14 September 2020
Only a few hours after becoming foster carers Bek and Leigh Stevens were bringing home their first foster child, a four-month-old baby girl.
The couple’s biggest concern was returning to the sleepless nights that come with raising a child that age – but with five children of their own, they were ready for whatever else foster care might throw at them.
Bek and Leigh were shocked to learn that local children were living with foster families hours away from their own homes because there was a severe shortage of carers, it was at this point the pair committed to becoming carers themselves.
The four-month-old baby girl was with Bek and Leigh for 20 months. She left their care when she was able to return home to her biological mother.
“We began caring in September and thought we’d only have our first foster child with us for a short time – it turns out she was with us for her first Christmas, as well as the one after that!” Leigh said.
“We have been lucky enough to develop a good relationship with the child’s mother and are still in touch with them to this day. The little girl is three now and she often asks when she will get to see us again – it is lovely her mother has chosen to include us in their lives.”
One of the most common reasons people choose not to foster is because they think they would find it too difficult to give the children back after a placement, but Bek says it isn’t as bad as you imagine it will be.
“Of course it is difficult when a child leaves your care, but you’re prepared for it. There is a lot of emphasis in the training that your caring role for each child is temporary.
“From the outset we knew we weren’t fostering to add to our own family, we were fostering to provide a safe and loving environment for local children until it was decided where the best place for them would be.”
Fostering has been a positive experience for Bek and Leigh’s own children, who are 13, 11, 9, 8 and 6 years of age.
“I think our own children have been able to see another side of what life can be like – it’s not rosy all the time. They are learning to appreciate what they have in their own lives and understand that we are helping other children experience a loving home,” said Leigh.
For anyone thinking about foster caring, Leigh and Bek suggest signing up to an information session.
“Leave all your pre-conceived ideas at the door and just listen with an open mind. Don’t make a decision about becoming a carer based on what you think it’s going to be like.
“There is a lot of support available and you can organise it to suit your lifestyle. I’ve gone back to work a few days a week since we’ve been caring, and adjustments have been make to make it work for all of us,” said Bek.
“We have five children and run our own businesses, so flexibility was important to us. There are lots of options to make it work for you – if you think you can do it, you can.”
For more information about becoming a foster carer with Anglicare Victoria, please visit the foster caring page on the AV website.