Rebecca Bentley | 26/07/2023
JJ’s experience as a foster carer is not unheard of.
She has lived through the heartache of suddenly having foster children removed from her care after being told they would be in her care forever.
What is special about JJ’s experience is how JJ chooses to look back on it.
While naturally crushed at the time, now she focuses on gratitude. For the time she has spent with the children; that they are now with kin on country and mostly because contact has been maintained.
While JJ herself hadn’t been blessed with biological children, she always knew that a part of her heart and home would belong to foster children. Foster children have been and still are an important part of her extended family. Some of these children have become forever family.
So, JJ reached a time in her life where she was ready to open her heart and home to a child in need. Being a proud Aboriginal woman, JJ was aware that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are hugely over represented in the out of home care system and that her culture made her an important foster carer for Aboriginal children needing to maintain that connection.
Then enter Little A & Little K.
Little A & Little K are young Aboriginal brothers. Adorable bundles of love with an endless supply of energy. Their time spent with JJ wasn’t without problems. All children have their moments and when a child has experienced trauma, those moments are no less, they are just different. JJ had her village though, she had support, guidance, and a team around her wanting the best for these boys. They became a part of her family, and when discussions of forever started happening from the people in charge, JJ encouraged those conversations, she would embrace a life spent with the boys. Those conversations of forever only grew to the point that the people in charge discussed it with the boys. The boys were offered forever with JJ, and there was nothing they wanted more.
But one day the bubble of forever was burst. With an hours’ notice, the boys were removed from JJ’s care. An hours’ notice isn’t enough time for packing everything they own. An hours’ notice isn’t enough time to accept your world turning upside down. An hours’ notice isn’t enough time to say goodbye.
Fortunately, JJ and the boy’s heartbreak was the beginning of something amazing for the boys. The boys have been placed with kin back on country and they are living the normal chaotic lives of young boys. Going fishing, riding bikes, learning and living the lessons of their ancestors.
And JJ still has contact with the boys. She video calls them on their birthdays with a cupcake and a candle to sing them ‘Happy Birthday’. And on every birthday JJ must show them what is in the pantry, the pool, the motorbike, the dogs, the ice cream in the freezer.
Their ‘forever home’ isn’t with JJ but her home is forever open to them should they need a safe space to be.
While the heartbreak of that day was hard to endure, JJ would face that heartbreak again and again if positive results like the boys were the result. The system isn’t perfect, but it’s the stories with endings like these that we need to keep working with and working for – because everyone deserves a happy ending.
And thankfully JJ has seen so much beauty in Foster Care that negative experiences do not diminish the good of a positive experience. And while she may not ever directly care for a foster child again, she knows her heart lies in helping children and bases her career around this.