Anglicare SA

Donna Marie and Andrew desperately wanted to start their own family but health issues prevented them from having children.

The couple endured some tiring years pursuing overseas adoption, before realising that many children in their own South Australian community were in desperate need of love and care.

After talking to friends and debunking myths around foster care, they applied and registered as foster carers, and the rest is history. Their household has since blossomed into their now beautiful family of four.

“We desperately wanted to have a family and we had been on a Chinese adoption waiting list for ages,” Donna Marie said.

“A friend pointed out an AnglicareSA Foster Care newspaper ad – we went to an information session and it just snowballed from there.”

The couple are the first to admit they went into the process nine years ago simply “wanting a family”. It completely changed their world.

“Our priorities suddenly flipped to being all about the children,” she said.

“Our first was so vulnerable and just seeing her in the cot, we knew we were faced with a huge responsibility to love her, keep her safe and give her the best start in life.”

Donna Marie and Andrew’s eldest foster child, now aged nine, came to live with them at four months old. Despite living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, her young age meant the couple could provide her with a great start to life.

“She really opened our eyes – sometimes we live in our own bubble without realising there are children in care that need love and support,” Andrew said.

“We decided to come off the adoption register in China. We thought why are we trying to adopt from another country when there’s more children in our local community we could be helping?”

Coping with Challenges Through Love

The children came to live with Donna Marie and Andrew at four months and 16 months of age and the challenges for each have been completely different.

“As foster carers you’re constantly asking yourself is it trauma or natural personality? Our girls are still young and we’re still getting support on these things,” Andrew said.

“We can only do our best to give the solid foundation of love and support they deserve, and make sure they can look after themselves independently in the future.”

The couple have made a conscious effort to ensure they are there for the children at all times.

“One girl’s trauma was from her time within the womb which makes it easier to parent, whereas the other was waking up to different carers every day,” Andrew said.

“Routine and bonding are vital for development in the early years – so we make a conscious effort to ensure we’re always there for them, whether it’s bedtime or school drop-off and pick-up.”

‘We’re Just Like Any Other Aussie Family’

Like any other parents, the couple are kept busy with their “very active” girls.

As a family they’ve been on trips interstate and overseas; the girls have even been bridesmaids at family weddings.

“They go to dance classes, yoga, swimming, roller skating – they do everything that children should be doing to have a happy memory-filled childhood,” Donna Marie said.

While the couple considers themselves just “your ordinary Aussie family”, they constantly remind the girls about the importance of self-identity and individuality.

“We’ve said to the girls that no family is perfect and family comes in all shapes and sizes,” Andrew said.

“We don’t all have to be peas in pods.”

Being a Foster Carer

The couple said they’ve “been blessed” with support workers from AnglicareSA and the Department of Child Protection (DCP) who have supported their decisions.

“All the shows AnglicareSA and DCP put on at Easter, Christmas … it’s amazing and the kids absolutely love it,” Andrew said.

“The support we receive is so important so we can give our children what they deserve, because it’s not their fault they’re in this predicament.”

The couple said if they had been younger or had a bigger house, they would have taken on more foster children.

They encourage those considering becoming foster carers to “go for it”, but be prepared to be adaptable, flexible and committed to the challenges.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer like Donna Marie and Andrew, we would love to hear from you.

For more information on becoming a foster carer call (08) 8131 3456.

Foster and Kinship Care Week (9th – 15th September) is a time for us to acknowledge and celebrate all foster and kinship carers and their families for their contribution to our community.

AnglicareSA would like to take this opportunity to thank all foster and kinship carers for opening their hearts and homes to provide care and support to children and young people in need.

We believe that all children should be placed within a family, and we feel privileged to support such resilient and child focused foster and kinship care families.

Foster and kinship carers are the people who ensure that children and young people are safe, secure, nurtured, and have the opportunity to thrive and belong.

Their advocacy ensures that the voices of children are heard and their best interests are at the centre of all we do, creating the best outcome for the state’s most vulnerable children and young people.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster carer please join us at our information session on Wednesday 12 September 2018 from 6.30pm-8.30pm at AnglicareSA HQ @ 159 Port Road, Hindmarsh.

