Jan Campbell (73) or ‘Nanna Jan’ as she is affectionately known, has been a foster carer with AnglicareSA for more than two decades.

Over the years, Jan has provided care to hundreds of children ranging from those needing care in emergencies, supporting families and children by providing respite care and has cared for children who she has seen grow from toddlers to young adults.

Full of knowledge and understanding, we caught up with Jan to talk about her experiences over the years.

AnglicareSA: How did your foster care journey begin?

Jan: I had just remarried, and with my late husband and I being too old to have any children of our own we looked into foster care. My husband was a high school teacher, we both really loved children and we knew we had a home for children who needed it. My adult children from my previous marriage are also very much involved and they love all the children who come to stay with us.

I’ve always been very community-orientated – before fostering I ran a youth group for 8-12 year olds at our local church because there was nothing to do in the area. It really went well – the children loved it because they had the opportunity to do all sorts of things.

At the beginning we had a lot of two and three-week placements – mainly respite care, and then it just progressed from there. We ended up going through the Long Term Guardianship process and have a 20-year-old who originally came to us at four weeks of age.

What is Long Term Guardianship?

Under a Long Term Guardianship arrangement, carers become the child’s legal guardian and have day-to-day parenting responsibilities. This means they can make more decisions around the child’s health, education, holidays, and emotional, social and cultural needs without having to ask the Department of Child Protection. While guardians can make most decisions, birth parents do keep some decision-making responsibilities. 

My husband passed away 10 years ago and I decided to keep on providing care. At the moment, I provide emergency, respite and short-term care for babies and toddlers – sometimes even newborns straight out of hospital until they’re ready to be reunified with family. I often care for them anytime between six months and two years – until sensitive family situations are resolved or alternatively they transition to a long-term carer.

 “I’m always wanting to be involved with their lives so I often know it’s not the last time I will see them. With some families we even message each other and I receive photos and updates – and with others we catch up at birthdays and other events.”

Over Jan’s 21 years as a foster mum she has cared for hundreds of SA children.

AnglicareSA: How important is it for both yourself and the children to keep in contact?

Jan: I think it’s very important and it’s good for the children too – they’ve been with you for a significant time of their lives, so it should never be that all of a sudden you’re not there anymore. It’s very rewarding to see the children go on and reunify with their families and lead good lives. By providing care for them, the children gain that extra family.  

AnglicareSA: How do you go about managing relationships with birth families?

Jan: When it comes to short-term care – it’s all about trying to get the children reunified with their families and doing whatever you can to make that happen. One of things that I’m not afraid of, and that actually excites me, is meeting the birth families and forming a bond there. I often meet families at hospital visits, and travel around different parts of Adelaide catching up.

I remember one boy – who was reunified with his mum. I used to take him over to his mum’s house and she really appreciated me wanting to build a relationship with their family. There’s something special about having a name and a face attached to who’s caring for your child. I am conscious about not overstepping boundaries or anything – but if they’re happy, then I’m happy.

“I try and make the best effort to bring them up the way I think the parents might like them to be brought up. For every child, I compile a scrapbook full of photos, first milestones, funny stories and even little bits of hair or drawings that can then be passed on to birth families or long-term carers.”

Now, Jan provides emergency, respite and short-term care for babies and toddlers.

AnglicareSA: What would you say to potential foster carers?

Jan: I would encourage anyone who has the love and care to give, and room in their home to become a carer… once you’ve cared for a child you realise how valuable it is to yourself and the community. Yes – it may be a bit scary at first as you’re not sure what the experience may hold. But I’m happy to say I’ll keep fostering for long as possible – as long as I’m capable.

Sharing Jan’s Priceless Knowledge

Jan’s wealth of wisdom is such a unique resource for the AnglicareSA foster care team and the wider South Australia foster care community.

Jan is involved with supporting AnglicareSA foster carers. She has often met and passed on her knowledge to help newcomers understand how to build relationships with the biological families of their foster children.

With her vast experience, Jan also has the ability to pick up on children’s behaviours very early in their lives. In some cases, the Department of Child Protection has gone on to explore Jan’s observations to discover an apparent disability or behavioural condition.

We warmly thank Jan for her pivotal contributions in helping us improve the lives of children in most need of support, love and care.

It wasn’t until the age of 40 that Lisa had her first daughter.

In the wake of experiencing the highs of starting a family, she then lost her second child during pregnancy.

Deep down, Lisa knew she had more love to give.

“I did feel like my family was a little incomplete,” she said.

“But in saying that I knew there was a lot more to consider before I went into fostering.”

When it came to understanding more about foster care, it was Lisa’s late auntie that acted as soul inspiration.

It was years ago that her auntie became a foster carer with AnglicareSA after losing her five-year-old child.

“My auntie fostered a lot of children and I never knew until the day of her funeral when they read out her amazing achievements – I was mind blown,” she said.

“She had a traumatic experience herself – she was adopted and had been through a lot.

“Sometimes the missing pieces can spur people on to make it better, not for themselves, but for other children – it was an inspiration to find out what she did and it’s always been in the back of my mind since.”

Welcoming a Special New Family Member

It was just over two years ago following a break up and search for a stable home, that Lisa and her daughter welcomed a one-year-old boy into their loving family.

Lisa was conscious of ensuring she was in the best situation possible before pursuing foster care.

“It was the right time – I had the resources, love to give, and had a secure home for a child who needed it,” she said.

“I did a bit of googling, went to an information evening and found AnglicareSA had diverse fostering opportunities.

“My daughter was having a few issues with our break up and I actually went to AnglicareSA for her counselling and already formed a connection there.”

Lisa described the whole process as a ‘baptism of fire’ but said watching her daughter and foster son grow together as a family is the ultimate reward.

“He’s an absolute pleasure to have as a part of our family,” she said.

“It’s amazing watching him grow, learn and prosper as compared to what opportunities he probably would’ve had.”

The boy turned three in July, with Lisa already seeing signs of a budding engineer or builder.

“He’s started kindy and loves to build and put things together. I’ve introduced him to dolls and things just to make sure there’s no inequality there – but it’s train and cars all the way.”

The biggest challenge for Lisa has been adjusting her daughter to having another child at home.

Because it had previously just been the two of them, it took some time for everyone to adapt to having each other in their lives.

“He’s a very chilled out little fellow and his relationship with my daughter has really blossomed,” she said.

Lisa is deeply committed to keeping the boy connected to his culture and community, and strengthening his personal identity.

Being a Foster Carer

Lisa believes “everyone should be doing their bit to support those in need.”

“I understand that not everyone thinks like me but people shouldn’t be worried about struggling to provide a child with opportunities, confidence and abilities – I don’t have much but I have what he needs,” she said.

“Families are different and your child doesn’t have to be biologically yours to give that love to them. And my extended family have opened their arms with love for the boy.”

Lisa said for those looking into becoming foster carers, there’s always someone to reach out to for support.

“I never feel cast adrift,” she said.

“You think sometimes ‘how am I going to get through this?’ But you do, and at the end of the day this beautiful bundle of joy is what you get.”

“You always deal with and confidently adapt to whatever comes along, and if I could go back in time I wouldn’t change a thing – I would love to foster again.”

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

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

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. 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.