Written by Kerrie Alexander
Hervey Bay residents who are opening their homes and their hearts in a big way are helping to create a better tomorrow for children in need.
They are single people, those with partners, people from different cultural backgrounds, renters, homeowners, full-time workers, those without children, stay-at-home parents and grandparents.
They are foster carers.
Sadly, there are many children on the Fraser Coast that enter the protection system through no fault of their own and need a place to live while their parent/s get their lives back on track or a relative, guardian or family member agrees to care for them.
Foster and kinship care are forms of family-based care for children and young people who can’t live at home because they have experienced or are at risk of harm or neglect, or can’t live at home for other reasons.
Service Manager Jasmine Sims from Churches of Christ Care – Children Youth & Families, is one of many advocates who works to recruit and train foster carers on the Fraser Coast.
Churches of Christ Children, Youth and Families Fraser Coast is a not-for-profit service and is the only agency in the area recruiting, supporting and monitoring Foster and Kinship carers. And the demand for their carers is high!
Foster carers can choose to provide respite care for just a weekend or a week, short-term care for six weeks to six months, long-term care and specialist care for children with challenging behaviours, children with disabilities, or those from particular cultural backgrounds.
“We are the only fostering service on the Fraser Coast, when young people require a family-based placement it is up to us to find placements,” Jasmine said.
“A big part of our role is to recruit carers who want to open their hearts and their homes to help provide a safe, caring and supportive place for children and young people.”
From the time the children are in foster care they become family said Kevin and Helen, a husband-and-wife team who have been fostering in the region for the past 28 years.
Before their foster care journey began, the two were holidaying in Sydney where the amount of homeless youth in the city opened their eyes to the extent of the crisis.
They returned home and started searching for a way to help and decided that with no children of their own at the time, foster caring was right for them.
Their first child was a three-day-old baby boy with who remains very much a part of their family today.
Countless other children, long and short-term, have been welcomed into their home with open arms over those 28 years.
The couple did have a son of their own some years later and just loves his brothers and sisters.
“He has never known any different. All the children just become part of your family,” Kevin said.
“I can’t imagine being plucked out of a home and being sent to someone different,” Helen said.
“We were brought up with a family so to try and understand it, you really can’t.”
The children that come into care have experienced trauma and while the foster carers can’t change what has happened in the past, they can provide safety and guidance into the future.
“We can’t change things, but we do the best we can. We are basically there to guide,” Helen said.
Jessie also shared her foster care journey, becoming a foster carer eight years ago.
“When you truly get to love a child that you didn’t create and they love you just as much back, that is a true blessing!” she said.
“If you can teach a child to find calmness in their chaotic life, that is a blessing as well.”
They come into care because there is a high risk of harm or neglect identified.
However, they said the extensive training and support from Churches of Christ care prepares you for what’s ahead.
“They are only ever a phone call away,” Helen said.
Jasmine said that matching children with the right foster families is important, and that there is an extensive recruitment process to ensure this happens.
“When an applicant applies, there is an initial meeting, the case worker will go to the applicant’s home for a meet and greet, and, to check that their home is suitable, followed by an assessment which is quite an in-depth process.”
When an applicant goes through the recruitment process, prospective carers are invited to discuss any placement considerations and determine what will suit their household circumstances; including the age of young people and the type of care they wish to provide.
“It is not for everyone, you just have to go into this with an open mind and open heart.”
Anyone can apply to be a foster carer – you just need to be 18 and over, living in Queensland, love children and have a desire to give back to the community.
Visit cofc.com.au to find out more.