Fostering: Life Changing Care
Robert and Tina*, who had been parents for some time, didn’t think they would have an immediate protective instinct for the latest addition to their family. But when 10-year-old foster-child Ian* was delivered to their doorstep carrying only a small bag of clothes, Tina's feelings changed.
‘That protective instinct that we have for our biological children has also been there [for Ian] from day one’, Tina says. ‘That is something that we didn't expect.’
Ian arrived at this, his second placement of the year, looking a little worse for wear. His health and development were not up to par for a 10-year-old. Tina was asked many times if Ian was just starting primary school. It took a lot of work, but now Ian is sometimes mistaken for being much older than he is. He smiles more and interacts with others his age, but the mental and emotional issues will take much more time to heal, as with any teenager.
‘He now realises, most of the time, that he deserves the very best in life and that he is a valued member of our family’, Tina says.
Robert and Tina chose Lutheran Community Care (LCC) SA/NT as their preferred foster-care agency and worked with the LCC Alternative Care Services team through the application and assessment interviews, as well as the required training courses. The training process helped them to recognise that, as a foster-child, Ian can be removed from them at any time. Despite knowing this, they are still considering hosting another foster-child. They had prayerfully considered fostering for many years and through the process soon developed a strong desire to provide any young person with the security and love he or she needs to make it through life.
‘It’s a great reward, being able to make a positive impact on a child's life by providing simple things such as security, consistency, love and a nurturing environment’, Tina says.
Around Australia more and more children are being taken away from their birth parents and placed in the care of other guardians. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, at 30 June 2010 there were nearly 36,000 children in out-of-home care nationally. Of these children 93.7 percent were in home-based care with nNearly half (49.2 percent) placed in foster care. The Office of the Guardian for Children and Young People reports that in June 2011 there were 2,410 children and young people in the guardianship of the Minister for Families and Communities in South Australia alone, with 44.1 percent of these placed in foster care.
LCC Alternative Care Services is a small agency in South Australia that recruits and trains foster-carers on behalf of the state government. Through LCC, foster-carers can provide respite care, emergency care, short-term care and long-term care for children and young people.
Respite care usually takes place on weekends or school holidays. It provides a short break to the primary care family, while the child or young person enjoys a positive experience in another home. Emergency care is needed at very short notice and can range from an overnight stay to a stay of several weeks. Short-term care can last from two weeks to two years, while longer-term care may be required until a child turns 18.
Individuals and families are needed for all types of care situations. All carers must go through an assessment, screening and training process. LCC also provides regular ongoing support for foster-carers in order to provide the best possible care for children.
For those people who are interested in fostering but are still hesitant, Tina recommends, ‘Just do it. Register your interest and see where the process takes you. Fostering is not always easy. Sometimes it's really challenging and hard work, but it is incredibly rewarding. Our children give us far more than we give them.’
* Names and some details have been changed for privacy reasons.