How long have you been a foster carer for and how many children have you looked after?
I joined the Friends Volunteer Program about 22 years ago and then once married, became accredited to have children overnight (about four years later from memory). As for numbers, I couldn’t tell you, at a guess I’d say maybe 40?
What motivated you to contact Anglicare Victoria?
My housemate was doing a bachelor degree in Human Services so she convinced me to sign up with her – little did I know what I was in for! I’d not had an easy childhood of my own so I felt it was my chance to make the difference in someone else’s life and then when I met my husband Michael he was keen to be involved too, for similar reasons.
What are the benefits of looking after teenagers as opposed to younger kids?
We have two children of our own, a girl 14 and a boy 12. We find having kids a similar age to them means they are more likely to engage with one another. They don’t always have the same interests but at least they can usually find something in common, whether it be issues at school, musical tastes, sports or even gaming! We find having teenagers means they can generally look after themselves, share the chores, get themselves to school, catch up with friends etc. without us constantly having to drive them everywhere. We both work and we’re not always home when they are but at least teenagers can let themselves in, feed themselves and take more responsibility for their actions and wellbeing.
What are some of the biggest myths out there with looking after teenagers?
Teenagers are not always trouble. Many of them are great kids who’ve been dealt a blow that’s knocked them off track but generally if you show them love and care they respond. It’s a difficult time of change for them and most just need to some help navigating the hard stuff, not to mention some care and respect. They don’t all misbehave, swear, answer back and cause drama. That’s usually my own kids lol!
How has your family and children benefited from doing foster care?
It has grounded our family and taught our children there are people much worse off than they are; to treat people with respect and care – no matter what their circumstances are. It’s an active way of giving back when you have so much to share. We have the space to take extra kids and it’s taught us all how to appreciate what we have.
What are the most rewarding parts of being a foster carer and specifically providing care for teenagers?
To see them relax in a family environment gives us the most reward. Many come from a place of unrest where they have to be on their guard, being with us might be stressful for the first few days as with any change but once they see they are being treated like everyone else they usually just go with the flow. It’s great to see them exhale that breath of anxiety and be part of our busy and noisy household. Plus, it’s another pair of hands to amuse the dog who always wants someone to throw the ball.
What would you say to other people thinking about becoming foster carers to pre-teens and teenagers? Why should they consider doing it?
It’s another dimension to add to your life. Someone you can share your skills whether it be practical, such as cooking or meal planning or life skills such as negotiating, debating or persuasive argument. It’s also someone else to play games with, share a TV show and join in with your family activities. You can influence and change the life of a vulnerable child which is a real privilege.
What has the support been like from Anglicare Victoria?
The support from Anglicare has been great. They are there if you need them. If you’re doing OK then they check in but don’t harass you. They also offer training on a regular basis and if you’re up for it, coffee mornings, dinners and school holiday activities.