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Lending a helping hand

“Kids need to know there is someone in their lives who they can rely on” – Foster carers Renee and Mike made their home a haven for Alisha when she needed it most.

Offering a helping hand is something that comes naturally to Renee Matich. She and husband Mike have spent most of their adult lives working with children and young people as well as raising four boys of their own. To Renee and Mike, it was only a matter of time before they took the extra step to offer a helping hand to kids who need a safe home to grow up in.

“I’ve worked with children for more than 20 years and Mike spent time as a youth worker. In that time, we both encountered many kids who were at risk and who needed that extra bit of help. Foster care was always something we had thought about, but we knew it needed to be the right time for our family, so we waited until we had our last child and then pressed the green button on foster care,” said Renee.

Renee and Mike, from Henley Brook in the Swan Valley, outside Perth have been foster carers with MacKillop Family Services for two years. In that time, they’ve cared for Alisha*, a teenage girl who still lives with the family after she became 18 last year.

“Foster care has been one of the best things we’ve done and foster care has added a wonderful extra dimension to our family. Alisha came to us as a scared and wary teen who had been in care since she was four and had lived in several different homes in that time. Understandably she was angry and often her behaviour reflected the rage she was dealing with, having come through trauma in her early life.

The change in her in the last two years is breathtaking. She trusts us now and has turned into a great kid – very straight forward, kind and thoughtful. We are so proud of the young woman she has become.

– Renee

"When Alisha first came to live with us, she had a negative outlook and it’s so great to see that has completely turned around. She is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead of her and has already earned certificates in community work and wants to give back and work with children who have undergone similar experiences to her in the future,” added Renee.

Renee and Mike’s boys are aged from 13 to four and being part of a foster care family has been an enriching experience for them also.

“There were a few teething problems in the beginning as they got used to having someone new around, but everyone adapted remarkable quickly. The boys have been fantastic and have a really great relationship with Alisha. It has opened the eyes of the older boys to other people’s circumstances. We have been as honest as we can in an age appropriate way about why Alisha is living with us and Alisha is happy to answer their questions about her life and they understand that not all kids can live with their own families.”

Renee found MacKillop’s foster care training useful and says it’s vital to do your research before becoming a foster carer.

“The training is particularly valuable and brings up scenarios that you would never have imagined. The advice is practical and the training will help guide you through many situations. It’s also useful to have a case manager to turn to when you need that extra piece of advice and it’s great to have the knowledge that you’re not on your own.”

Renee and Mike have seen the real difference that foster care has made to Alisha’s life.

“Kids need a chance and security; they need to know there is someone in their lives who they can rely on. Often, they have been let down so many times before that they are almost waiting to be disappointed again. It’s important that they know they have someone in their corner who they can trust and who will always be there for them – they thrive when they know it is genuine. We’re so proud that we could be that support for Alisha.”

*Name changed to protect privacy