As a couple who keep opening their home to some of Gippsland’s most vulnerable young people, Rosemarie and David Foulkes have a simple message for would-be foster carers: you are not alone, you are part of a team.
While their own children were growing up, the couple always had people in and out of the house, whether it be friends of their son or daughter or students on exchange.
“Informally it feels like we’ve been fostering for years! Dave has worked in a secondary school and I’m a nurse and a teacher’s aide, so we’ve always had young people in our lives at work and at home,” Rosemarie said.
Rosemarie and David began seriously considering foster care after their children left home and moved to Melbourne. The conversation was sparked by watching a program about teenagers who were struggling to find stable foster care placements.
“We were empty nesters and felt we could do something to help – these young kids needed a loving and nurturing home and that’s something we could offer.”
With so much experience working with young people throughout their careers, Rosemarie and David opted to foster older children: where there is the greatest need for carers.
The couple have since gone on to complete Circle training, which prepares them to foster children who have experienced trauma and have the most complex needs or behaviours.
“I received some advice from a friend of ours that fosters as well. She told me foster carers are like ‘safe stepping stones’ for these kids – for a brief period of their lives we are able to keep them safe, supported and nurtured, until they are able to take their next step.
“I believe foster carers need to have patience, because there are difficult and challenging times – but the same is true of our own children! The progress and development you see in the kids while they’re with you makes up for the hard times.”
For would-be foster carers, Rosemarie reiterates that it’s a team effort and foster families are well supported.
“I encourage anyone thinking about foster care to make an enquiry with a local agency or go to an information session. We’ve been foster caring with Anglicare Victoria for three years and have been really pleased with all the help and support that’s offered,” Rosemarie said.
“We’ve found the training days extremely practical and helpful. You’re also introduced to a network of carers in your area, and it’s great to be able to share your experiences and advice – we wouldn’t be able to keep caring without the support we receive.”
Surinder Demetrios, Team Leader of Foster Care Recruitment and Support as Anglicare Victoria in Gippsland, has been working in the Out-of-Home Care industry for more than 30 years. Surinder says that the most important thing potential foster carers need to know is they’re not alone in the journey.
“All our foster carers at Anglicare Victoria have access to a 24-hour support line and a dedicated case manager. We encourage carers to feel comfortable talking with their case managers because they’ll do whatever they can to help you with your foster care placement.
“Anyone over 21 can be a foster carer, so if you’ve thought about it, please get in touch with us. If you can provide a safe and healthy environment where children can have positive experiences and feel they are supported unconditionally, you have what it takes to become a carer.
“It hasn’t been an easy year, and it’s been particularly tough for us Gippslanders. On behalf of Anglicare Victoria in Gippsland I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all our foster families and volunteers – you help us help others in need.”
For more information on how to become a foster carer with Anglicare Victoria, please visit the foster care page on the AV website.