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Short-term foster care becomes a long-term relationship and transforms lives

Life often takes new directions and foster carer Mallery Koons’ life has turned full circle in the 18 months since she became a foster carer.

Mallery, from Perth, had a full-time, demanding managerial position, and although she had always loved kids, her busy lifestyle meant that she had little time for anything outside work.

“I am single, and I was working full-time when I signed up to be a foster carer – and now, just 18 months on, I am foster carer for a little girl and work part -time!

Originally from the USA, Mallery emigrated to Australia 12 years ago to take up a research post after graduating university.

“I have worked in kids’ camps, in childcare and am the ‘fun aunt’ for my friends’ kids. I always figured I’d have kids in my life and knew I would be a great mentor, so when a friend I play softball with mentioned they were a foster carer I started to think about how I could support children through foster care.”

Mallery was relieved to find out that being single and working full-time wasn’t an obstacle to becoming a foster carer as she could still provide a stable and nurturing home,

I did the training and initially put myself down as emergency relief for children aged zero to five-years old. My first placement was two brothers aged two and four years for a period of two weeks. Then, an eight-year-old girl was placed with me, initially for a week, and that’s when my life changed completely.

– Mallery, Perth foster carer

“Eva* was a little older than the age group Mallery was expecting, but she went to school nearby and attended after school care.

“When Eva came to stay with me, she was very withdrawn. She had been in care for a year and in that time had been through five homes. She was wary and cautious and of course she had trouble trusting those around her and wasn’t really engaged at school,

“We established our own routine and spent the evenings chatting about our day, doing craft and working on homework together and very quickly, Eva began to open up to me. Within a few short months we had bonded, and I told MacKillop that I would be happy to have Eva on a long-term basis. It didn’t make sense to move her again as we were establishing a relationship and that stability has made a huge difference to Eva.

“Eva used to have tantrums all the time, but she is learning how to control her emotions and now we rarely have any meltdowns. She is learning how to talk about her feelings and express her frustration in different ways. I am so proud of how she has settled and one of the best things is that she is now engaged at school and has made some great friends, something she hadn’t done before.”

Mallery and Eva passed a huge milestone when Mallery obtained permission from the State Government to take Eva to the United States to meet her family In Philadelphia. They travelled together to attend a family wedding and had a great time seeing the sites and visiting museums,

“The highlight of our trip was spending time with my family. Eva has heard so much about them and I’d told her all about the place where I grew up, so she was very happy to go there and meet everyone. My parents and sister were so excited to meet Eva, it was lovely when we all got together and now we are looking forward to when they come to visit us in Australia.

“The trip underlined the transformation in Eva. She has come a long way from the closed up, wary little girl who first came into my life eighteen months ago and I love to see how happy she is now, just spending time with me and her friends and getting to be a carefree kid again.”

*Name changed to protect privacy.