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Foster Carers' Stories

Click on the images below to read about some of our Foster Carers and their experiences. This will help you gain a better understanding of what it’s really like being a Foster Carer with us.

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    Meet Raechel - NSW

    We love Raechel! Why do we love her?

    Because she’s a RESPITE CARER.

    What’s a respite carer?

     “A respite carer might support our primary foster carers for a night or weekend or a bit longer over the school holidays. They play an important role in giving our long term carers a short break – especially in the cases of children with high needs. Respite care is mostly planned in advance but can sometimes be required at short notice or in an emergency situation. Our respite carers are key to the success of our foster care program here at Life Without Barriers,” explains Deanne Carroll, Manager Carer Recruitment Design.

    Raechel has been a respite carer with Life Without Barriers since 2015 and currently provides respite for two foster children and their foster families.

    What made you become a carer?

    “Previous work with not for profit opened my eyes to the vulnerable families here in Sydney and a poverty line that I did not know existed in Australia. I wanted to find a way to support my community and make a difference to young people who may have not had the easiest start in life, to go on and enjoy the best their world can offer.”

    Building relationships must be important when being a respite carer. How do you go about building those relationships?

    “For me, it’s all about knowing you’re the young person you are spending time with! I tried to get as much information as I could in advance of my first placement and since then, I’ve not stopped asking questions and bringing that knowledge into the time we share together.”

    And would you say you need to be agile and responsive in a range of situations?

    “Yes of course! I support two girls - a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old; although they are related, they have very different needs and I try where possible to cater to both.  It’s a fun, interesting but sensitive time in a young woman’s life with plenty of changes. It might be a 20 (ok 25 years) since I was that age, but I can remember that time well and how important good relationships and strong foundations truly were.”

    What about respect?

    Absolutely – respect for the families, carers, children, not to mention for yourself and the hardworking team at Life Without Barriers (LWB). Everyone’s story and journey is different as to how and why they have accessed LWB’s services. In addition to working as a respite carer, I’ve really enjoyed the training sessions that have allowed me to meet other carers and learn from their experiences. As well as respect, this experience has taught me a lot about compassion and understanding, and the importance of role modelling positive behaviours.”

    What have been your happiest memories as a respite carer?

    “There’s so many in such a short space of time! I’ve been extremely fortunate not just to connect with the young women to whom I provide respite care, but also their full time foster carers and their siblings too. I’ve been made to feel like extended family and was invited to spend Christmas in 2015 with them which was really special for me. I dressed up in a Santa costume and had a sackful of gifts too! I gain just as much joy in dancing in my living room with the girls, as I do braiding their hair, baking cakes, having karaoke sing alongs in the car and reading bedtime stories.”

    What would you say to people interested in becoming a foster/respite carers?

    “Do it, but be patient! To become a carer, there is a process involved; you cannot make a phone call enquiry and be registered within a week. My whole process took about eight months from initial application to first placement and for some people that can be a deterrent when you want to start making a difference quickly. However, I truly believe it’s worth the wait; especially when you consider the sensitivity of assessing carers, the home environment and getting the right match. Having worked in the not for profit sector previously I was well aware of the screening and assessment process – and welcomed it!”

    What are the highlights of being a respite carer?  What does it bring to your life?

    “It’s a legitimate excuse to be a child! J I love stepping out from my busy work, family and social life to focus my energies on a really rewarding couple of days with funny, smart and awesome young women. I’ve gone to Luna Park, Powerhouse Museum, numerous beach visits and baked more cakes and cupcakes than I ever thought I would! Not only has it enriched my life in forming these new relationships, it’s strengthened my existing relationships too. I feel I can connect more to my work colleagues and friends who have kids, I get greater insight into being a parent (and finally empathise with my own parents decisions when I was a child) and being a carer has also helped with my own resilience, perspective and wellbeing.”

    Tell us a bit about what activities you like doing with the children during respite?

    “The activities I do are driven by the children. I am keen to stay consistent with how they are raised with their foster family; which is with measured and thoughtful choices; to give them the right blend of guidance and empowerment. I generally present a few ideas over the weekend and let them pick. Their weekend with me is time to have fun and relax. Dancing in my front room is generally the key activity – we all take it in turns to be the DJ on my iPod! We go food shopping together to accommodate for any emerging food tastes or preferences and the subsequent cooking and baking is another staple activity. Road trips, watching movies, drawing and craft activities also feature during respite.”

    Raechel, you are a myth buster! Can you tell us why?

    “I’ve often been asked how as a single woman I’ve been ‘allowed’ to be a carer. There’s still a societal expectation that the most optimal, stable family environment is one of a mother and a father; although there are so many examples of single parents, same sex couples, blended families and multi-generational support as equally positive models of raising children. I’m a firm believer in ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child’ and the surprise I’ve encountered when I talk about my choice to do respite care and LWB’s ‘acceptance’ of my current life circumstances, spurs me on to remain part of the village and hopefully encourage others they can do it too.”

