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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.