Foster care. The right time is now.
September is about celebrating foster carers in NSW and this past week has been Foster Care Week (8-14 September). Foster Care Week is about acknowledging the wonderful contribution NSW foster, relative/kinship carers, guardians and adoptive parents do to keep children and young people safe in our community. Foster Care Week also aims to high light the need to attract more foster carers.
Dubbo local Kathleen Hignett has been providing emergency and respite care to children in Dubbo for five years, and is one of the many foster carers Uniting would like to celebrate in September; the month of Foster Care Week.
“I’m kind of the fun aunty,” Kathleen said. It’s a role she lives up to as a respite carer, with trips to Taronga Open Plains Zoo and activities such as baking.
Kathleen’s role as an emergency and respite carer means she will care for children short term – sometimes a week, sometimes only for one night – but she always makes sure they feel at home.
“I think it’s very similar to being a parent. It’s rewarding and challenging at the same time,” Kathleen said.
“I have a ‘my routines and me’ chart so I can find out simple things that are important to children like if they like a bath or a shower or do they like television, just to give you a heads up on what their little world is like,” she added.
Regular training on topics such as social media and dealing with trauma provides Kathleen with support, but she delights in the constant learning she receives from every child.
Seeing the difference
Even as a short-term carer, Kathleen can see the difference a positive stay experience can have on a child’s life.
“There is a ripple effect. When that child has had a good time, they go to school and teachers have a better time. They have a visit from their biological parent who can see them thriving. It makes me happy when I go to work too.”
There is no such thing as a perfect family, and there is no perfect time to become a foster carer. But for young people aged between 10 and 16 who need a loving, stable home, there is a right time, and it’s now.
Uniting is seeking people for short and long-term foster care, to support these kids, and offer them guidance through their teenage years.
There are often misconceptions around who can become a foster carer – a foster carer can be someone over 18 with no upper age limit, single people and couples from culturally diverse backgrounds, with or without children who can provide safe, loving homes who have empathy, care and can be a mentor. Grandparents and same-sex couples are encouraged to apply.
“I think a lot of the time when I tell people they say ‘I could never do that’ or ‘you must have a big house’. I don’t have a big house, I have a big heart,” Kathleen said.
Becoming a carer doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of commitment. Like Kathleen, you can start out with something small to see if it suits you and it could be as little as one weekend a month or just in school holidays. It’s your call. There are lots of options, ranging from respite care to short-term care, right through to adoption and we’ll support you every step of the way.
“It’s like watching your heart run around outside your body. It’s just beautiful.”
If this sounds like you or someone you know, please consider becoming a foster carer and change a child’s life for the better.
Foster care. The right time is now.
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