A family’s foster care story
We are a typical happy and comfortable couple with one fabulous 11 year old son. Our fostering journey actually began some time ago, when I used to talk about fostering to my husband and son. We all knew that we had the room and the means to make a real difference in a child’s life.
One day my son came home from school with a newsletter about fostering through MercyCare. After a few long family discussions, we decided to start our fostering journey. My son thought it would be great to have someone to play with and to have me at home more often.
After completing the Foster Carer Preparation Training, which we found very interesting and helpful, then Assessment, we were on our way. We decided we only wanted young children, as our first priority would always be the safety of our own child.
I remember getting a phone call from MercyCare asking if we would be interested in taking on a sibling group aged two and four years. I remember feeling all excited and nervous all at the same time. We were provided with information about the children and told we didn’t have to say yes if we didn’t feel comfortable in anyway. There was absolutely no pressure at all.
So, after a family discussion and saying yes, the children came to our home the following week. After having the children for a few days our fantastic MercyCare Case Worker came out for a visit to see how we were all coping. I remember breaking down into tears and saying that I thought we had made a huge mistake. The problem my husband and myself had wasn’t with the children, it was having our child grow up before our eyes overnight. He was no longer our baby and neither of us expected to feel that. In training you’re told about behaviours that can come with children in care, but we never expected how much of a dramatic change it would make to our family unit.
After deciding to give it a go for a bit longer, we found that it actually was the best thing we ever did. Yes, our son grew up before our eyes overnight, however it has become one of the most positive things that could have happened. We discovered that having an only child we had become extremely over protective and we hadn’t been allowing him to experience things that he may have needed to, out of our fear for his safety.
Over the next nine months the children became a very strong part of our family and our son loved being the big brother. Family and friends welcomed the children wholeheartedly and with no judgement, only pride for what we were doing. There were times when we were challenged, but with the assistance and support of our MercyCare Case Worker, we worked through these problems.
After nine months the children returned home to their mother. Some people commented that it must have been hard to give them back, however, the three of us found it easy knowing that mum had done what she needed to do to get her children back and home is always the ultimate outcome for everyone concerned.
Our current placement is a sibling group of two, ages two and four years who will be in our care for the next two years with the possibility of remaining with us until they are eighteen years. The four-year-old has come to us with very challenging behaviours, however over the past few months and with a lot of positive encouragement, he has become the most delightful and well-mannered little boy who is a joy to have around. The children have truly changed our lives and the hugs we receive are heart-warming and special.
When people find out what we are doing they comment on how amazing we must be, but we are just a typical family that just wants to help and make a difference to children’s lives. Throughout the ups and downs none of us regret our decision to become a foster family. We have found fostering extremely rewarding and it has enhanced our family life.
Jason stayed in residential care for about 3 months. He was quiet and as a seven-year-old was unable to hold a cup or write his name. Jason went to several foster families before finding a MercyCare Foster Family.
"It's hard to explain what it's like in foster care. Living with a different family in itself is strange, but when you first leave your family it's very painful. I went through a lot of days crying because I didn't have my family, and no matter how much a foster parent may say ‘talk to me if you any problems’, it's not easy to open up to someone you hardly know. You don't know anyone and you don't know if you are going to fit in with the family. I went to a few foster homes, either they were only emergency foster homes, or because I didn't get on with the people I was staying with.
“After moving from residential care to other foster homes, I found a family I got on well with. It was really good and I still had contact with my real family. I wanted to go home, but I didn't want to leave this new home and family I'd found. I felt torn between my old family and my new family. But I guess no matter what happens you always want to be with your real family.
Well anyway I eventually got home and though it was hard at first, we all sorted our problems, and we all know where we stand."
"Hi to all those teenagers out there. If you are curious about foster care and waiting to know about it, well, keep reading and you might have a clearer idea about foster care.
There are situations, which you might find hard such as explaining to school friends why you are in foster care because most of them won't understand you.
Some of your mates might ask you some personal questions such as "Why aren't you living with your Mum?", "What did she do?", "Where is she?".
These questions don't have to be answered. Just answer, ‘don't worry’.
Once you have been placed in foster care, you might feel embarrassed to invite some of your friends over to your foster home because you don't know how they are going to react or what they might think and you might feel uncomfortable because it is not your usual environment.
Being in foster care is nothing to be ashamed of. It has its bad points and good!
Once you have been placed in foster care you might feel abandoned and alone, angry with your mum or dad for putting you in foster care. You may even hate yourself. These are common feelings. Nothing people say makes sense to you. You might think that everyone has turned against you.
You disagree with the decisions, you may think everyone is deliberately trying to hurt you, but they aren't, it may seem that way now!
Sometimes you find yourself in a tug of war between your mum and your foster family, sometimes you feel guilty for liking your foster parents and because you feel guilt, you turn against them, by abusing them. Try to remember that you can love both your foster carers and still love your mum and dad.
If you have been placed with a family that has either their own or other children already in their care, you may feel even more alone. You may feel also left out, but try to get to know them and be nice and you will get the same reaction back!
Access is also a bit rough on everyone. Say if you went to see your mum once a week, you might feel just as you were getting used to the foster family, you had to go and see your mum which then made you feel you wish you were back with your mum, then you turn against the foster family, it's just one big cycle, which you have to break yourself, because no-one can change the way you feel, which sometimes can be a pain.
I hope I have helped you. All I'm trying to say is that try to live with everyone and to talk with people who care and understand because that's what foster care is about, wanting to help people who need help and being there when you need that help.
And keep in mind that just because your parents put you in foster care, it doesn't mean that they love you less. The only reason they put you in foster care is because they love you and don't want you hurt because of their problems!
It's probably harder being placed in foster care because you're not a child and you know exactly what's happening, but then again, it's hard being a teenager in any family household. But don't use being fostered as an excuse to do nothing with your life and feel sorry for yourself and abuse everyone because there's heaps of kids out there who'd love to have a foster family to love and share their life with them. So sure, you will miss your parents and that's not a crime but don't let it stop you from living because you're only a teenager once."
From Our Foster Carers
"As a foster parent, the value of having a team that listens, supports, advises and advocates without a bias or judgment is immeasurable. In nine years of being with the MercyCare Fostering Services Programme it has been my experience that the team has given 120% in all these areas to both myself and the children in my care. They have helped to make our continuing journey through fostering a wonderful and rewarding experience and have become a valued extension to our family unit."
"I wanted to become a foster parent because I enjoy the company of children, and believe their care is very important to our future. Yes, I did have my doubts, I was worried whether doing my best would be enough to make the child comfortable. It turned out my doubts were unfounded. When young Tim (not his real name) came to us he had been with many other foster families. He fitted in well with the family, and when he was about ready to leave he said, ‘You know this hasn't been like the others, it is more like a home’."
"My youngest daughter brought a newsletter home from school with information about being a foster carer and asked us if we could do it. My husband and I had brought up a family, with the oldest already leaving home. The house was starting to feel empty so we decided to fill it up again."
"We have had a sibling group for eight years now, and it has been very rewarding for both the children and us. Keeping the group together helps maintain the strong family bond between the children and made it easier for them to settle into our family."
"There is a growing need for foster carers and while we only offer limited fostering, we believe it helps."
"Fostering is a great way to make a difference in someone's life."