Gulhan and Yuksel's fostering story
All kinds of kids need all kinds of foster carers. Melbourne-based foster carers Gulhan and Yuksel share their fostering story and how they have shared their culture with the young people in their care.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves...
My name is Gulhan and my husband’s name is Yuksel. We are both from a Turkish background but grew up in Australia living in Melbourne’s North. I work in adult education and literacy and my husband is a journalist and we have two children of our own who were teenagers when we first began fostering.
We have been fostering for about nine years. In that time, we have fostered five children, one long-term and the remainder short-term through our foster care agency Anglicare Victoria.
Why did you decide to become foster carers?
We heard there was a shortage of foster carers in Victoria, particularly for children in care from our culture, and we thought we were perfect for that because we love kids.
At first, we thought we weren’t eligible because we were from an ethnic background, but when we enquired with Anglicare Victoria we were pleased to hear that anyone could become a foster carer.
Tell us about your fostering journey...
We both work full-time and have teenage children so we decided it would be best to foster school-aged children who were a different age to our own children. That’s the great thing about fostering, you have your own say in what you feel comfortable with.
Once we became accredited, we started having children come into our care right away and the children were a mix of different cultures, not just our own.
Our own children had a very positive experience with fostering. It was a family adventure and we worked as a team. As our kids were a bit older, they were able to teach the young ones staying in our care how to use technology and played lots of sports with them.
What support have you received from your agency?
You are definitely not on your own, the agency is there every step of the way and are there to support you with anything you need. We received additional training when we needed it, advice on the phone etc. We couldn’t have fostered this long without the support of our agency Anglicare Victoria.
All the workers know each other and the children in care. If you can’t take a child to an appointment or if they needed to go to soccer training, the agency steps in and can take them until we can join them.
The agency will not give you a load that you aren’t ready to take on. They are in tune with your needs and what you can handle. They will only give you what you are ready for, so you could do respite on Sunday afternoons for another foster family.
How have you brought your own culture into fostering?
We are very active in our community and in our culture everything revolves around food and getting together and having big meals. The children that come into our care have the opportunity to experience that, if it is something they want to learn about.
Sometimes they don’t like big events which is okay. But it’s been great to expose children to different things. Sometimes they just want to eat Weet-Bix and toast, so we just let the child guide us as to what they want and don’t want.
The young boy who first came into our care celebrated Christmas, so we started celebrating Christmas for the first time because that was important to him. In the end, they get the best of both worlds.
What has been your experience with family reunification?
We’ve been very lucky to be able to play a role in the reunification process of the young boy who was in our care for several years. Our agency was a huge advocate for us to be part of the reunification, although this isn’t always possible.
During his placement, we made sure the connections between the birth family remained. We put photos of his family up in his room as well as a photo of his birth family, our family and him standing between us in the middle. It was great for his birth family to know that we supported them, and also know that we knew they were his family.
I shared his school photos and other memories with the family, and made sure they were part of our lives where we could. They were able to contact us whenever they wanted, although this isn’t always something you have to do, or are able to do.
We are still in contact with the children who were in our care and we do respite every now and then.
What do you want more people to know about fostering?
Fostering is so important and there are so many children out there who need a home. To welcome a child into our home is the least we could do. It’s made a difference in our lives because we get to meet these wonderful children and share many great experiences with them. Having those pitter-patter feet and a child’s laughter in the house is amazing.
Bad things can happen, they can happen to anyone and any time and it’s just part of life. It takes a community to raise a child and no one should have to raise a child in isolation. As a foster carer, and being a parent, your own community and your own network of friends and family play a part in raising children.
Interesting in becoming a foster carer?
If you can create a culturally safe environment for children in care, give Fostering Connections a call on 1800 013 088 or enquire online.