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Carer Profile 1: Ruth and Craig

Ruth and Craig, aged 41 and 39.  Married for 15 years with 3 birth children aged 11, 13 and 14.  Have been foster carers for 6 months, however had the same sibling group for 2 years in a Parent Carer role.

  • How did you reach your decision to foster?

After a career spanning nearly 20 years in social care, we always knew we would foster children eventually.  For us it was something we wanted to be able to make a solid commitment too, therefore we had our own birth children first, travelled first, and also gained experience and knowledge from our various roles in social work.  Settling in Australia we had set a 4-5 year plan for our role as Parent Carers for Parkerville Children and Youth Care.  However when the children we had cared for in that role for 2 years, came up for community placement, there was no hesitation to leave our position and become community carers for them.

Contact Details

Contact
Pam Fitzgerald

Phone Number
9290 1200

Email
fostercare@parkerville.org.au

  • How has being a foster carer impacted your life?

Our house is full of children,(we literally have our own football team), it’s really, really noisy, we laugh loud and alot.  As for any parent, even on a rough day, the cuddles, the smiles, the goals /achievements (no matter how small), make up for any negatives.

The negatives, it can be very very busy, 6 children between school and clubs, you can feel like you are always in the car.  It can be bone numbing exhausting, there can be sleep issues, night terrors, refusal to go to bed, bed wetting. There will be a lot of  (this is also a positive), meetings and input from professionals…. psychs, case managers, health professionals, teachers.  Not everyone in your life (friends or family) will be able to accept negative behaviours, be prepared to not always be invited to social gatherings with the children in your care.

  • What are the most important factors that you require to support you in your role?

 Firstly there has to be a joint commitment from you both in the desire to foster, things can get bumpy and only if both of you are committed can you support each other.   (Also with any natural children you have).  If you are single then you need family or friends who support your decision to foster – Case Managers can’t be there 24/7.

A good honest relationship with your case manager is vital, you need to be able to be 100% honest, and ask for help when needed.  Build good positive relationships with the school and your community.  Think about the age of the children you may foster, and the impact on your life.  When our natural children were little, we were parent carers for teenagers.  As our children got older, we chose to care for younger children.

  • What advice would you offer to someone considering becoming a foster carer?

Think about the support you have in your family, think about the ages that will “suit” your family most, think about the financial impact.   Be prepared for it to get harder before it gets better. A child having suffered trauma may react with negative behaviours, often with no apparent “trigger”.  These can be personal to you and your property.  Make sure that you are committed to the good times and the bad times – A break down of placement can be almost as traumatic for a child as an initial apprehension.  Record the highlights and the special times, those moments will keep you going if things get a bit bumpy.  Be prepared to cry, and feel helpless, and frustrated, make sure you talk to your case manager and be really honest about how things are.  There’s no judgement in a placement having a rough patch, but no one can help if they don’t know.  Be prepared to be completely wonderfully overwhelmed by tiny milestones that most wouldn’t recognise ( my most memorable was my then 7 year old boy, who at 6 could not read, not even sight words.  After a year of input from us and Parkerville professionals, I will never forget the look on his face reading aloud when he realised it was a story, his smile and look of wonder is etched on my memory).

  • What are the challenges you face on a daily basis i.e. school, contact, financial constraints?

Depending on the area you live in, your school/teacher most likely will not be familiar with the impact of trauma on children’s lives.  Unfortunately many children in care, are labelled lazy, trouble makers, or fall behind academically.  Simply because there is a lack of understanding around the behaviours.  A good open relationship with your school is vital, be prepared to advocate for your children.

Contact is going to be a big part and have a big impact on the children’s and your life.  Children can become dysregulated in the build up to contact and after, this does not necessarily mean contact is negative.  It’s a massive thing for children to be separated from their natural parents, excitement and emotion can derail the most settled placement. Through trial and error we have learnt on contact days to have very simple meals, to relax on homework, etc.  Things that seem insignificant to us, can cause huge distress to a child around contact times.

Our foster care subsidy is generous and covers all of the needs of the children placed in our care.  However as the expectant mother of 6 children, we chose that I would no longer work fulltime, as I would be needed at home.  Being certain of your financial status before making the decision to foster is very important.  We discussed with our own children the impact it would have on them, before embarking as community carers.

