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Life as a Therapeutic Foster Carer

Life as a Therapeutic Foster Carer
I’m sure everyone with children would agree with the statement that “parenting is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding jobs on the planet”; but what is it like to be the primary carer for children who have suffered trauma from abuse?
We have a team of extremely dedicated, loving and professional Therapeutic Foster Carers at Parkerville Children and Youth Care who live with and support, at times, multiple children, all with ranging degrees of complex trauma from abuse.

One such couple have been with Parkerville Children and Youth Care for just over three years. We sat down with them to ask them what life is like for a couple working as Therapeutic Foster Carers.

What made you want to become a Foster Carer?

“We had always planned on fostering. I grew up in an environment similar to what a lot of our kids in care endure. We are passionate about providing a loving safe home and strengthening natural family bonds.”

What is the greatest Challenge you face as a Foster Carer?

“There are many. I think you are challenged as a person on a daily basis….the kids teach me so much. I think understanding trauma, and the implications of that, how it manifests in children’s lives is a huge challenge, but unless you can grasp that, understand that, and be able to love the child beyond behaviour, then everything else is redundant. You have to love unconditionally, and learn to separate naughtiness from just plain old ‘childness’.

There’s a great quote we see what we look for, and hear what we listen for’’. A wild fox caught in a trap does not hold its wounded leg out for the trap removal. It will bite, snarl, growl, scratch. Emotionally wounded children can be the same. It’s learning to look past the outward behaviour.”

What is the best thing about being a Foster Carer?

“Our table at dinner time, little people busting to tell their news.
Merit certificates at school, when they look in the audience and they have someone there applauding just for THEM (always makes me cry). Reunification…. when it works is heart wrenchingly beautiful. All the wonderful things about parenting, sticky hugs, Christmas morning, late night teen conversations….”.

Any success stories you would be able to share?

“Oh, we have so many. But for us, at the moment it really is the relationship we have with both the children’s parents and families. It hasn’t been easy, there’s often one step forward and then, ten backwards. The greatest success is always when kids return to their family home safely. But when they can’t…. with the support of both Mum and Dad, their new partners, grandparents, uncles and aunties we have managed to promote a support network around the children. They have not lost their identities through living in Out Of Home Care. We share birthdays, father’s day, mother’s day and Christmas.

They are surrounded by love, and on special days have both Mum and Dad and my husband and I to share it. One of the sweetest moments recently was the school had a fete and open day and we invited Mum and Dad to meet the teachers and see the children’s performances. They got to see the classrooms, the kid’s artwork, they felt involved. Dad snuck back into the kids classes and left a little “I’m so proud of you” note in their desks for them to find Monday morning. If it can be done safely the greatest thing we can do for our kids is include their natural parents with love.”

Do you feel supported in your role?

“Incredibly, I feel listened too, validated, I’m an advocate for the children in my care and I’ve always felt my concerns are listened to and actioned…. things won’t always work out the way we “think” they should but as a community carer I have always been very grateful for the relationship and support I’ve had with my case managers.”

What do you enjoy about working as part of the Parkerville Children and Youth Care team?

“The training, the support, there’s someone always at the end of the phone, the coffee, the coffee, the coffee 🙂 I love the new get-togethers and opportunity to meet other carers.”

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a Foster Carer?

“Are you committed? The worst thing for a child separated from their natural families is a placement breakdown. Think about what aged child suits your home and lifestyle. ( ie If you’re out at sport every night a baby probably doesn’t suit, but for 10+ it would be really beneficial for them to be involved). Get involved with the training and networks available, it’s easy to think you don’t need it….but self-care is vital when you are fostering. Talking and meeting with other foster carers, people that ACTUALLY understand your new crazy, funny, loud, stressful moments are soooo important, they are a lifeline.”

If you can see yourself providing care for some of Western Australia’s most vulnerable members of society, or if you would like more information on the work we do, then please contact Geraldine Carvell-Crea on 08 9290 1542 or via email gcarvell@parkerville.org.au 

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