    Anything else you think would be helpful for people to know about respite care?

    “If full time foster care is not for you, respite caring is most definitely a viable option!  On average, I connect with the family one weekend every six weeks. The contribution you can make, however frequent or less so, will go a long way to assist the child, the full time carers and also the LWB team.”

    Anything else you would like to add?

    “I just really want to reinforce that respite care can be a single male or female carer; and that busy professionals can contribute too! Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.”

    Raechel is a foster care myth buster so maybe it is time to bust some myths!

    Common misconceptions about foster care

    • You do not need to be married or in a relationship to become a foster carer – single people are eligible to become foster carers.
    • You don’t need to own your own home – people who rent can also foster. The only requirement is that there must be a bedroom available for the child coming into your own home.
    • You can still work full-time and be a foster carer.
    • Many carers are empty nesters who have space in their home since their own children have grown and left the family house.
    • You don’t have to have your own children to become a carer.
    • Foster carers have a lot of support from agencies like Life Without Barriers. There is always someone available 24/7 if there’s ever a concern or question about their role. Life Without Barriers also gives carers access to a lot of training to help with foster caring, both before they become a carer, and ongoing.
    • People get matched with foster children, based on a number of factors to help ensure the placement – short or longer-term – is as successful for everyone as possible.
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    Meet Bronwyn & Dale - NSW

    A Place to Call Home

    “Carers are needed desperately, if you can offer a safe, loving home and have a big heart. Please consider helping a child,” Bronwyn calls for action straight off the bat.

    Bronwyn and Dale are a foster caring powerhouse. Over the last 15 years they have cared for over 30 children in respite, emergency, short and long term care.

    “We have had two long term children for nearly 11 years, one turned 18 last year but still calls us home and we have just welcomed another young person into our home. We also have a biological 7 year-old daughter and 5 year-old son. Our house is ‘full’ but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Dale.

    “A friend told us about the need for more foster carers and Dale and I had just brought a home and wanted to share with children who needed a loving, safe environment. We have been foster carers ever since,” explains Bronwyn.

    For this big and loving family, everyday day is different but they maintain that if trust and respect is always at the forefront, that fostering brings incredible rewards.

    Bronwyn believes the key to being positive and loving foster parents is to build a relationship based on honesty. She says that it is important to listen without judgement, be a voice when the child has momentarily lost theirs, always be supportive and practice open communication.

    “When a lot of the children first arrive they have so many walls up around them you need to make the time and have the patience to reassure them, and remind them that they are safe and loved,” says Bronwyn.

    The key to foster caring is also building relationships says Dale, “Build the same relationships with caseworkers, and if possible the children's family. Everyone needs to be working in the best interest of the child.”

    These experienced foster carers also acknowledge the challenges, “You have to be able to handle bad days and nights and have coping tools for yourself and the child. Without respect you can't have trust, our family motto is to show Respect to All.”

    This amazing family also acknowledge the journey of a foster child, “The hardest part of being a carer is watching a child struggling to overcome the trauma. Our eldest boy since turning 17 has remembered his past before care, and he struggled in a way that was heartbreaking. With a lot of ongoing support and understanding he has now been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, it has taken all of us as a family to be his support system.”

    But with every cloud comes the many silver linings and Bronwyn says there are way too many to individually express.

    “To know these children are safe and happy is the biggest joy. To see a child experience something for the first time, brings tears of joy. A simple school excursion or learning how to swim, I truly am blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful inspiring children,” says Bronwyn.

    “To see a child go from thinking they will never be able live independently or keep up with other kids his own age, to working so hard to prove that he can do whatever he puts his mind to and excelling makes every bit of being a foster carer worthwhile,” says Dale.

    When asked about what advice Bronwyn would give people interested in becoming foster carers, she said, “I always say to talk to other foster carers about life as a carer first. Then talk to Life Without Barriers about getting as much information about fostering as possible so you’re prepared. Then do the courses before starting as a carer to understand the young person's behaviours and tools to assist you deal with any and all situations.”

    It would seem fitting that the last word comes from our matriarch Bronwyn, who we celebrate as one of Life Without Barriers most long-term and amazing carers:

    “For 15 years I have had the privilege of caring for so many wonderful young people. I have seen them become young adults, get married, have their own children, become stable working members of society, overcome various obstacles and succeed. To see happy children who now know who they are, feel worthy of love and are part of a family - there are no words to describe that! We are the blessed ones to have the pleasure to help them to become anything they choose to be. Fostering has brought so much into our lives and we hope to continue to foster for years to come!”

    Hear, hear Bronwyn!!

     

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    Meet Paul & Christine - SA

    Paul & Christine

    “Look at your life. Think what it would be like with children. Assess your capabilities? Learn about trauma. Read, read, read!! Do whatever courses you can. Meet some other foster parents, attend morning teas.”

