This week marks the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies’ annual Foster Care Week in New South Wales.
The week aims to celebrate the work that foster carer’s provide to children in the community and to highlight the need to attract more foster carers.
It is estimated that 660 new foster carers are needed across NSW in the next 12 months to cope with the almost 20,000 children in the state unable to live at home.
Michelago couple Fiona and John have fostered children for almost seven years through the CareSouth agency and have found it an incredibly rewarding experience.
The couple asked for their surnames not to be published to avoid any children in their care being identified.
Fiona and John have five biological children aged between 12 and 20 and currently have four foster children in their permanent care.
Despite having so many children of their own keeping them occupied, Fiona said that deciding to become foster carers was a very natural progression for the couple.
“When my youngest daughter was getting ready to go to school I felt like I still had space in my life to take care of other children.”
“I just love the idea of children getting a good start in life and having a lot of love around them and great opportunities to be the best they can be.”
Fiona added that building relationships with the families of children in foster care and providing reassurance for them was a powerful motivation.
“They can’t live with their parents but they love their children and they want to be reassured that their children are safe and loved,” she said.
“That’s become a big part of it for me, being able to have a good relationship with the families.”
Fiona acknowledged there can be difficulties as a foster carer, particularly having to part with a child in short-term care, but said knowing it was the best outcome for the child was all that mattered.
The process of becoming a foster carer can differ between agencies but generally involves various background checks before entering into a period of training which is often ongoing. Agencies also offer an allowance to help with the cost of raising a child.
Fiona said that the agency had been very good at creating a supportive environment through both their staff and connecting carers socially and she was eager to encourage anyone with an interest to consider their options.
“Fostering isn’t for everybody, it’s not something that everyone would want to do,” Fiona said.
“There’s lots of other ways people can support foster care.”
“But if you think it’s for you, just do it. Because it is just so rewarding.”
If you feel you are in a position to become a foster carer more information is available through the Fostering NSW website or call 1800 236 783.