Working within the corrections system has given foster carers Linda and Janine a deep appreciation of the circumstances that often lead to kids coming into care.
“Time and time again, we see young people coming into the system whose parents were there before them. Young people who have little to no experience of a stable family life can find it difficult to care for their own children and the cycle begins all over again.
“For us, foster care is one way we can help to support vulnerable children and families by creating a caring and nurturing environment to help break the sequence,” Linda said.
Partners for more than 18 years, Linda and Janine live in Hobson's Bay, In Melbourne’s western suburbs, and currently look after Jacob*, a three-year-old boy who has been with them for over a year. Becoming foster carers has transformed their lives.
“The timing of the COVID pandemic has in many ways been a blessing in disguise for us,” laughs Janine. “We had planned two overseas trips which had to be postponed and we decided to change to longer term foster carers. Previously we had been respite or emergency carers but as soon as we became accredited for long term, we got news that Jacob needed a home with us. If it hadn’t been for COVID, we’d have been on holiday in Turkey at the time!”
Janine and Linda have been foster carers for just over two years.
“As respite carers, children and young people come to stay with us for a weekend or for a couple of weeks. We’ve helped with respite care for sibling groups and teenagers.” Janine says, "Having them over made the weekend so much fun and it’s great for kids to know they have people alongside their immediate care givers that they can trust and develop a supportive relationship with.”
Becoming long-term carers for Jacob was the logical next step for Linda and Janine. Jacob’s parents are dealing with their own mental health issues and are unable to care for their son. They know that Jacob needs long-term support and Janine and Linda are going through the process of permanent care to provide Jacob with the stability he needs to thrive.
“Jacob is a little star. He was very quiet and wary when he first came to stay with us and it’s fantastic to see how much his confidence has grown. He used to be nervous around strangers, but now he loves to be the centre of attention with all our family and friends. Our lives have changed just as much as his; seeing things through his eyes, getting on your hands and knees in the garden to look for bugs makes you see the world differently and appreciate the small things in life, laughs Janine.”
We always knew we wanted to have children in our lives and we knew that there are so many kids out there in need of loving, stable homes. We see the impact of childhood trauma every day in our work and we deal with kids whose lives would have turned out differently if they had been given the right support at the right time – it’s what being a foster carer is all about.
*Name changed to protect privacy