    Paul & Chris have been foster carers for Life Without Barriers since 2009 and currently have two beautiful sisters in their care aged 12 and 10. It’s fair to say that Paul & Chris are ‘family oriented’ with 4 of their own children aged 46, 36, 34 and 31 and current custody of their two grandchildren aged 8 and 10. For them the drive to become foster carers was about a sense of social responsibility.

    During a career break nine years ago, Paul and Chris decided to use their time to do something else to help the community. Both being teachers, they were aware of the issues facing disadvantaged children and the idea of fostering captured their imagination. They felt particularly drawn to be trained as therapeutic foster carers, giving a home to children requiring additional support with behaviour management or who may have a disability.

    “We believe in living a good life and modelling positive relationships.  We foster with love, acceptance and taking the lead from the child, learning what their needs are. We are here to help them understand themselves as well as others,” says Chris. “There are HEAPS of joyful times. Being on holidays and their appreciation of adventure and travel. Their love of coming home after being away. The days you give them bonuses for cooperative play. Seeing them playing with friends. Seeing and hearing our influence in their conversations and sense of humour. Seeing them show their true loving and caring nature, especially with younger more vulnerable children. And we LOVE to watch them with the gorgeous little dog we got for the family in February,” says Paul.

    It is clear why Paul and Chris are such magnificent and special foster carers. The power of their own words when talking about it moves and amazes you, “The children are the highlight. They are at the cutting edge of life, the up and coming future of the world. They challenge you, keep you up to date with the world, and keep you active. When you’ve done parenting before, you also get a second chance to do it better,” says Chris.

    But of course with the ups come some downs and hardship, “Some children are VERY damaged. Do your best, hang in there, but be realistic. YOU have to be OK to help these children. Look after yourself. If it’s too hard, realise the contribution you have given to their life. Every day lived well is a cherished memory. They will remember!” says a poetic and reflective Paul.

    For those interested in therapeutic foster care, additional training is provided through Life Without Barriers. Their courses educate on how to create a therapeutic home environment that helps children overcome the effects of trauma, grief and loss. Paul and Chris are united in their belief that a good foster care experience in a safe and secure environment gives children a chance to build resilience.

    “Through the training and support provided, you won’t feel like you’ve been left on your own” the couple said. “Our Supporter of Carers listens to us, gives advice and helps resolve issues. Their vast knowledge of the fostering system helps us every step of the way.”

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    Meet Kaz & Jo - NSW

    THE HOME THAT LOVE BUILT

    Meet Kaz & Jo

    I have never known a home to be filled with so much authentic love, warmth and genuine laughter. It overflows with nurturing and care. This is truly the home with love built. When going into the home of Karyen Teal and Jo Forwood you are greeted with a familiar hug, a cheeky joke from Kaz and Jo simultaneously rolling her eyes with a smile.

    Jo and Kaz are both short and long term foster carers with Life Without Barriers and they currently care for a five month old little boy who is joyous and extremely lucky to be cared for by this special family. Kaz is also the biological mother of a wonderful 18 year old son Jackson and Jo the biological mother of a sensitive and nurturing 21 year old daughter Brittany – who also works in child care. They are a supportive and loving family unit and being foster carers has bought an already close family, even closer.

    When asked about why they made the decision to become foster carers, Jo starts by saying, “I have been a carer all my life and career. Kaz and I agreed it was time with both of our kids all grown up to open our home up to children in need. To protect and love them for however long they stay with us.”

    “We wanted to give back to the community in some way. Having two grown up children of our own, we felt we had a home we could open to others. We came across Life Without Barriers at Mardi Gras Fair Day and straight away felt a connection to the agency,” said Kaz.

    Jo and Kaz are a same sex couple and when I asked them if they had encountered any prejudices Kaz said, “Not any prejudice from agencies, but certainly plenty from members of the public. For some it’s difficult to get past the short hair, tattoos and being a female couple, to see that we are just the same as them and our motive is to care for the kids. Kids never care though. As long as we could kick the ball around or build sandcastles at the beach, that child was happy.”

    Jo said, “If you have love in your heart, a safe warm environment and can stand above the noise of the naysayers, just have a go. It’s about opening your heart and being the constant for a child in their journey while they grow into wonderful members of society.”

    Kaz and Jo are realistic when it comes to opening their home as foster carers and open about both the joys and challenges it brings.

    “We have been lucky enough to have little babies in our care and watching them smile for the first time, eat solid foods, and reach their milestones has certainly shown us we have made the right decision. With kids who come into care who are shy and not sure, to see them respond to you reading a book or playing games with them is incredibly rewarding and brings great joy to our little family,” says Jo.

    “The most challenging situations have been settling into a routine. Each child has different needs. Depending on the age of the child - it can be easier with babies, but for toddlers and little kids it can prove to be a work in progress. We are up for it though!” says Kaz.

    When asked what advice they would give people who were looking to be foster carers the message was genuine, simple and united, “Do it! Research agencies and what they offer to their carers. Don’t do foster care just for yourself, do it for the kids. Take one day at a time and know your own boundaries and the boundaries of the child. If you have love in your heart and a spare room in your home then pick-up the phone today and call Life Without Barriers.”

