Foster carer with child

Life as a foster carer – Joan’s story

We sat down with Joan* and her husband to learn a little about life as a foster carer. This is their story.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a foster carer?

Fostering had never been on my radar as I worked in the Child Protection/Out of Home Care (OOHC) industry but when Pathfinders called to ask if I knew anyone from our community within Armidale who could provide care for three gorgeous little people who identified strongly with their heritage; I spoke to my husband and his response was, “us.”

After a very long discussion we decided to start the process of becoming carers for this sibling group of three.

What were your worries about going down the carer path?

My worries were that because I worked in the industry I was very aware of the impact of trauma on children and young people. I was also very aware of the impact of placement breakdowns on children so I needed my husband to understand the commitment we were making to these children was a very serious one and unless a family placement was found; they were with us until they were all 18 years old…and beyond. The youngest was only three years old at the time so it was a massive commitment.

What did your friends and family think – were they supportive – did anyone try to talk you out of it?

I had one girlfriend try and talk me out of becoming a foster carer because my own daughter was only 18 years of age and had her own eight-month-old baby and I was a major support for them. All of my other family and friends were fully supportive of my decision. The three foster children were instantly accepted as a part of our family.

What was the process of becoming a carer like – did you find your questions were answered – were you well prepared?

I feel I was well prepared and my husband was supported well by our case worker and by attending the Shared Stories Shared Lives training.

What was it like the first time you took a placement?

It was both exciting and daunting. Our first placement was the sibling group of three. Their ages were 12, six and three years. The older two were a little guarded as they had been in their previous placement for 16 months and were very attached to those carers; however it wasn’t long before we gained their trust and we all began the adjustment process of becoming a family of five.

Was it hard to say goodbye?

No, because during the three years the children had been with me I supervised contact and facilitated trips for family time and I got to know the family and extended family extremely well. My husband, grandchildren and I were considered a part of the family. So, when a family placement was found for these children I was so happy for them.  As much as they loved us in their hearts they wanted to be with family. It was a blessing to be able to facilitate that process to make the transition smooth for them. I miss them terribly, but we still FaceTime regularly and I know they are in an extremely nurturing placement.

Did reality live up to expectation – was being a carer what you thought it would be?

Yes, it did and we were blessed with an amazing case worker who was so supportive. Whenever there were any issues she made herself available to provide support to both us as carers as well as the children.

What was the hardest thing about being a carer?

Providing emotional support to the children after birth family contact (Family Time). Our three foster children always had extremely positive contact so it was really difficult for the younger two to understand why they couldn’t live with mum/grandma or aunties and uncles. It was devastating for them.

Best bits – most rewarding?

Having three amazing little people in my home and in my life for three years but they will be in my heart forever. We have also gained another family. The children’s mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles are really appreciative of the care we provided to the children and we are now considered part of their extended family. It was also a privilege to be able to advocate for a family placement.

Would you recommend Pathfinders – what has your experience with Pathfinders been like?

Yes, I would recommend Pathfinders.  As I said before our case worker went over and above to support us, the children and the placement.

Advice for others considering this journey?

Do it!  But go in with your eyes open and make sure you provide care through a “trauma informed lens”.

*Please note names have been changed to protect the privacy of carers and children.

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