AnglicareSA respite foster carers Kerri and her husband Geoff regularly open their hearts and home to foster children in need.

As respite carers, the couple has foster children for a short period of time, usually a weekend, which provides a break for the children’s long-term carers.

The couple share the belief that respite care can be a fun experience for all parties involved. Kerri shared, “Some foster children don’t have extended family they can go to so, it’s like going to their favourite auntie or nanna’s house.” They like to give the child a break from their usual routine and make their time shared together exciting.

Weekends with their foster children are embraced by planning outings and everything throughout the weekend around the child. Kerri said, “At the end of the stay, the child gets to say goodbye knowing that they can come back again, making it the fun, loving house”.

The moments that matter most to Kerri are the tender times when the children warm her heart.

Kerri shared one of those times which occurred with a child who visits frequently. “We were all eating dinner together one night and he just lent over and put his arms around me. No words can describe that feeling.” She said this happens often, “He’ll be sitting and playing and then he’ll just stand up and come and sit on my lap and hold my face and kiss me”.

Kerri wanted others to know that any time they have to give is enough to make a difference. “If you think that you have a really busy life, which I do too, then you can give care as often as it suits you.”

She expressed her own initial overwhelming feelings of fearing the experience, as many new foster carers do.  It’s important for people considering foster care to know that they can take comfort in having 24/7 support available to them. AnglicareSA allocates placement support workers to every carer, working together through every step of the journey.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer like Kerri and Geoff, we would love to hear from you.

For more information on becoming a foster carer call (08) 8131 3456.

Jenni and Gary’s Story

Jenni and Gary have been emergency, short term, long term and respite careers for four years.

They say  “We love children and felt compelled to do something to help those who desperately needed it”

“Fostering has had a huge impact on our lives. Not only have we been blessed to get to know 9 beautiful children, we have been able to welcome them into our home and family and give them stability and love when they needed it most. We now see these children as part of our family and always will. It hasn’t always been easy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything else!”

Instead of having to worry about their basic needs being met or not, they have been able to not only have physical needs met but to thrive to the point where they can play and sing and dance and dress up and live and love and just enjoy being a child and growing into who they were created to be without worrying about anything else. We aim to provide the safe haven they need, and it comes complete with 4 adoring “siblings” ready to shower on the attention!

They say there are so many benefits to being a foster carer – the love you get in return, seeing them begin to heal, knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life, watching them make milestones, nurturing them, just having the privilege of being the one they can go to, and seeing our biological children loving them just as much and learning and growing through the whole experience.

They encourage others to become carers. Yes it can be tough but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. These children need loving homes and families, the alternative for them is too devastating for good people to sit back and say it’s too hard.

They  thank Anglicare and particularly the amazing group of support workers in the south. They say ‘They have made our fostering experience all the more rich and their support has been invaluable. It is wonderful to work with a team of professionals so committed to the welfare of vulnerable children in our State who care just as much for the children as we do.”

 

Alex and Greg’s Story

Alex moved in with his partner who was already a long term foster carer. After a little while they decided that he too would become a foster carer.
When Alex started exploring options he found there was a huge support network and training provided to become a carer that removed any daunting aspect to the process and the idea of fostering.

Alex feels that he’s made a home in Adelaide and that having a family has solidified this. He feels part of a family and feels satisfied that there’s extra support if things begin to feel overwhelming.

Alex would recommend making an enquiry to AnglicareSA if  you are interested in becoming a carer. They will explain the whole process and allow you to see that you will have all the support and training you could need.

 

John’s Story

John has been fostering on his own now for 13 years and for two years prior to that with his former wife.  His preference is for offering long term care but has also taken emergency placements, respite placements and short term placements when circumstances allow.

He became a foster carer  initially with his former wife.  She was a foster child herself and wanted to offer other children the benefits that she had received.  He had found that so rewarding that he continued to foster when he was on his own.

With a home to offer and a supportive family network, John felt he had the capacity to give children in care the love and nurture that they need.  He emphasizes that he and his family embrace the  children that come to his home as full members of the family. He remembers his first two placements.  They were children with disabilities and they still maintain a connection.