    Jo said, “When we were looking for a fostering agency we looked for support, communication and commitment to be there for US while WE are there for those who need our care. Life Without Barriers has been amazing. We feel part of a big family.”

    Kaz and Jo are the example of resilience, love, empathy, a sense of fun and honesty. It was such a pleasure to share an afternoon with them, I was sad to leave. So moved by the power and selfless generosity of these wonderful foster carers, I am not ashamed to say I shed a few tears on my way home.

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    Meet Sarah - QLD

    Sarah Cox

    “What sort of person would I be if I said no to these kids?”

    “I had a lot of tough times as an adolescent. I struggled to make it through my teen years emotionally. However, I was fortunate to have people around me at school, extra-curricular activities, and positive role models that provided me with what I needed to make it through. This helped me see the need for a network of people around me at rough times. This helped me come to the decision to also become a foster carer. Both resilience and support are really important.”

    Sarah Cox was just nine years old when she decided to become a foster parent. “I have always had a heart for those kids in need of a loving home. As a kid I remember finding out that friends of our family’s children were foster kids and being amazed that there were kids out there who didn’t have a home like mine - one where they were loved and safe. As the years progressed and I discovered more about the world, I became even more committed to giving back to the community by helping provide a home for those in need. I have always had the philosophy of why bring more children into the world when there are already so many who need a home.”

    Two years ago Sarah felt the time was right. She was financially stable with a good job and a secure home with room for a child. It was time to make the move toward fostering. Today, she is in her element, teaching high school in the Queensland public education system at Forest Lake while raising her ten-year-old foster child. She may be a single foster parent, but she’s not alone. 

    “I have always felt supported,” she says. “Life Without Barriers (LWB) is there with help, training, advice and practical support when I need it. They were the ones I wanted to do this through right from the start. They were a really accepting, really supportive organisation.” As a qualified teach, Sarah already had the drive and compassion required to provide the levels of safety, love and support to some of the foster children with complex needs.

    “The kids that really make my heart sing are the ones with the worst stories,” she said. “Kids don’t act out in these ways without a reason. When you get to the heart of that reason you see this vulnerable little child and all they need is someone to love and support them. You become the person that little child needs. I would say the biggest thing that brings me joy is watching kids overcome issues that have been stopping them from succeeding. The kids I take generally have some significant behavioural difficulties, and seeing them learn better coping behaviours, engaging at school and developing strong friendships are definite highlights.”

    Sarah’s first placement was particularly challenging. Emergency care was needed to support a 13-year-old girl who had cycled through 12 different placements in 12 months. “Her last placement had fallen through and she was living in unsuitable accommodation at a friend’s home. It was all hands on deck to try to find her a home,” said Sarah. “It turned out to be the most challenging three months of my life. I filled in a few missing person’s reports and I had to pick her up from the police station a few times.” With support from Life Without Barriers, Sarah took care of her teenage foster child for three months.

    “The reason the placement eventually ended was that schooling was not working out for her and she needed to be supervised full-time,” Sarah reflected. “It was really gut-wrenching for me when she had to move on, because we had quite a good relationship. I’ve heard from her since she left my care, and she has regularly said that she regrets some of the decisions she made. Sometimes the reality of the system is that you’re not the perfect person for everyone, but you are the perfect person for someone.”

    Afterwards, Sarah took some time to process her feelings and adjust to the sense of loss. But she is resilient and a week and a half later she called Life Without Barriers to report that she was ready to go again.

    Sarah now has a ten-year-old foster child who has been in and out of care most of his life.This placement could be long term, Sarah says. But if her foster child’s circumstances change and he returns to his family, that’s okay too.

    “That’s part of being a foster parent,” she says. “The years you invest aren’t wasted just because they go home. Everything I do is about helping a child become a better, happier person. It makes them better able to manage the challenges they face.” While most people accept and respect Sarah’s life as a single, working foster parent, a few say they could never choose that path.

    “I just reply: Why not?” she says. “I have the capability, the love in my heart and a spare room. What sort of person would I be if I said no to these kids? I am a single person who works full time and if I can make it work then so can you. Being a foster carer completes my life. Not only has it brought some wonderful children into my life, but I’ve also met a community of people who genuinely care about children and want to make a difference in the world. This will be the most rewarding thing you will ever do.”

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    Meet Elaine - NSW

    Elaine

    “If I can earn the child’s trust and respect I can share their joys and sorrows. It’s a privilege.”

    Elaine Erskine has been a respite carer with Life Without Barriers since 2012. In addition to providing respite care for foster children she has three grown children and three grandchildren.

    When asked about providing temporary and respite care for foster children, Elaine says “I try to tune in to where the child is emotionally. I am respectful of their personal space and privacy. I give hugs if the child seems open to it. I listen. I don’t ask about why they are in care. A picture of their home life unfolds without me prying. I try to get them to be as independent as they are capable of being.”

