Their household of seven truly epitomises the modern Australian family – they currently care for two foster children, with two little ones of their own and Eric’s teenage sister, also at home.
“As you can imagine we have plenty of fun when we all go out together,” Katie said.
“Our five children all look very different – some blue eyes, some darker skin – so naturally people stare at us out of curiosity.
Some years ago, following a trip to Kenya to visit Eric’s family and to volunteer at a local children’s home, the couple’s main concern became how they could help children in need of love and care.
They have now been foster carers for almost two years – currently caring for an 18 and six month old.
“We came back to Australia to look into it and found there was a massive need for foster carers, so we thought let’s put our hands up,” Eric said.
“The experience is different in the sense that bonding is different – it’s something you really have to work hard at.
“But in terms of love it’s the same – there’s no difference.”
Before becoming foster carers, Eric and Katie knew they had to make important sacrifices to ensure they could accommodate their larger family.
While forced to adjust their career paths, their desire to care for children remained their sole priority.
“For us to be able to foster, Katie needed to be at home and I needed the flexibility to be around as much as possible, and my current job didn’t have the hours or income to support all that,” Eric said.
“So we took a shot at starting our own business, and we went and bought a bigger house and a bigger car.
“Fortunately, it all went according to plan – we’ve managed to replace both our incomes and have more time on our hands to provide to our children.”
Katie believes the family’s foster care journey has instilled great values in their own biological children, who love being included in the care process.
“Understandably there’s a fear around adjusting an already settled family – but it’s been a really positive experience for our kids. They really want to get involved in everything from feeding to nappy changes,” she said.
“It can be a challenge to teach your kids empathy – you can talk to them about it, but it ultimately helps if they see it for themselves.”
With experience working in children’s residential and commercial care, Katie knows just how important it is for children to have a loving family.
As a foster carer, she is seeing incredibly fast progress in her children.
“Although they’re all safe and their physical needs got cared for really well, I felt like it didn’t meet their emotional needs because there’s so many boundaries,” she said.
Katie and Eric encourage all those interested in foster care to simply start the journey to find out more.
“The rewards far outweigh the challenges – seeing them happy and putting smiles on their faces for the first time,” Eric said.
“Just start the process, don’t dwell on it and things will become clearer. You’ll soon figure out whether it’s for you.”
If you are considering becoming a foster carer like Eric and Katie, we would love to hear from you. For more information on becoming a foster carer call (08) 8131 3456.