From Respite to Forever.
When Grace* entered the world of foster care 4 years ago, she imagined that she’d be a respite carer. Someone who would help out other carers who needed a break from full time foster care.
Little did she know that she would be entering 2023 with the intention of applying for long term guardianship of a young lady who now resides permanently in her family and in her heart.
“Believe me, there were many times at the beginning of my first long term placement where I thought I wasn’t strong enough to maintain the placement and I believed I didn’t have the skills that this child required of me. I often thought that I was a failure, I was weak, and that I wasn’t strong enough for this”.
Grace* never gave up hope that she could make a difference to this child. But she realised that to take care of this child, she would have to take care of herself as well. So, she reached out and found support for herself so she could support her foster daughter better.
“It takes time to process everything and to work it all out. Give yourself time. Ask for all the supports that are offered and don’t be afraid to use them. Don’t let your ego get in your way. Go to the carer support morning teas or meetings and training on offer. Book in to see a counsellor. Turn up on your best friend’s doorstep. Call your caseworker. Cry on your mothers’ shoulder. Do everything you can to get the support you need to keep the placement going. In the end it is worth it and it does get better”.
Day by day, little by little, Grace* started making progress with her foster daughter. She could begin to see that what she was doing was making a difference to their lives. That the good days were outweighing the bad and that they were learning to become a family.
“My foster daughter has developed in leaps and bounds! She has worked so hard at school and improved from a D student at school to a straight B student! Without her having to worry about her home life anymore, she was free to concentrate on the ‘normal’ things’ kids should be focussing on.
So, do not lose hope or give up. Please remember that the young person in your care has gone through so many things that we cannot imagine. They will test you (constantly), but keep persevering and make sure you follow through. And when you keep every promise you’ve made to them, you will all come out the other side stronger and more united.
Becoming a foster carer is a life changing experience and Grace* wouldn’t change it for the world.
“In hindsight, I can emphatically say that all along I was destined to become a carer. Not only can I see the impact it has had on the children I care for, but I can see the change that it has had on me directly, I am more patient, I am more inclusive, I am more accommodating. To be able to witness first hand another person’s circumstances and be able to mentor them about their choices and lifestyle has helped me to be a better person and to be seen as a positive role model in their life”.
*Carer name changed to provide privacy to the carer