    Elaine believes the relationships with the children she cares for hinges on trust and respect, “If I can earn the child’s trust and respect I can share their joys and sorrows. It’s a privilege.”

    When asked about her fondest memories as a foster carer, Elaine recalled one story above all others, “There was a girl about 10 who came and put her arms around my waist and cried because she had been taken from her school and she was uncertain of her future. I hugged her back. Eventually she went to live with grandparents but text messaged me for support, she settled in about 6 months after that. I loved that she trusted me. It felt satisfying to encourage her.”

    When asked about what advice she would give to people who were considering being respite or foster carers, Elaine said to “consider your own personality and family tolerance to see what you can cope with. For myself I aim for a peaceful home so am not keen on having more than one child at a time.”

    “Know yourself well and what you can offer. When a child arrives in your home it will take time to build a relationship and for them to feel safe and settled. Give them and yourself time. Remember carers are only one part of the team so reach out to your agency (Life Without Barriers) if you need to. I found it reassuring knowing I wasn’t alone; that help was only a phone call or email away.”

    For Elaine what was resounding driver for her as a foster carer was providing stability and support in a time when a child needs it the most, “The young woman I have at the moment now has her driving licence, her Australian citizenship and will finish high school in a couple of months. She will go on to university next year.  She is a capable, confident young woman and I’ve played a part in all this. That thrills me.” And you thrill us Elaine! Thank you!!

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    Meet Chris & Sophiaan - QLD

    Chris and Sophiaan

    “I see my husband in a new light and have a deepened respect and admiration for him, not only as my partner, but as an amazing parent,” starts an emotional Chris. “In my own parenting role, I have found a willing partner in random silliness, someone with whom to share my passion for everyday adventure and a focus for the outpourings of unconditional love and nurture that I thought would never find full expression.”

    The below story is one of true love, new love and the simple message that loving a child has nothing to do with gender roles. Read their full story here.

    Note: Video and original interview were funded by Queensland Government.

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    Meet Tracey & Darren - VIC

    Tracey and Darren

    "Caring for the children gives me a real sense of purpose and enjoyment in my life"

    Tracey and Darren had raised two children of their own and felt they wanted to do more for the community. First considering foster care while living in the UK, when they moved to Australia they knew it was something they wanted to take on.

    Starting out as emergency carers, they initially provided short term care for children transitioning and respite care for children taking a break from their regular homes. Darren worked full-time and although this was rewarding and fulfilling, Tracey said she felt they had capacity to take on children on a more permanent basis. “I just thought, well I’ve got a big heart and if I had room in my house, I could take on more,” she said.

    “I hadn’t thought about it in detail and whether I would take on children with complex needs, or those who needed behavioural support or other special care, but I knew I had to do more” she said.

    “Our boys have been so open to the change and have been actually really protective of the younger children living with us.” Tracey said that just seeing the children smile gives them true rewards. “We love seeing the children feeling comfortable and safe, and knowing they have a place to call home and people who love and care for them.

    “Caring for the children gives me a real sense of purpose and enjoyment in my life. I am delighted when the children start to trust us and open up, and know they can talk about their problems to someone who will listen and who really cares.” she said.

    Tracey said children with complex needs may require extra care and resilience on the part of the foster carers, but they delight in being able to give them the nurturing they need to grow and thrive. 

  • LtoR Bree Thea baby Rebecca Claudia Photo Credit Rachel H Photography
    Meet Rebecca & Bree - NSW

    Rebecca and Bree

    Rebecca and Bree’s home in New South Wales picturesque Blue Mountains is full of love. They are the biological mothers of two beautiful daughters (Claudia – age 4 & Thea – age 6 months) as well as being foster and respite carers for Life Without Barriers. They currently provide long term foster care to a 13 year old boy and recently cared for his older sister who has now transitioned into independent living.

    When asked about their busy schedule as both mothers and carers they said, “Some weeks are hectic and tiredness does set it. Ultimately though, everyone in the family benefits from the range of activities and opportunities we can all access both as individuals and as a family group. The key is to make sure that you keep something for yourself, even if it’s just that one hour at the gym where you can re-energise and enjoy something that’s just for you.”

    Bree and Rebecca have found so many different and creative ways to integrate their biological children with their foster children.“We have gone to heaps of musicals! There is something magic about music and the theatre that immediately breaks down barriers. We do arts, crafts and photobooks to help document shared experiences and their feelings as well,” they said. “Our eldest child, Claudia, has met a few children in care. She’s always accepted them for however long they stay, though we did find that after she turned two it became important to offer her stability through a long term placement.”

    Rebecca and Bree are rare and amazing beings indeed. It would seem they have a never ending abundance of love to give. They have been carers with Life Without Barriers since 2007 and during that time have provided care for over 70 children – one 9 year old long term placement, many sibling groups and children for respite, and cared and nurtured children that have ranged in age from two days old to 17 years old. And it seems caring for others runs in the family as Rebecca’s mum used to be a Foster Carer.

