Fearful to flourishing: how foster and respite carers are changing lives

Image Of Senior Woman With Caregiver In The Street.
Cathy Alway
Personal story from foster carer, Cathy

Cathy always wanted to be a foster carer. For as long as she can remember, she wanted to help children and make a difference in the world.

“We have children come to us for respite care at the moment about once a month,” she said.

“We request they be the same age as our children or younger, so the dynamics work well with our two children. It is like having friends over most of the time.”

Cathy suggested anyone interested in foster caring try respite care as a first step.

“It is a really good introduction to fostering – an opportunity to meet staff, to meet case workers and to understand how the process works,” she said.

“There are a lot of challenges being a foster carer. It is very unknown – how long a child is staying in your care. You do form an attachment. Our first placement we were expecting two weeks, maybe a month He was with us 14 month and saying goodbye – it was 4 years ago – we have still never got over it.”

Cathy said children’s behaviours could be a challenge as well.

“It is unpredictable,” she said. “It can seem like everything is going great. You don’t know much about their background at all, you don’t know if something could set them off.”

Husband David said respite care had some big rewards too.

“One little boy came to us, he couldn’t even look at me. He would run and hide. In a couple of months he was playing handball with me. It was very rewarding just to see the change.”

“I think with respite care you won’t realise until you do it how much you are helping the children and how much you are helping another carer by doing it,” Cathy added.

“As a short term carer or a long term carer, once that child is in your care they are there every day, and even as a short term carer you don’t know how long that will be. The last thing you want is for it to not workout, because they are beautiful kids.”

When a child or young person cannot live with his or her own parents or extended family, a safe place is required for them to stay. Foster carers nurture these young people, providing stability and support, empowering them to reach their full potential.

CatholicCare Hunter Manning plans are always developed with the child in mind. A team of clinical psychologists and support staff is in place to assess children and provide ongoing support. Caseworkers and the carer support team play a dynamic role.

Child-centred case plans are developed in consultation with carers. Experience shows the best outcome for the child is only possible when plans are implemented in partnership with quality carers.

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