Foster carers Helen and Philip Shaw are astonished when they stand back and look at how much the young woman in their care has advanced in the four years she has lived with them.
Living in a small town, west of Geelong, Helen and Philip have been foster carers for five years.
“We thought about foster care for a very long time, but while I was working full-time running a café, we felt the time was not right,” Helen says.
“My good friend is a foster carer and she always said I was really good with kids and that I should think about being a carer. Once I stopped working full-time, Philip and I chatted about it and felt the time was right. We made enquiries, did the training and once we were accredited, we started looking after kids straight away.”
15-year-old Ellie* has been with Helen and Philip for the last four years.
Ellie is an amazing girl who lives with an intellectual disability. When she first came to us, she found it difficult to engage with people and rarely looked us in the eye. It took us quite a few months to win her confidence, and she gradually began to interact with us; you could see the trust building.
“Now, she is a different child. She takes the bus to her High School, she can go into shops on her own and she happily talks to people and is very friendly. I am so proud of the fantastic, strong young woman she is becoming.”
Ellie comes from a background where there was family violence and Helen knows that looking after her children was challenging for Ellie’s biological mother who lives with her own mental health issues.
“We keep in contact regularly and I know she wants the best for Ellie and she is so pleased to hear about Ellie’s progress,” Helen says. “Ellie has a very special bond with her older sister and we help her to maintain that relationship.
“Her sister would come and stay with us one night every week when she was at school nearby and now she is working and has her own place, Ellie and I go to visit her. It is so lovely to see how close they are and it is a very special relationship.”
Helen sends photos from trips and helps Ellie to pick birthday and Christmas cards for her Mum.
“We are currently planning a surprise for Mother’s day and we always make sure to meet up over Christmas and at birthdays. Ellie chats to her Mum over the phone and keeps her involved in all the things she is doing.
It’s important that Ellie knows she has family who care about her and who love her, even if they can’t live together. Her sister is very protective of her and I love to see the two girls together.
Helen adds, “We all want the best for Ellie, so we work together to support her. Seeing Ellie’s confidence grow as she understands that she is safe and loved is the best thing about being a foster carer.
*Name changed to protect privacy