John states with some passion that foster caring is “The best thing I’ve ever done.” he describes the joy he gets from meeting the childrens’ particular needs and he lists their many “little achievements” that are so significant for them and so rewarding for him.  He mentioned things like watching them have new experiences, helping them with homework and being there when they reach their individual milestones.

At one point John had an accident that prevented him from pursuing further employment.  Losing his usual occupation and needing to redirect his energies, John was glad to be able to find a sense of purpose in his fostering.   He also believes fostering has been an improvement for his family.   So significant was the experience of fostering for his daughters that it has influenced their career choices. One daughter is working with people with disabilities and the other has worked in day care and out of school hours care at the local school.

While he acknowledges that there are many tough aspects of foster caring, John  puts the challenges in the wider context of providing a loving environment unconditionally.  John finds huge satisfaction in honouring that commitment.  The ongoing connection that past foster children maintain and the network that provides is a real joy for John.

John feels quite humbled by the close connection that most of the children he has cared for have maintained with him.  They acknowledge openly and often,  that John has given them the nurturing home that they would not otherwise have had.  John commented that with only a few exceptions the children that have been with him have left with  a positive attitude to life and have gone on to make good life choices.

John also sees that wherever it has been possible, he has assisted the children in his care to establish connection with their birth families so that they have a basis for an ongoing relationship.

Without hesitation John said that the best thing about being a foster carer is the love he receives back from the children.  This he recognises and cherishes in the simple day to day  interactions, the things that they can take for granted and that indicate they feel safe and secure with him.

When asked what he would say to anyone who was considering becoming a foster carer, John suggested  to “find out as much a you can so that you are well informed.  Take your time, there is no rush, it is a big undertaking and not for everybody but , when the circumstances are right, do it.” John said that  for him it has been the most rewarding thing in his life.

John concluded  about foster care that “ It has changed my life for the better.”  and added that now he has a large and caring extended family.

As a foster child, adoptee, kinship carer, parent and newly-minted grandparent, AnglicareSA CEO The Reverend Peter Sandeman says protecting children and helping families is all of our business in an article published in The Advertiser.

The recent tragic examples of child abuse and neglect have reminded us all just how vulnerable children are and the importance of good parenting.

All families need help from time to time. As a foster child, adoptee, kinship carer, parent and newly-minted grandparent, I’ve certainly appreciated great support along the way. A good family is a great gift but it’s hard graft at times.

Sometimes as friends, family, neighbours and workers, we fail to notice the signs and sometimes we don’t think it’s our business to interfere.

Protecting children and supporting families struggling to cope is all of our business, and that’s why the integrity of the child protection system is so important and why we have all been shocked and worried about recent events.

But it’s not just an issue for Families SA; they simply can’t be everywhere at once. Protective support systems begin with all of us. The death of a child through abuse or neglect is a collective failure of the whole community.

In prioritising those families that need help and children in danger, Families SA relies on the quality and frequency of our reports. We must help them make more informed interventions by being better at making those difficult phone calls, even if we’re not completely sure.

In some of the cases I am aware of, Families SA has attempted to both support the family to function better, and determine whether the child should be removed.

These functions are clearly incompatible, as the family needing support will not easily trust workers from the agency that has the power to remove their child.

The key focus of Families SA has to be the capacity to make the right call about removing or returning a child.

And when a child has to be removed from their biological family, we need to support those wonderful people who open their homes as foster and kinship carers.

Ensuring more permanent placement of children – once it is clear removal is required and reunion is not an option – is absolutely critical to enabling these children to flourish.

We need more carers and better support systems to allow them to exercise the same parental rights and responsibilities as biological families.

AnglicareSA is privileged to support about 400 carers, and their role needs to be clarified, as well as better recognised, for the great contribution that they make.

We need to improve our family support and child protection functions, and the Select Committee and the Royal Commission may just be the circuit-breakers required to halt the usual political pattern of attack and defence; to have the deep conversation to enable a fundamental recasting of the way we work together as a community to support families and protect children.