    “My mum passed away a few years ago, but she is the reason that I first thought about becoming a carer. When I was a teenager and my older brothers had grown up and left the house, she wanted to share the space we had with someone a similar age to myself. Things didn’t work out at that time, but several years later when I was 23, she fostered a teenage girl who had been living in residential care because there hadn’t been enough carers available. While that girl was still living with my mother, Bree and I started doing some research about how to become carers ourselves. The empty bedrooms in our house were just sitting there; we needed to make good use of them.” Bree said that when they decided to become foster carers they researched ‘gay friendly’ foster care agencies in Australia and that is how they found Life Without Barriers.

    “At the time Life Without Barriers were a new agency in the area, so we called and went through all the training and that answered lots of questions we had about fostering. We found the training very worthwhile and you learn a lot about yourself as well. It’s quite a cathartic process.”

    When asked if they had ever encountered any prejudices as same sex mums and foster carers, Bree said, “I found some agencies to be more open than others. A lot of people think Rebecca and I are sisters, but when the penny finally drops everyone is cool with it and think it’s great. The wonderful Life Without Barriers staff have advocated for us in those brief moments where people react bizarrely and it’s never been anything of major concern.” What also stands out about Rebecca and Bree is how honest and practical they are when talking about their role as mothers and carers. They admitted that there is always challenges fostering, but the rewards far outweigh any frustrations.

    Rebecca said, “Seeing children being nervous and anxious when going through the system can be upsetting at times. You just want to protect them from the instability and the uncertainty. So many of them come to you believing that no one wants them, or they assume that you won’t love them. You know that being a foster carer means visits with the birth families. It can be challenging sometimes, but that is a part of loving a caring for that child for a short time before reuniting them with their biological family.”

    Bree added, “Don’t be disheartened if you have a first bad experience, take the positives away with you. Go into it with an open and caring heart, it’s well worth it. Not every day is easy, but it’s brought a real sense of purpose to our lives and it will for you too. These kids need you!”

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    Meet Jacintha & Eddie - NSW

    Jacintha and Eddie

    “Being a foster carer is the hardest and the most rewarding job you will ever have and it comes with huge responsibilities.”

    Having started as foster carers in 2009 with the support of Life Without Barriers, Jacintha and Eddie love the idea of having a large family around them. Now with a sibling group of four foster children in their home, they say the experience has been thoroughly rewarding for them on many levels.

    With a child of their own (now 22), they were attracted to the idea of supporting more children and young people through fostering, and to be able to provide them with a safe and loving environment in which to learn and grow.

    While living in the UK as a younger person, Eddie’s parents were foster carers and so it was always a part of his life.

    “I was fascinated with what they did and we were all so proud when they received an MBE in 2012 from the Queen for services to children and community,” Eddie said. This life experience shaped both his and Jacintha’s interest in and understanding of what it might mean to foster children in their own home. Eddie and Jacintha have always been surrounded by children and had helped Eddie’s parents a lot over the years, so fostering was almost a natural progression for them. When they relocated to Australia and started exploring fostering in more detail, they moved into a big house specifically to provide the opportunity for sharing this space with children and giving them a home. Initially signing up as respite carers, they went on to explore longer term foster care opportunities through Life Without Barriers.

    When asked about what being foster carers as bought to their lives Jacintha responds, “Smiling faces, being silly and cracking jokes - that's always a happy time in our home. Seeing the children in our family grow both physically and mentally to become stronger and more resilient human beings also warms the heart.  And anytime the children bring home an award from school or get a good school report it’s a family highlight.”

    When asked about what advice they would give others looking into foster care the sentiment is unanimous, “Being a foster carer is the hardest and the most rewarding job you will ever have and it comes with huge responsibilities. Think carefully about where you are now and what type of foster carer you want to be. Consider the impact on yourself and your family whilst also considering the impact you will have on a child or young person. Keep yourself fit and healthy so you can be in it for the long haul and reach out for help when you need to.”

  • Steven Kim West Tamworth Foster Carers3
    Meet Steven & Kim - NSW

    Steve and Kim

    “You need to listen to the child and let them be the person they want to be. Gently guide, love them no matter what and never give up on them.”

    It’s fair to say that Steven and Kim are a part of the Life Without Barriers (LWB) family.

    Kim is a client herself with LWB through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and they are also incredible and celebrated foster carers for Life Without Barriers.

    Steven and Kim became interested in foster care after managing a family day care business for many years. They now support foster children in need of weekend respite and a home away from home.

    Reaching a time in their lives when they wanted to make lifestyle changes, they moved to a rural property and began supporting foster children after completing their training with Life Without Barriers. “Moving to a farm gave us the freedom, fresh air and opportunity to experience a better quality of life,” Steven said.

    “We love children, and we wanted to share that love and help kids feel settled and secure. We wanted them to feel that they have a network of other people in their lives who would care for and support them,” he said.

    “Out on the farm, the kids especially love it as there is so much to do. They can let go of their anxieties and have adventures in the outdoors which they may not be able to do every day.”

