Deciding to become a foster carer can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many different ways to foster children.
Deciding to become a foster carer can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many different ways to foster children. It can be as simple as making yourself available for a weekend each month and one week a year. Not too big a commitment, but still big enough to change someone’s life.
When Kerryn first heard about foster care it sparked an interest, but she was understandably wary of over-committing herself. She was a single woman with a full-time job who liked her space, her lifestyle and her own company. She couldn’t see how fostering was something that could work for her. But then she learned that foster care didn’t necessarily mean signing up as a full-time carer. There were other ways to care, ways like respite care that could fit into her life.
So she phoned an agency and had her first meeting. The agency explained that just like the children in need of care, carers were unique and that whatever time and commitment Kerryn could offer would make a difference. “This for me was doable as opposed to full-time care. This allows me to have my privacy and my lifestyle but still know I’m helping.”
And she’s not just helping children and young people by fostering. Respite care is designed to give full-time foster carers a break when they need it. Maybe they need to go to a wedding they can’t take children to. Maybe they have a work commitment. Maybe they just need a holiday. Through Kerryn, they can do all of those things, because she acts like a back-up person, a foster carer who takes children for a weekend a month or a week in the school holidays when she is needed most.
“Foster care is an amazing thing and you get so much out of it. You get to be a part-time parent.” Because Kerryn only has the children for short blocks of time, she gets to do fun things with them. “I try to offer them opportunities and experiences they don’t get normally. Respite care allows you to spoil the child a bit.” She sometimes takes the children to gold class to see a film or to the football or even out to dinner. “I let the child decide what they’d like to do, but mostly it’s something fun.”
When Kerryn first decided to become a foster carer, her own family was apprehensive. They worried that because she was a single woman, she’d be vulnerable, and without back-up if she needed it. “But actually there’s a big network behind me. The agency is great. They check in and give you regular updates so you don’t ever feel like you’re on your own.” Now eighteen months into her foster care journey and Kerryn’s family are extremely supportive. They understand that this is her way of giving back. “As a family we have a strong sense of justice and believe that if you can help then you do.”
Fostering is not just for married couples or families. It’s for anyone who wants to make a difference to a child. But becoming a foster carer does not have to take over your life. It can be shaped to fit whatever other commitments you already have. Maybe you have a lot of time and see yourself having a child live with you for extended periods of time, or maybe you can only commit to weekends. Whatever you can commit to, will be life changing. “It doesn’t cost me anything other than time, and everyone gives up time for things they enjoy so this is how I use my time,” says Kerryn of her decision to foster.
Foster care changes lives. It changes the lives of the children who need it, and it changes the carers who give it. For Kerryn, it has made her more open, more forgiving and put a lot of things in perspective. “I see the world in a more realistic way now.”