  • Are there things that you would do differently when deciding to be a carer?

Not really.  I think the timing was right for us.  Having come out of a recent rough patch, I think it’s really important not to put a time or expectation on things.  While we were going through the behavioural issues, it felt endless, with no hope, and felt like an eternity.  Reflecting now that things are wonderfully settled, it was only 6 months.  6 months for 3 children to settle into a new house, new school, and accept a community placement is not a long time.  Being realistic with goals (something I’ve had to learn) no matter how good our intentions i.e. wanting the very best for our children in care, we can’t measure children in care against what we expect from ourselves or others.  Sometimes good enough is good enough.

  • How would you describe your role as carers – rewarding/challenging etc?

It’s both!!!  It has definitely challenged us as parents and people.  It IS tough!!!! It can be an emotional rollercoaster.  However we see ourselves being blessed with an amazing family of 6 children.  The warmth, love and laughter brought into our lives by our 3 amazing foster children is unparalleled.  They inspire us everyday.

Carer Profile 3: Leela and Ravi

  • How did you reach your decision to foster?

After having raised 3 children to adulthood my husband and I felt that we still had the energy and drive to make a positive difference to the lives of children. It is something that my husband and I have considered for a while and we felt that this was the right time in our lives to make this step. This was a decision that was made by the whole family and all were supportive of this decision. We also have a 5 year old at home and we always considered his needs in the decisions and felt that he would also gain lots of positive experience from the process.

  • How has being a foster carer impacted on your life?  (Positive and negative)

Becoming foster carers for Parkerville Children and Youth Care has had many positive impacts upon my life and that of our family. The sense of accomplishment we feel when one of the children in our care meets a developmental goal is very great. Watching them grow and flourish in a positive stable environment fills us all with a sense of achievement.

As a family, I feel that over the last 12 months, being a foster family has certainly brought us all closer together. The whole family is actively involved in fostering and seeing how everyone has played their parts makes me proud of my children and their role in the lives of our foster children.

  • Brief overview

Leela and Ravi Pragash have 3 adult children and one 5 year old of their own. They were approved as carers for Parkerville CYC in February 2014 and in March 2014 had a sibling group of 3 children placed. These children were aged 5-11 years.

  • What are the most important factors that you require to support you in your role?

I feel that the level of support I receive from Parkerville is very good. I have a very open and positive relationship with my case manager and there is regular communication. I have found it very supportive knowing that my Case manager will respond to me very promptly when I need advice or guidance and can always get a positive response quickly no matter how small or large my issue. This allows me to carry out my role as a carer to the best of my ability.

I feel that I am well looked after as a carer and feel values as one of the team.

It can at time be difficult in terms of the level of information that is provided to the children about their circumstances by the department, who remain the legal guardian for the children however this is managed by us all to the best of our ability.

  • What are the challenges you face on a daily basis ie school, contact, financial constraints?

The major challenges that  we face on a daily basis are those around managing the daily activities that all of the children including my own undertake, the boys in our care are very active sporty children and we are supported and encouraged to ensure that the children are able to pursue their interests.

  • What advice would you offer to someone considering becoming a foster carer?

I have already discussed this area with a number of my close friends and referred them to come and foster children from Parkerville, two of which are currently at various stages in their own fostering journey. I believe that my experience has been positive throughout from when I first expressed my interest to undertaking the assessment and training to having children placed and the support I have received thereafter.

I have heard stories from friends who have fostered children for the department and other agencies and their experiences have been very different and this is why I would refer people to Parkerville.

  • Are there things that you would do differently when deciding to be a carer?

Not really.  We as a family are thrilled with the way in which things have all turned out in terms of our fostering journey to date. From the first contact we have had until now we have been supported and communicated with.

We love our role as foster carers and feel that this is important for anyone considering this as a role. It is also very important to get the children into a routine as soon as you are able to in order to provide them with the stability and predictability of care they receive.

It is important to understand that there will be difficult periods but the solutions are achievable and that the support will always be available.

  • How would you describe your role as carers – rewarding/challenging etc?

I would say that overall fostering for our family has been nothing but rewarding. Yes there are some challenges along the way, as always when caring for children, especially those who have come to us without having the best start in life; however any of these are always completely outweighed by the number of positive experiences we have already had as a family.

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