    The couple are delighted to have found their niche in fostering which has been another way to show their unwavering community spirit.  While providing weekend respite for children in foster care, they now balance these responsibilities along with allowing the time needed for Steven to care for Kim during the week as she lives with Multiple Sclerosis.

    Since 2008, Steven and Kim have provide respite care for over 20 children and say, “Every child is different and, as such, needs to be treated differently to get the best out of them as well as help, teach, guide them. You must always set a good example and practice what you preach. You also need to listen to the child and let them be the person they want to be. Gently guide, love them no matter what and never give up on them.”

    Kim and Steven provide weekend care usually on two weekends every month. Steven said although this may not seem like a big time commitment, it’s an important support for other Foster Carers in the network. “We are very conscious that both the carers and the kids we support need a break, and we are able to provide that alternative weekend away.

    “The great thing about foster caring is the extensive support provided to us and to the children. Each child has a case worker who follows up on them regularly, and there are carer support staff who assist and guide us to ensure the best decisions are always made in the interests of the children we support. They also remind us to look after our own physical and emotional health which helps make us the best carers we can be.”

    Steven strongly empathises with foster children as he himself felt like an outcast growing up, “As a child, I was born with a cleft palate or harelip. This meant I looked and talked differently to most other kids and didn’t fit the mould of ‘normal’. School and life was tough at times and so I know how to talk to some of these kids about feeling like you don’t fit in sometimes.”

    When asked about the highlights of being foster carers, Kim’s eyes light-up and she responds, “the first time you hear a child in care, who has been through a lot, really let go and laugh takes your breath away. When you see them get their first award, trophy or prize. When they say, ‘that the nicest meal that I have ever eaten’. Going camping together or taking them to a fun park for the first time. I could go on and on about the joys.”

    On a serious note, Kim and Steve have come clear advice to those interested in becoming foster carers, “Please think carefully before making the commitment. We need carers who will stick it out. It’s not something you do for a few days and then say ‘no sorry that’s not for me’ and leave the child feeling rejected, unloved and unwanted. Have an open mind. Be willing to keep trying something new until it finally all clicks.”

    Steven and Kim also reflect on how everyone becomes part of a whole family and what that means to them, “When they leave your care and still want to call around for a chat, when they have children of their own and bring them over to introduce you for the first time, when they can support and have healthy relationships with everyone in their life - you know you have done a great job as a carer.”

    It seems fitting we give the last word to the big softie we all know and love as Steve, “Fostering has helped to make my life complete. I am honoured to be able to give these children the love and care they deserve. This is such an important role! These kids need us, but we also must be the very best that we can be so that we don’t let them down. Please help these kids to have healthy, happy and fulfilling lives so that they can reach their full potential. Create lasting memories and never give up on them.”

    Here, here Steve!

     

     

  • Marcia Trevor Brownley
    Meet Marcia & Trevor - WA

    Marcia and Trevor

    Marcia and Trevor have been caring for children and young people for over 35 years.

    When we asked how many children they had cared for over the years, they lost count at 50. Through foster care, they know many families and sometimes have cared for children from several generations.

    Well known in the Kalgoorlie region, Marcia and Trevor together speak five languages and value their culture enormously. Trevor is a Traditional Land Owner of the Wongatha people and a member of the Waljen (WAL-Yen) tribe. “Our own children speak my husband’s traditional language at home in Kalgoorlie, and my language when we are at home with family in Perth,” Marcia said.

    Trevor and Marcia use their knowledge of Aboriginal people and communities to help connect children in their care to relatives, making them feel part of their extended family.

    Through their care program, they identify where each foster child is from and then teach them the language and traditions of their cultural background. They also focus on bush outings and bush tucker along with Aboriginal language to keep children connected to culture.

    They focus on building a warm, secure environment, being involved in activities to make them happy and bring laughter and joy into their lives. One child who they have supported said he wished to look after Nan and Pop when they are old.

    Marcia says they keep going because there are so many children who are disadvantaged and have been through significant hardship and pain.

    They tell the children we can’t make changes to history – but we can make a change to ourselves and grow up and take on responsibility for our lives. Marcia says “We teach the children that tomorrow is a new day – every day is a new beginning and there are always good things to look forward to.”

    Both Trevor and Marcia learnt from their own parents and families who grew up in the bush. They are both the first generation living out of the bush, but their parents believed in and gave them the opportunity to access education. Marcia said their own families taught them the importance of playing a part in their community – whether it is simply by just sharing meals and giving friendship and support 

  • tedcorinadave
    Meet Ted & Dave - NSW

    Ted and Dave

    Ted and Dave share a remarkable story - they have shared their love and their home as Life Without Barriers foster carers and now...FATHERS. Their story starts as a committed and long term couple from the Northern Rivers in NSW who never thought (because of their sexuality) they could have children. This was heart-breaking for both of them.

