My husband Leigh and I became foster carers in 1998. After the untimely death of Leigh’s sister, we realised we wanted to give back to the community, and fostering seemed the perfect way to make a difference.
We stopped counting after fostering over 300 children. Some children stay with us for one night and others for much longer. Our longest placement has been with us for almost ten years and she is now in our permanent care. We have watched her blossom and grow into a beautiful girl.
We offer emergency, short term and long term care. We also take large sibling groups. I feel this is critical as being placed in care can be traumatic for a young person let alone being separated from siblings.
Our very first placement was twin ten month old boys. I was so nervous that I ended up with an upset stomach and poor Leigh had to manage without my assistance for the whole weekend.
We currently have five children in our home: two girls (eleven and four year old sisters who are in our permanent care), an 18 month old boy, and our two young adult children. We run our own business and employ over 50 people. I work three days a week.
I believe it is important to live a balanced life and to keep fit and healthy. This encourages the children in my care to lead an active lifestyle and ensures I am able to run around with the children. In April 2012, I did the Oxfam 100km walk in 48 Hours (no sleep!). I cox and assist my husband’s rowing crew. I rowed with a crew to complete the Murray Rowathon (82km) in October 2012. I am a volunteer rowing coach for a local high school. Recently, I completed a half marathon. It is funny to see our youngest daughter imitating me; running around the house completing a ‘half marathon’ and staying hydrated (if only she knew the true distance!).
I love caring for drug addicted babies. They are often extremely unsettled and temperamental. It is hugely rewarding to help a baby overcome a difficult start to life. A smile from one of these babies will melt your heart. One story comes to mind… I had in my care an 11 week old, a two year old, a seven year old and our own two children. I received a call to say that the seven year old’s mother had given birth to a drug addicted baby. Of course we said we would take the new baby as it would break my heart to separate the siblings. It was a difficult time but I would not change a thing as the drug addicted baby is now a confident, cheeky little girl.
The children that come into our care have often missed out on very basic needs. It is remarkable the difference a hug, a listening ear, a bath, a meal, and a bed can make. Often words aren’t even needed when the child arrives; body language says it all. It is amazing to see a young person in your care smile at you, trust you and befriend you when their world has always been the complete opposite. No smiles, no trust and often no real relationship with the adults in their life. It is heartwarming to see a confident child where there once stood a child full of fear.
It’s great fun to have new experiences with a child, we have taken many children camping or to the snow for the first time. Their faces are a crack up.
I am often asked if it is sad when children return to their birth parents. My answer is always the same. Most of the time we have given their parents an opportunity to get their lives back on track. I miss the children, but foster care is not about keeping the child: it’s about helping the families.
I am very proud of my children; they never make any judgement and welcome children into our home no matter their circumstances.
I love what I do and would not change any part of it. Sometimes the children’s stories are tragic but that makes me even more determined to show them that there are other ways to live. It is so natural to take these children into our arms. They are all so easy to love.
Could I be a Foster Carer?
At Berry Street, our foster carers are wonderfully diverse in terms of age, background, relationship status and experience. If you are over 21 and can offer a child or young person a safe and nurturing home environment, we will welcome your application.
You can make a huge difference to a child by providing a safe home
Find out what it takes to become a foster carer, enquire online today.