Morwell local Rhonda became a foster carer 30 years ago as a single mum wanting to make a difference. She thought it would be a good way for her own child to have interactions with lots of different kids in her area.
For the past 18 months, Rhonda has looked after some of Gippsland’s most vulnerable children through a unique foster care arrangement run by Anglicare Victoria. The Retainer Bed Model involves Rhonda living in a house provided to her by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing so she can be available to provide a safe home to children at short notice for a short period, at any time of the day or night.
Somewhere children don’t need to worry about what tomorrow brings.
“Traditional fostering involves kids coming into your own home and blending into your family lifestyle. They do the things your kids do, and they become part of your household routine. In the Retainer Bed Model, kids are only in my care for a few days generally, and I don’t know what type of household they’re going to go to next. Because of this I encourage the kids staying with me to focus on the present, and not worry about where they were going to be tomorrow,” Rhonda said.
“These kids may have just been removed from their family home or have had a placement breakdown. In the time they’re with me I want to ensure they’re resting, taking the time to be a kid, and having a bit of breathing space from the situation they’ve come from – I aim to give each child the individual support they need.”
There’s a growing need for foster carers in Gippsland.
For an assortment of reasons, the number of children in Gippsland who can’t live with their biological families is increasing. In the past year alone, Anglicare Victoria provided foster care to 178 children and young people in the region. To meet this growing need, the organisation is recruiting more foster carers for its Retainer Bed Model.
For Rhonda, one of the best things about caring in the Retainer Bed Model is that she has more money available to spend on fun activities with the kids because she isn’t worrying about the cost of household bills.
“Sometimes children would come to me with a bag full of dirty washing. I’d constantly have the washer and dryer on so they could put on clean clothes the following day. I can give more to these kids because I’m not worried housing costs. I put aside the money I save on bills and take the kids to a fun park or play centre so they can enjoy themselves.”
The other thing that made a real difference to Rhonda in the Retainer Bed Model was having support workers from Anglicare Victoria come into the household during busy times to provide support.
“When you have multiple children staying at once, it’s impossible to read them all a bedtime story at the same time, so that’s when it would be great to have a support worker come in. Often the support worker might sit and play Uno with one of the kids while I was getting another in the bath. It helped me provide good care to everyone staying with me, and to spend quality time with them without needing to worry about the next thing on my list.”
Rhonda says people often tell her they don’t foster because they worry about getting too attached.
“While it’s definitely difficult to see the children leave, you need to remember that these kids never asked to be put in this situation, and there is another child around the corner who needs your support just as much. It’s ok to be upset when they move on, because it’s nice for them to know someone cares and have connected with them in that way,” said Rhonda.
To enquire about becoming a foster carer in Anglicare Victoria’s Retainer Bed Model in Gippsland, please contact the Carer Recruitment and Support Team on 03 5135 9555 or email email@example.com