    “We both became carers as we both had issues at different stages of our lives as to how as a gay couple we were unable to have children of our own. Both of us went through a grieving process about this. We also thought that we had a lot to offer children in need of care not only financially but also in terms of love and security. We have been together since 1979 and are very stable,says Dave When they found out about the foster care program through Dave’s line of work, they were overcome with emotion. 

    “It was a very emotional time. We both ended up on the floor sobbing and hugging each other. We committed ourselves to the foster care course and soon welcomed our first short term foster child into our home. We were the first gay male carers in the Northern Rivers and later in 2013 we became the first gay carers to adopt in regional NSW,” says Dave.

    Incredibly, Ted and Dave have been foster carers since 2000 - first with DOCS and FACS and they have been with Life Without Barriers since 2015. They have fostered three long term children and 20 short term or respite care children in that time.

    One of their respite foster children has fond memories of the time spent in the kitchen. He said Ted’s exotic authentic Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes that he served up were great – preferring Ted’s cooking to Dave's meat and three veg! Poor Dave!!

    At home currently they have a 13 year-old girl in long term foster care and their 20 year old adopted daughter, Corina. Life Without Barriers case manager Jane Laidlaw says, Ted and Dave are very different characters, they seem to really complement each other. They also have a wonderful sense of humour that works very well with children. They have treated the 13 year old male they had on respite with great respect, focussing on all the positives he brings to their lives. They are protective of their two girls, but open to enhancing the whole family’s lives by opening their door to other children.”

    When asked about any challenges or judgement that they have received being LGBTQI (gay) carers they said, “The amount of support we have received from both Life Without Barriers and DOCS/FACS has been amazing to say the least. There have only been two cases of prejudice that we aware of amongst the local community. Both of these people were ‘closed down’ by well-respected members of the community and to those people we are grateful.”

    Dave says, “Young people generally do not have the prejudices that their parents may have and respond to love as it is given. I remember once our daughter told us that someone on her school bus asked her if we went "clubbing", (I was 60 at the time). She answered ‘No, they let me ride show ponies and take me on holidays instead.’" BOOM!

    Corina added, “From the age of four when I first came to live here, I have never once felt that I have been judged differently as a child because I have gay Dads.  Parenting is not exclusively the traditional husband and wife model.  Parenting is about ‘LOVE’ and I have experienced that by the truck load.”

    When asked about the most challenging part of being foster carers Ted says, “Sometimes my heart breaks when a child discloses the trauma that has occurred to them in their short lives. I tend to burst into tears, while Dave sympathises and assures them that what happened to them then will NOT happen to them here. I think they know that both responses come from love.” Dave says that it is sometimes a challenge to deal with the difficult behaviour from some children because of the dysfunction they have suffered. He says, “I face it with honesty and staying child focussed the whole time.”

    “It is incredibly rewarding watching them progress through the ranks and develop a caring and professional relationship with their horse. They have won accolades for their riding along the way, but more importantly have healed and become well-rounded people, not afraid to work hard to achieve their dreams,” says Dave.

    “Even the children who come to us for respite care have some involvement with the horses on the property. We have a sign up on the back veranda which says that ‘Horses are Good for the Soul’ - in our experience this is true!” adds Ted.

    Ted and Dave, both agree that one of the most rewarding experiences of being foster carers (and fathers) is getting in contact with your own inner child. “When was the last time you went diving to the bottom of the pool to retrieve some object thrown in by your partner in competition with your children, rode the big dipper with them, or hung upside down on a monkey bar, eventually falling off from laughing too hard? Shared experiences to me are the most rewarding of all,” says Dave.

    When asked about the advice they would give people who are interested in becoming foster carers, they both said, “Go into it with an open heart. While most of the children in care have been damaged in some way you will find that the joys far outweigh the sorrows. Remain child focused at all times and don't be afraid to ask case managers at Life Without Barriers for help if needed.”

    Dave also added, “Knowledge, patience, a well-developed sense of humour, constructive compassion, dedication and spending time the children in your care will also bring great rewards. The ability to look at the ‘big picture’ always helps too. Go for it! Not only will you find it extremely rewarding but you will be making a great contribution to your community and particularly to the children who come into your care.”

  • SA story
    South Australian Carers

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    Mardi Gras Parade 2017

    Mardi Gras 2017

    This video is the short documentation of a wonderful event in LWBs history – the first time we marched in Mardi Gras. We marched under the theme of CELEBRATING: Equality, Diversity, Accessibility & Inclusion.

    In total, 34 employees, their partners, carers and the Chief Executive proudly marched on 4 March 2017. The diversity of marchers in the Parade was amazing as was the feeling of inclusion and acceptance, and a tangible desire for every one of the 12,000 marchers and thousands in the crowd, to enjoy the night and the Mardi Gras experience. LWB’s is a values-based organisation (and prides itself on being diverse and inclusive), so being part of this internationally recognised Festival aligned the organisation to a broader community, and was a great platform for LWB to project a positive reputation and increase the visibility of our programs and services.

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