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Making a home together

Twenty-four-year-old Brook Reynolds from Eltham, in Melbourne’s North East is right to be annoyed at the stereotypical portrayal of Millennials as indulgent, lazy and self-absorbed. Not only is Brook studying at uni, he holds down a part-time job and cares for three teenage boys in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Brook is one of MacKillop Family Services’ home based carers who provide care for children and young people aged nine to 17 who are unable to live in their own homes. Motivated to be positive role models for the young people they look after, carers live with the children and young people in homes provided by MacKillop with all utilities paid. They receive comprehensive training, 24-hour support and an allowance.

Brook studied Business at university and had started working in South Melbourne when he walked past MacKillop's head office on Cecil Street. Intrigued to find out more about the organisation, Brook did some research and says,

“I was astonished that there are so many children who need support to live safely in a city like Melbourne. I kept thinking about it, and after a few days, I walked into MacKillop’s reception and asked what I could do to help?

– Brook

“I was told that there is a chronic shortage of foster carers and that’s how I started on the journey to becoming a carer. I had never thought of youth work or foster care before. It simply wasn’t on my radar, but a couple of years later, I’m the carer for two brothers aged 15 and 16 and a 14-year-old boy.”

Before Brook started working as a carer, he completed training which has given him strategies to support the boys,

“The training was brilliant, it made me feel like I was being properly prepared, and it was a very thorough process. Training started from the basics, I wasn’t expected to have any experience and I was helped at each stage along the way, you’re definitely not thrown in at the deep end.”

Brook and the boys’ daily routine starts with getting up to have breakfast together before the boys leave for school. The older boys make their own way to school, but Brook takes the younger boy, who has a mild developmental delay, to school before he returns to the house.

Brook works hard to create a normal home environment for the boys. One of the most important times of the day is when they all cook dinner and sit down to eat together,

“We have a ‘no screens’ rule, which is a relatively new concept in the house and despite a little resistance at first, it’s worked out really well. We sit and have a chat about our day and that’s often the time when the boys open up to me and it has really helped us be more involved in each other’s lives.”

After dinner, Brook helps with homework and says it is important to keep everything calm as the boys start to get ready for bedtime,

“We’re just like any other family, sometimes the boys wind each other up and managing behaviours is probably my biggest challenge.

“I was anxious at first and conscious about doing the right thing, with teething issues at settling in. Now, it feels like my home and that we’ve got our own little family unit and it’s a more natural relationship, like I am the big brother.”

Caring for the boys is a constant learning curve and Brook says it is important to know that there’s support when you need it,

“There’s 24-hour support as well as Case Managers who can offer strategies to help. I’ve learned to look behind behaviour and the importance of preventing things escalating. It really helps to understand what drives certain impulses and I can help the boys to learn strategies so that they can control their responses. It’s great to see them start to monitor their own reactions using strategies we’ve modelled.”

Brook says caring for the boys has completely changed his life,

“I would one hundred per cent recommend home based care to people. It gives great flexibility while you know you are making a huge difference to a young person’s life. It’s also enriched my life and I’ve learned as much from the boys as they have learned from me, we’ve grown in this together.”

MacKillop Family Services needs people in the northern suburbs who are compassionate, patient and motivated to be positive role models for young people aged nine to seventeen.

Find out more about becoming a Home Based Carer with MacKillop here, or call us on 1300 791 677.

Model image used.