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Chris and Tamara’s life dramatically changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia in early 2020 – but in a different way to most.

As the first lockdown was announced in South Australia, and schools and businesses were brought to a halt, the couple was taking a crucial step in their foster care journey – opening their arms and home to a young girl.

For Chris and Tamara, it’s been the one silver lining in this uncertain and challenging time.

“Understandably there’s been so much negativity, but for us, it’s brought our family closer,” Tamara said.

“We were forced into a situation where we had to learn who each other were – it turned out to be a very positive thing.”

Since becoming foster carers just over 18 months ago, there hasn’t been a dull moment in Chris and Tamara’s home.

After losing their son in 2016, the couple knew they had love to share and desired to do something for children in need.

They began researching, talking with close friends and family, before eventually embarking on their foster care journey and providing long-term care to their 10-year-old foster daughter.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun in the house,” Tamara said.

“For us it fulfilled a little emotional hole, but really it was more about providing back to a child and making sure they’ve got the opportunity that they may not have had previously.

“The biggest reward is listening to Chris laugh and telling the worst dad jokes.”

Before pursuing foster care, Chris and Tamara were conscious of ensuring they were in the best situation, both practically and emotionally.

When they eventually enquired and took their first step, they were shocked by the numbers of children needing safe and loving homes, with more than 4,000 currently in care across South Australia.

“We spent a long time googling, doing the research and narrowing it down to AnglicareSA,” Chris said.

“The first year of training was a real eye opener I have to say. It taught us a lot and exposed us to things we haven’t been exposed to before.

“It was a little shock to the system, it was a little scary, but now look at what we’ve got.”

Forming a special bond

After coming to them with ‘’a lot of fears and doubts’’, Chris and Tamara said having a stable home and family life has seen their foster daughter make leaps and bounds.

Chris said having open conversations about their new family makeup has been pivotal to building trust and comfort.

“For anyone, but especially a child, it can be scary to meet somebody new and know that you’re going to have to live with those people,” he said.

“it took some time for her to start forming the basics bonds like trust and respect. She has since opened up about that and realised quite quickly that we’re here to help, support and love her, and give her an environment that makes her feel comfortable as she grows.”

The couple said she’s developed a great relationship with Tam’s parents and has been embraced by their extended family.

“We’ve seen massive improvements in simple things like reading, writing and school attendance , since she has been with us, which has been really rewarding,” Chris said.

“As time went by, we could sense the bond starting to build and the comfort that this is her home – not our home – but hers as well. She’s part of our family.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives around in more ways than one. But when the virus hit Australia’s shores in 2020, Chris and Tamara were embarking on a journey like no other.

Outside of the classroom, Chris and Tamara have explored various hobbies and found different ways to make meaningful memories and grow together as a family.

Together with Tamara and her mother, their foster daughter joins in on crafts and sewing. Currently they are making Christmas ornaments and pencil cases to give to children less fortunate, while they’ve also dropped off handmade beanies and scarves to the Hutt St Centre.

“We do things that we wouldn’t have done if she wasn’t here with us – we wouldn’t go to the beach as often or go on as many long weekends away,” Tamara said.

“We do a lot of giving back to community and try and instill that in her.”

Meanwhile, Chris who is self-confessed ’cycling mad’, loves getting outdoors. On nice weekends, they load the car up and ride through the Adelaide Hills, sometimes stopping at a  bakery on the way home for a well-deserved donut.

“When she first came, she could ride, but you wouldn’t want her anywhere near the road, luckily SA has some great cycleways and her skills and confidence have improved significantly” he said.

“She came home from school one day in February and said that she had decided that she was going to ride 200km the year. We are well on track to achieving this and have great fun chatting about all sorts of things while we are out riding together.

“I guess we try and explore different interests with her and find activities that we can create memories together.”

“Just like all parents, we make it work’’

With busy working schedules, Chris and Tamara were initially hesitant about ensuring they had enough time to become foster carers.

But their advice to others is that is that when there’s a will, there’s always a way.

“Just like all parents, we make it work,” Tamara said.

“We were concerned about being in our 50s and embarking on this now, so we asked one of our really close friends, ‘do you think we’re crazy doing this at this time of our life?’

“He said ‘I can’t think of a better time for you guys to do it. You’re financially stable and are both still young and active.’”

They encourage those considering becoming foster carers to “simply start their journey”.

“You have very little to lose and so much to gain. It’s made our house lighter – it’s made it more fun,” Chris said.

“Life’s just more interesting.”

If you are considering becoming a foster carer like Chris and Tamara, we would love to hear from you. For more information on becoming a foster carer call (08) 8131 3456.