But it’s the unexpected journey that came later in life, becoming a foster mum, that has been her most rewarding adventure.
Growing up in a small village in Surrey, UK, Elly’s first encounter with caregiving came during her primary school days.
“When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with a friend who lived at a local children’s home, which was run by an amazing woman known to everyone in the village as ‘Mummy Martin’,” she said.
“I have really good memories of the place and used to spend a lot of time there. She was very inspirational and certainly influenced me to want to be a foster carer.”
After finishing school, Elly took off to adventure around the world with no inhibitions. With her father working for British Airways, she snapped up a free ticket to Australia.
“I thought I’d go backpacking in Australia, the furthest part of the world,” she said.
“As soon as I came here, I was so much happier – it was a fresh start for me. Over the years I’ve lived in Sydney, Queensland, Perth and Darwin, but I kept gravitating back to Adelaide.”
The thought of caring for children didn’t cross her mind until years later, when Elly stumbled across an AnglicareSA advertisement for foster carers and decided to attend an information session.
“It really opened my eyes to the need out there,” she said.
“I thought, I have the space, a beautiful garden, so why don’t I have some children come and share some fun at the weekend?”
Initially starting as an emergency and respite carer, Elly has provided care to more than 20 children.
For the last 10 years, she has provided long-term care for a now 12-year-old boy, who she bonded with from day one.
Coming to Elly at two and a half years old, she said the most rewarding thing has been watching him grow and find himself.
While together they’ve experienced ups and downs, Elly said the joys of being a foster mum ‘’far outweigh any of the other stuff’’.
“The biggest reward is seeing him find himself – it’s wonderful to now see him bring a friend home after school and talk about all the friends he has fun with.”
“Cooking has been his latest thing. I’ve got a mentor that comes every Monday and does a cooking lesson with him – he proudly cooks his own tea on a Monday and makes something he can take for his school lunch for the rest of the week.”
With no relatives in Australia, uniquely, Elly has built a strong relationship with the birth family of her foster son, who have welcomed her with open arms.
She said she feels “really lucky” to parent surrounded by a care team, particularly from AnglicareSA and the Department for Child Protection.
“I have a great relationship with my support workers and have a really good network of people to call on,” she said.
“I’ve always had an interest in different parenting styles and supporting children with additional needs and trauma, and so to actually have all the training and help available to me has been a really good part of foster care.”
Between working as a medical typist, an SSO at a local primary school and running her ‘Relax Kids’ business, Elly understands all too well what it means to take on a serious commitment in an already busy life.
She believes becoming a respite carer is a great way to start your foster care journey.
“I definitely recommend it,” she said.
If you are considering becoming a foster carer like Elly, we would love to hear from you. For more information on becoming a foster carer call (08) 8131 3456.