents and Andrew says in that respect, they are just like any other family.

It’s the usual early morning routine, breakfasting together before dropping Lucy to school and Andrew heads to his job as a mortgage-broker. Lucy participates in a range of after-school activities, including football training, gymnastics, school tutor, piano lessons or the after-school program. But they are usually all home by around 6pm. Then they cook dinner and eat together, before Lucy has some play time. The day finishes with around 45 minutes of quality family time.

“We always finish the day together with a hot chocolate and biscuit, and reading books or playing chess together, before Lucy heads to bed and we tidy the kitchen and make lunches.

“Little by little, you have ‘magic moments’. Lucy is currently rehearsing to be in the school play and she came home and read the whole script by herself. It was only then we realised how far her reading had come and that our efforts were being rewarded,” Mr Morris said.

“We are trying our best to be the parents that she needs. It’s the moments when you see the child in your care respond or adapt their behaviour to reflect what you’ve been working on together that you’re rewarded tenfold.”

For anyone considering foster caring, Andrew has a final piece of advice.

“You take on foster caring because you have something to give, don’t be afraid you have to do it on your own. You have a team to back you up. If you can’t do a week, need a weekend away or can’t get your child to an appointment, MacKillop have access to additional support and backup. You can’t do it on your own, it’s a team effort but it’s the most rewarding thing in the world!”